Another graduate has just left my office, hopefully with some strategies to combat the despondency of finding no work available, another of the cohort that is feeling the brunt of a world wide slump in work for young people.
A message to young people
Your greatest risks are losing confidence and and losing faith in your competence because you have no place to demonstrate it. Your biggest challenge is to continue to grow your career capital in an adverse environment – but you can do this by applying 20th century solutions and a self managing approach to keep yourself current and motivated.
Work from a model of career capital
This is made up of knowledge capital -your knowledge, skills and learning; connections capital – your networks and relationships; and motivational capital– the inspiration and aspirations you have, your vision of your future. All of these are important to maintain over your lifetime, but especially when you are unemployed and still trying to get that critical experience.
Assess your current capital
Have a list of the technical skills you have trained in and the generic skills and knowledge you have acquired as part of your education and any part-time work. You will already have a summarised list for your CV but make this full and complete. Do a mind map with friends-but be very clear about what you have to offer. Look at this frequently and remind yourself that these assets have not disappeared because there is no job. You still have them. Do this and you will keep your motivational capital, and your career confidence alive. Look for gaps in your competencies and think about ways you can improve on these areas.
Think about any work as learning opportunities and not just work experience.
Consider your learning as currency-it is part of your career capital and as long as you are adding to this all is not lost. Whatever work-short term or otherwise-you may be forced to take in this environment your challenge is to consider how to learn from it.
Develop self -directed learning skills
Observation is a powerful learning tool in the workplace-what skills can you see demonstrated? Can you upgrade any of your skills through practice or side by side observation of a skilled performer? What can you learn about workplace dynamics- the tacit understanding of appropriate behaviours, and those that don’t progress productivity. Most of all you need to work on your communication skills because these need to be at an advanced level when you finally get the work you want. In any workplace there are opportunities to learn other than by formal training – you will need to do this throughout your entire 21st century career.
Build connections capital
You can do this anywhere, anytime. Relationships help you find work, relationships can help you fill your skill gaps – work with a friend on those computer packages you haven’t yet mastered.
Consider an unpaid internship negotiated through your networks.
You may not be paid but you will be increasing your capital- and you take away more than when youwill add to your understanding of the commercial environment and workplace practice in whatever industry you have trained for. (memo to government -can the unemployment benefit be paid under these circumstances? if not, why not?)
List your self directed learning on your CV
You may only have casual and lower level employment to show on your CV through this time, but if I was an employer and saw that you maximised these and achieved self-directed goals I would be impressed, because a self-directed learner is what I want in my workplace.
Don’t forget to maintain your motivational capital
Review your skills, build a beginning brand, do the exercises that remind you of your abilities and competence, build visions of exactly the workplace you want- all these help to keep the prize in sight and you feeling able to get the work you want. Don’t lose heart – the world will turn again, and the work you want will appear.