Now that school, colleges and universities are starting the autumn term, how can we best support young people as they resume their studies?
Just as Covid-19 may have had a significant impact on your life, it will have impacted on others close to you too, in particular young people.
As parents, carers, family and friends, one of the most effective ways of supporting young people is to spend time with them, to listen to their concerns and provide as much reassurance as possible. The most important thing is to remain positive and optimistic about their future, while recognising the very real concerns that they might have.
Spending time together, creating a caring and relaxing environment and recognising when they need extra professional support is really important.
Although the career landscape is changing and traditional roles may be shrinking, there are still very positive examples of new roles where people have achieved success, or have taken a different route to the one that they were expected to take.
We can also back this up by helping them find out as much information via schools, colleges and universities, but recognising that this information can change in the light of government announcements.
It is also important to help young people recognise that not every role is dependent on successful examination results. Gaining qualifications is one route, but enthusiasm, energy, commitment and a willingness to learn goes a long way to finding a career that they will love.
While the expansion of self-employment opportunities is growing, the practical steps to achieving this may be less well known to young people at the start of their careers.
Their route to employment and their future career will be very different from the route their parents took, or equally the path that older friends may have taken.
In school when asked to make exam, college or work experience choices they may not have been given the information about where these choices may take them. As teachers themselves are under pressure coping with the impact of the pandemic, they may only be able to offer limited guidance, or support in identifying which direction, or career is appropriate for the young person.
But if they don’t know the variety of roles that exist, how can they choose the right subjects when options are available?
This is a generation that will continue to be in the spotlight, but reassuring them, helping them grow their knowledge of potential opportunities and staying alert to potential national initiatives can be one way of really helping them.
Young people’s ambitions are often fragile, but it may only take one person who believes in them, who supports them, and helps them build self-belief to give them the confidence to achieve their dreams.
Here are some other ways to help:
- Exploration – Changing Career Landscape
As a starting point it can be really useful to help young people explore the variety of roles that exist as they start to identify what they want to do. Some will have very clear ambitions and may have wanted a particular career since they were very young.
Others may not know what they want to do, or may have changed their minds as a result of the pandemic.
The range and scope of career opportunities is much larger than many young people, and even some adults, realise. Encourage them, or start as a family to build up information about all the potential opportunities that could exist for them. For every front facing role, there are many other people that support these roles. New roles, particularly in the digital space are being created all the time.
There may be opportunities for them to start exploring some of these roles by taking part-time work at the weekends/evenings, this will also help build confidence and understand more about the working environment.
However much you want to offer support, many young people feel intensely self-conscious when they feel the focus is all about them and their career prospects. In private they may have many anxieties about their future, and when asked to discuss it feel under real pressure.
As parents and carers, timing is everything, take your lead from them, if, and when, they start to talk about their future, be genuinely interested, but let them lead the conversation. Some of the most helpful discussions often happen when you are doing something else, when they and you are relaxed, and they don’t feel under pressure to have the ‘Career Conversation’.
Also don’t feel it has to be an intense, or long, conversation, with a firm commitment to a final decision. Decision making takes time, many of us need to explore our ideas fully before committing to decisions about our future, and young people are very similar; explorations take time and their dreams can change as they move towards reality.
2. Nurture Them
Within Escape Learn Create we often talk about creating your own nurture collection, and in doing so you can also help other members of your family develop their own list, not in a formal way, but by helping them identify what makes them feel safe and supported.
This will be particularly important for young people leaving home to go to university. Just as parents and carers used to prepare young people going to university with recipe books, extra bedding, and other home comforts, there is now a need to think about other things that they may need to protect them from the ongoing implications of the pandemic.
There may also be questions about the location of the university, online learning arrangements, accommodation, distance from their homes. The need to find other friends, or family able to offer support near the university, even the timing of if, or when, they go to university may be different this year.
3. Help them to feel positive about everything they have achieved in and out of education.
As their education has been disrupted, many young people will be feeling anxious about their qualifications and exam results. Reassure them that the impact of the pandemic will be taken into account in their future hopes and aspirations.
Help them to recognise all the other qualities they have, and if they have been volunteering, or helping in any other way this will have added to their skills and capabilities.
This also applies to younger children coming into other stages of their education, liaise with their schools and teachers about extra support, every child will have different needs and anxieties, keep them close and reassure them about their futures.
4. Social Job Seeking
Routes to finding employment are rapidly expanding; it’s not uncommon to find potential roles advertised in social media. There isn’t space here to consider all the aspects of applying for a job, but help them be aware of some of the new opportunities that may exist.
Young people need to be prepared to respond to these opportunities not just by having a CV but thinking about other ways that they can present their experience that is interesting and implies a natural fit.
5. The Social Interview
The process of interviewing is changing too, social media can be used by both the young person and the employer. The potential employee has the opportunity to research the company before the interview. It can also be helpful for them to prepare themselves and their background before a Zoom interview. Sadly, many organisations may not respond to unsuccessful applicants and while this can be very disheartening, it can help if they realise that this often happens, and does not just apply to their application..
6. Staying connected
Help them to understand the importance of informal conversations, not using the dreaded word ‘networking’ but instead to engage in natural and informal conversations with people in a variety of contexts. With the increased concern for the environment it is possible to meet people with shared interests through volunteering.
7. Alternative academic routes
The graduate landscape is changing, instead of attending university and leaving with a potential student loan debt, school leavers can now enter an apprenticeship; this also applies to other forms of qualifications, which has broadened the options for training while employed. This is an area of ongoing change, with new initiatives being announced all the time.
8. Other routes to employment
Help them to examine the reality of a self-employed route, the challenges and the differences in scope between being self-employed and becoming an entrepreneur.
Even before the pandemic, young entrepreneurs and influencers were tearing up the rulebook and setting up successful businesses from their bedrooms. While they may not want that level of exposure there are many other examples of people who have achieved very successful careers by not following a conventional route.
So many job opportunities almost happen by chance, new roles are emerging all the time, even during the pandemic, people have discovered new ways of working, some started in voluntary roles, others have responded to new work opportunities, or adapted their business to meet a new need.
Increasingly there has been the growth of ‘’side hustles” where people develop business opportunities that run alongside their main employment in which hobbies/interests grow to provide additional income, or eventually new careers. Help them to understand that their initial career choice does not limit their future potential.
9. Becoming an Influencer
Importantly this does not necessarily mean becoming a ‘celebrity influencer’ As young people develop in their careers there will be different opportunities to progress either within an organisation, or externally. Much of this may be achieved in a digital environment from blogging to thought pieces to social networking. We see so many positive examples of young people taking the initiative in being inclusive and socially responsible.
10. Family Businesses
Just as young people have been affected by the pandemic, so have many family members. As adults set up their own businesses, there may be opportunities for young people to become involved, they often have skills in technology that their parents may lack, or there may be the opportunity to transfer skills from the older generation to the young people. This is particularly true with some of the more traditional, or artisan crafts where skills and knowledge are in danger of being lost forever, as there are no young people coming into the industry.
11. Find Role Models
Throughout the pandemic there have been wonderful examples of amazing volunteers who have found themselves in a position without work and have adapted their skills to new ventures.
This year, perhaps more than ever before we have seen examples of young people gaining amazing sporting achievements and while this takes a particular type of dedication, they do demonstrate the power of self-belief, and in some cases achieving their goal despite people telling them they wouldn’t succeed. As mentioned above encouraging their embryonic dreams is so important.
Another way that can really help young people is to find real-life examples of people who have taken different routes to employment.
By finding these role models you can help young people see the rich variety of roles and routes to achieving them, so that they can take ownership of their futures.
12. Managing Downtime
One of the very real disadvantages of living in a social world is the need to always be connected. This is one of the hardest things for young people to manage, the peer pressure of social media is enormous, and if it is part of their working life it is even harder to disconnect.
Above all support them and try to involve them in more personal and family activities, which allows them to step away from the technology and help them to find strategies for managing personal time and space.
Give something back
We have also mentioned the importance of helping the broader community by volunteering, helping with local initiatives, providing a much-needed service, or in other actions, mentoring young people, or embryonic businesses.
There is so much that you can do as a family to help others, from helping local elderly neighbours to more organised volunteering, or sponsorship. Most charities are desperately in need of help in a variety of ways.
One of the very positive outcomes of the various lockdowns was families enjoying spending more time together, creating a home sanctuary, cooking together, enjoying their gardens, or using outside spaces more.
Cherish these times, enjoy building these memories and in that way build hope in the future for everyone.
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