Reading recently about the disappointing roles being taken up by our graduates – waitress work, call centre operatives, shelf-filling roles – there is much concern about training our young people for jobs they do not go on to do. What a waste of public money and a waste of time both for graduates and those who have put in effort to get them to the proud point of achieving a degree. Worse still, not only can’t they get the job they hoped for, they also have a big debt to pay off.
For me though, the biggest sin is not starting early to encourage our youngsters to think about what they would enjoy doing in the longer term. By the time they leave University, having invested time and effort in every step that took them to their degree, it is too late.
We are focusing on the wrong thing: the issue is not availability of jobs nor suitability of candidates to do the jobs available. It’s about career planning from day one.
When my children turned 14 they started thinking about their longer term ambitions. That may seem young, but before you cry foul, it wasn’t full-on career counselling. Actually they enjoyed thinking about it and it opened their eyes to what might be possible.
All I did was to encourage them to start looking at what they enjoyed and what they didn’t enjoy in the things they did at school, work and leisure. This gave them a first sense of what job might suit them and fit their personality and style. Whether they could get the level of qualifications, wanted to study the appropriate subjects, etc. would come later.
What I have learnt is that most young people just don’t think to do this at all. And why should they if it isn’t in the curriculum and their parents don’t happen to be in the career development world?
Early thinking can help decide what GCSEs to take. Then what A-Levels afterwards (or whether ‘A’-Levels are even the right route to the kind of job they want to do). All should be aligned to an end-game, which may change over time. It’s no more than a good starting point. As schools often offer little help with this, decisions are taken arbitrarily on the basis of what their best mates are doing, who is their favourite teacher, what is their best subject, etc. These things can impact success, but are not key to making the right choices for the longer term.
Our work on motivation encourages consideration of the type of person you are and what motivates you in your life and work. This can change over time as priorities and responsibilities change, but fundamentally your core personality is unlikely to radically alter once you get past 16.
If you are a socialiser (like 41% of the population) then it is really important to spend time with friends and colleagues, and for your work relationships to extend into social activities.
If you are a true believer (like 6% of the population) then it matters where you work, who you work for and what you contribute to society. Making a difference is dear to your heart.
These are just two examples, but they highlight why early thoughts on what you might do and where you might do it are crucial to how much you enjoy your job in years to come.
This kind of consideration is key to outplacement support at Chiumento at any age, but doing it early on in schools and colleges could make a real difference to the level of happiness people feel in their work. As Mark Manson highlights – that makes all the difference to getting the most out of life.
And isn’t getting the most out of life everyone’s greatest dream?
Getting a job isn’t easy, especially not when you have no experience to refer to. I’m not saying don’t start at the bottom and learn the ropes. We know in the past graduates often had unrealistic expectations of stepping straight into a senior and highly paid role.
My point is that having thought about what matters to you personally helps you choose the right industry, organisation or discipline – then it’s a matter of starting at the bottom in the right place and not the wrong one.
Let’s stop setting our children up for disappointments, for taking up jobs they don’t really want in the belief that’s the best they can do, and start helping them see what a great job would look like for them – and help them go for it!