“I hear working, just working… Employment means work,” said Darnell, during this month’s Young People Insight forum.
Employment was the discussion point for February, following the feedback received at the first forum last month. It was about us delving deeper into the barriers young people face when seeking employment and thinking about the possible ways we could relieve those pressures.
When sharing our initial thoughts on the term employment, responses varied from income to working for yourself. Yet what sparked my attention was how the direction of the conversation soon turned to feelings about money itself and how a lack of it could lead to feelings of depression – “I think it’s life in general,” said Andrae.
This led to a great point being made by Alana, who said: “If you’re going to work and do a job, make sure it’s a job you enjoy doing.” It is a simple statement that we too often forget in our society, because we’ve only got money on our mind, but we need to remember that life isn’t all about the money.
On the flip side, it can prove difficult for young people to land a job they actually enjoy doing, even after graduating from university. Despite having a degree in film studies, Nahed couldn’t find a job because she didn’t have the experience, which is a common issue at the centre of finding employment. However, Ope says, “I think a lot of us, we expect when we come out [of university] to be given a job… because that’s what we’re told.”
This brought us on to the issues of being “underqualified” or “overqualified” for a job, with some seeing “overqualified” as an excuse for employers not to hire you. We also questioned whether employment was about “the right contacts” or simply getting a job organically, and an interesting point was made by Rhianna who says that “it’s just chance”, as sometimes you’ll apply for a job and be rejected, but later get the job after applying again.
One of my favourite parts of the forum was when we discussed the reluctance of some employers to give individuals a chance when applying for job roles. I found myself reconsidering some of my thought processes and focusing on factors that had never crossed my mind before.
Rhianna thinks some employers are intimidated, while Darnell said that it might be about the applicant not yet reaching the level of maturity. Ope also raised the subject of job culture, saying that employers might not think you’ll fit in with the company culture. Systemic oppression was also a big discussion point, as we spoke about job rejections based on name and race. But one of my favourite points was again raised by Alana, who said: “Employers want to see what people have a life and whose life they can take from them.”
What became clear was that we all agreed that we didn’t leave education with enough skills to enter the workplace. Andrae said: “School wasn’t there for what I wanted school to be there for.” However, Ope says, “I don’t think school is for that. I don’t think schools can do everything”, but she later added that “schools know that somebody else will do it [develop employability skills]”.
I personally think that schools should be doing more, but it doesn’t mean that the responsibility should fall solely on the teachers. Alana thinks that there needs to be more attached to schools and I agree, because that is what will help young people truly thrive in the long-term.
Tuesday’s discussion was lively and insightful, and I’m hoping that we can build on it for the future, but an important element of YP Insight is to give words of encouragement and advice:
“Don’t take it personal when you get declined for a job. Ask for feedback… Keep going. You’re just getting started.” – Ope
” Self-learn all the time.” – Alana
“Keep on being persistent. Keep going, keep going.” – Nahed
“Sell yourself and stay true to who you are.” – Rhianna