Helping Youth Empower Themselves – Striving for a ‘Job’
How do we help youth to overcome obstacles? Surely, the best way to do this is to help them empower themselves.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the recent conference for the Talent Match programme for Leeds City Region (work programme for the long-term unemployed). Listening to ad hoc and structured feedback from young people, it became clear that to them,’work’ is a fundamental right, a very specific need that is not currently being met for many. Some form of employment or occupation is crucial in order for us to draw meaning from our lives and it was frankly, heartbreaking to hear of people’s experiences of looking for work. Not least because these insights could have been reported 15 years ago when I was a young and idealistic researcher, meeting others my age outside McDonalds and wondering if the world really was this bad for some people. Yes it was, and it still is.
Finding work is extremely hard for these young people. To be employed and paid, equals being valued and above all, a ‘worthy’ member of society.
But how can we expect youth to cope with such difficult experiences and very low successes rates in getting a job? Mental health should be a major priority for policy makers right now. Costs for interventions are likely to go through the roof in the future.
One thing we definitely CAN do is actively help young people to become more resilient. Help them to get back up again when things go wrong. This is not at all easy. I try to encourage young people to think: ‘what’s the worst possible outcome of what has happened?’ This is about writing down all the things they are worried about – every single bad thing that may happen. Then imagine it has already happened and write down all the things they can do to help avoid this from happening or to make this situation easier on themselves. It is helpful when you realise you have a lot more options available to you than previously thought.
There are also other actions young people can take. In the recent JCI Bradford workshop on ‘Igniting Your Potential‘, we encouraged young participants to keep going, in a number of ways, asking them to:
- Think about what you would do differently next time
- Seek advice from others – colleagues/network/friends in terms of where to go next
- Harness your passions and energy, get your ideas out there (networking, pitches, social media etc – get out of your comfort zone) and get affirmation from outside
Another approach is making more of celebrating successes when they do happen. Joss Whedon – creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and a whole host of other very successful TV series, as well as the recent ‘Avengers’ movie franchise, has always been open about the many things that have gone wrong for him, including facing more than one of his TV shows being cancelled. The reason his characters are so adored is that they have the grit and determination to keep going – failure after failure. And I feel that in this current climate, that is the very definition of empowerment – never giving up.
Beware of the Imposter Syndrome
In general, we don’t take enough personal credit for things that have gone well. It’s easy to think that any successes we’ve had are the result of luck or of someone else’s abilities – women seem to be especially vulnerable to this – thinking success is just down to luck or someone else’s efforts, not ours. This can impact on our self-belief and quality of our work. It is important that we don’t dismiss our achievements and keep searching for other ‘more meaningful successes’ instead.
It’s easier to keep igniting and firing up our potential if we truly believe that our new project work, new pay rise, new contacts, new meetings are down to our own abilities.
What does success mean to you? You may need to redefine it. Comments on my #SpeakUp4Youth Twitter hour were quite clear that this is about being ‘proud’ of your achievements, no matter how small…