The Creative Society is an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries.
Our new employee Simon talks about his experiences looking for work:
The inexorable rise of youth unemployment saw it finally reach the depressing figure of 1 million today.
In an attempt to address the issue, last night’s Newsnight gave several young people the chance to share their accounts on what it was like to be unemployed. Their insight will have resonated with anyone who has spent time without a job and would hopefully have been a reality check for anyone who still likes to characterise today’s youth as feckless layabouts – often people who got grants to go to university and were not forced to work for free.
The lack of direction and purpose that these young people spoke about certainly struck a chord with me. A job is crucial not just to earn money and contribute to society, but also for physical and mental wellbeing. It provides structure, a reason to get up in the morning and to get out of the house. Without this motivation it is inevitable that people start to get up later and later and the days begin to blur into one. The longer you stay in this cycle, the more confidence you lose in your own ability and the more difficult you find it to interact with people. Essentially, you become more unemployable.
This pattern didn’t reflect my unwillingness to work but occurred when I got disillusioned with the job application process. I spent hours writing covering letters, lengthy application forms and must have applied for over 100 jobs. However, for the vast majority of these applications I received no feedback whatsoever. I didn’t expect to be invited for an interview with every role I applied for, but the lack of feedback leaves you totally in the dark as to how you could improve, lowering your motivation to put as much effort into the next one.
A large part of the problem is that you never get to meet anyone face to face. Everything is conducted over the internet, which at times seems like one big black hole of CVs. The traditional method of applying for jobs is clearly not working; the emphasis needs to be on encouraging young, unemployed people to think more laterally and get them talking, in person, to potential employers. These situations need to be engineered in order to give them opportunities to create networks and contacts within industries they want to work in.
I was able to break the unemployment cycle thanks to the Future Jobs Fund and New Deal of the Mind. I was given a 6 month paid opportunity in an area I was interested in and knew that, if I worked hard and developed my skills, there was a good chance of a position beyond that. However, other people haven’t been so lucky. Some people work for months in unpaid internships which, in some cases, quite frankly amount to slave labour. They are given menial tasks which bear no relation to the original role they applied for and ultimately fail to improve their future job prospects.
There is no easy solution but if one good thing could come out of the fact that a million young people are now unemployed, it is that there is a genuine and deep-rooted problem that government and wider society needs to tackle.