From the VicHealth Staying on Track Report:
It takes young people 4.7 years to enter full-time work after leaving full-time education, compared to around 1 year a generation ago.
1 in 3 young adults are actively looking for work, and a growing proportion are unemployed and underemployed.
As I see it, that 4.7 years could be a total waste. Or… you could make it work to your advantage.
Those are some of the best years of your life, when you have the most potential, the most energy, and the least commitments. You’re fresh out of education and ready to work, but a lack of job opportunities stops you in your tracks.
Why does this happen?
- Lower skilled ‘entry-level’ jobs are disappearing. This is simple economics; in the past people straight out of school would do the simple jobs in their desired field, while they gained knowledge and experience to work up to the more complex jobs. But those jobs can be done more cost-effectively using new technologies, or outsourced to countries with cheaper labour. So while in the past you may have gone from school to a low-skill job which gives you access to a high skill job, now you can’t find those low-skill jobs.
- The education system is struggling. Let’s be honest, times are changing and education needs to keep up. The problem is that if even if we change the system in the next couple of years, today’s graduates will have mostly grown up with the outdated system. I’m not going to get into a debate about the quality of education – suffice to say that there needs to be more emphasis on teaching students flexible, transferrable skills, as well as the typical academic skills.
- Getting work often relies on professional networks. And many young people don’t have professional networks, in fact they could lack any structured network at all. In a competitive job market, employers can pick and choose, and they often choose the ‘known’ safe bet, over the young adult they’ve never heard of.
So what can you do about it?
We can look at this two ways:
- The first 4 to 5 years post school/uni are going to be a waste, until you claw your way through to a ‘real’ job,
or my preferred viewpoint:
- You can expect to have an extra 4 to 5 years to work out what you really want to do and hone your skills for the future you really love.
Why do I say that?
Because for ANYONE growing up in ANYTIME, the first 4 to 5 years of your career are spent growing, learning, and networking.
In the past, you may have done this from the confines of a secure job with a secure income, but when you look at it on the flip side you were locked into a job and tied into the income with less flexibility to change, adapt and grow.
If you hated your job at 22, then you were probably going to still hate it at 55, but there was less you could do about it.
Instead, spend those 4 to 5 years doing a variety of jobs until you find something you can excel in. If you can’t get enough work, don’t spend the rest of your time sitting on the couch.
Here are some ideas for things you can do:
- Use your spare time to attend free workshops (like the Being My Own Boss Workshops) and even if you don’t want to run your own business you’ll learn highly transferable skills that will make you a better employee
- Take part in one of the Empowering Youth initiatives. These programs are area-specific and designed to give you a range of skills to meet the needs of the emerging workplace
- Volunteer. It doesn’t matter where, just get out there and use some of that spare time you have to ‘practice’ working. You’ll meet amazing people (#networkbuildingopportunity), get some great references and explore paths you may not have originally thought of
- Go to local events and meet people. It’s called networking. Your networks can help you find a job that suits you, and it’s easy to build a network just go along to events and introduce yourself. If you’re shy that’s ok, so is just about everyone else. Organisers who run these events know that the more people who attend the better, so ask the organiser if you’re feeling really uncomfortable
It’s all a matter of perception
Any endeavour requires an initial investment. It’s tempting to see your education as the ‘initial investment’, and want to gain a return on it straight away following school, but in reality you’ve simply moved from one phase of growth to another.
No one is saying that getting a job will be easy, we're just suggesting that you have the power to take the facts and work them to your advantage.