The news today is suggesting that some young people are job snobs and I think I agree, but is it their fault? The Recruitment Society has suggested that some young people are leaving jobs because it doesn't utilise their qualifications well or they are remaining unemployed because the right job hasn't landed on their doorstep. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/23687458)
Whilst I think this is happening in more than a few instances, I wonder why we have got to this position. Is it that there are not enough jobs in the current era? Maybe. Are we turning out lots of people qualified in the wrong subject areas? Maybe. Or is it simply that as a society we have raised a generation who assume that they can have what they want, and the best version of that too? Probably. Many children over the last few years have grown up in an environment where if they say 'I want...' then it will be provided. Now they have got to the stage of saying 'I want a good job' and are being disappointed and don't know how to deal with it. Coupled to the expectations that they have swallowed, their lack of previous disappointments and hardship has left them with an empty resilience tank as well. They now can't deal with the harsh realities of the adult world which they are expected to inhabit.
I lay the blame partly at the door of people like myself; coaches who have raised people's sights, expanded their goals and excited them with glowing visions of what might be. They have maybe been less than realistic and lifted expectations in some cases to impossibly high levels. We need to be careful that if and when we do this, it is also essential to look at the huge amount of work it takes to be successful, the many intermediate steps you may need to go through, and also the fact that sometimes your success will not be a goal completely within your control. Oftentimes the marketplace, the competition, the environment, even pure luck may play a part. We therefore have a responsibility to not merely set expectations but to walk with, and support, the young people of our society through hard times, to help them learn resilience and deal with the unpalatable. And when I say 'we' I am now talking about the collective responsibility we all share to see the next generation grow into their futures, leading, serving and governing our world.
So yes, let's inspire people (young and old) to aim for the stars but accept that you need to work really hard, taking small steps in the right direction, learning from each job that you do. Yes, today's job might not be ideal but, as well as paying you something, what benefits does it bring you that are transferable to the next rung up the career ladder? When I was hawking household products around the doors in Glasgow I could have reasoned that my Masters degree in Engineering was being wasted. Instead, it was paying me whilst I looked for a job in my field, taught me about customer relations, marketing and most of all perseverance and resilience. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I stuck it out until something better came along. Likewise, one of my friends has just gained a clutch of good exam results and is about to go to Uni to study psychology but is working cleaning toilets. She hates it but it pays money and is a means to an end. Will an employer recognise that she is willing to work hard and maybe get her hands dirty - definitely. Will they see her as job snob who might be difficult to handle - unlikely. Much easier to put a positive spin on that on her CV than a couple of months on the dole.
So people think the government's work placement scheme is unfair and consequently businesses are pulling out. Am I alone as a youth worker in thinking that there is lots of merit in it? At the xpand Life College, we see placements as being an integral part of young people learning what it is like to be at work, even when that work is not what they ultimately want to spend their whole career doing. They learn the essence of professionalism, workplace etiquette, social competence and they get practice of getting up every morning and showing up. They don't get paid for it but recognise that there is merit in it for them and so they carry on going. Some of them enjoy it too but they all learn from it.
Now I'll admit I haven't delved deep into the detail of the scheme and am merely shooting my mouth off based on what I have heard on the radio today, and Radio 1 at that but my thoughts are:
1) It sounds like some of the people who are receiving money from the government because they are seeking a job, are complaining that they have to do work while they wait for their job to appear. Surely if they just want to sit around and do nothing then they technically aren't seeking very hard and merely sponging.
2) Can people not see that in the current climate a job of any description, voluntary, placement, low-paid or whatever is a better stepping stone to the next job than doing nothing? A hole on your CV never looks impressive.
3) There seems to be a complaint that if they choose to leave their placement then they get their benefit cut off. Is that not good practice for the way it is in proper work? I'm guessing the rules are the same as when I last signed on that if you leave a job voluntarily you can't claim benefit immediately. Making the rules similar for these placements would provide another source of learning from experience that if you can't stand the heat and decide to get out of the kitchen then you shouldn't expect Nanny State to come and bail you out immediately.
It seems many employers are crying out for workers with more resilience, who are willing to work hard and possibly even get their hands dirty but who above all are able to conform to the ways of working that our society requires. They want people who are willing to be part of a team who all pull together rather than individuals who are merely out for personal gain; rights without responsibilities. Surely these are things that people will gain from work placements.
I certainly wouldn't condone employers taking advantage of these job seekers, which I can imagine does happen occasionally, but I also don't want to see society lapsing into a state where everyone is happy to shirk any responsibility that might come their way in the hope that someone else will provide financially for them.
I will end now and prepare for teaching the Life College students about resilience - it'll be hard but I expect them to thank me for it later.
Okay, so maybe you won't recognise the picture but if I tell you he used to be an air steward (actually, he may not have lost his job yet) who lost the plot slightly when one difficult customer too many tried to push him around, then I think you'll have heard of him. If not, read the story here.
Allegedly swearing over the intercom following an altercation with a passenger, he left his place of work by sliding down the emergency exit, beers in hand. He is now alternately hailed as a folk hero for standing up for himself, or villified for setting a bad example.
The bottom line though is: he was fed up with his job and did something about it. Now unfortunately for him, he may not have made his life any better - the police caught up with him at home and he faces charges. We on the other hand, may have the chance to improve things. Maybe we will never be so drastic but even by changing little things about what we do and the way we do it, can we make it more bearable, enjoyable or even fun?
When was the last time you took time to review what you do? So start now...
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Nick has been writing for mass consumption ever since he was sending newsletters home from the Philippines 20+ years ago. He has carried on putting finger to keyboard, branching out into magazines, manuals and recently submitting lots of words for books. He has always aimed to be entertaining but at the same time challenging. If you like something, feel free to pass it on to someone else, but if you are challenged by it then even better - write a comment, start a debate, add to the fun.