Career Plans & Long Term Youth Unemployment

When I was 12 I made a life/career plan something which back then seemed realistic but now aged 22, with an unpredictable job market, how realistic of me is it to stick to it?

The plan came about as a result of two things: 1) I am a planner, I’m organised to the point where it should probably be of concern and I hate spontaneity it completely throws me, my life and everything else of balance. 2) School, parents, adults in general who’s constant questions of ‘What are you going to do with your life?’, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and ‘You need to get yourself some sort of plan to follow?’ just added to the pressure of getting my proverbial shit together.

Being so organised means that I had to have a plan for all the really important things in my life specifically my career. The plan consists of many steps/targets and after achieving so many of them I should, all being well, end up in my dream career. It went like this: education through to graduating university, get a job, possibly move to somewhere like London and by my late 20’s/early 30’s I should have a good, dependable ‘career style’ job being paid a good wage to be living at least above the breadline.

It sounded simple back then, doesn’t everything when you are 12, but in this day and age is it really a good idea for me to be still clinging onto that?

The recession followed by a slow recovery, years of negative growth that has only just started turning around and an unpredictable job market in the majority of sectors has turned a lot of what I planned on its head. Life is notoriously unpredictable as it is, you can’t stop the world throwing certain things at you to make things that bit more difficult, but these factors have impacted on a lot of people’s lives in a negative way.

These days you can’t just walk out of university into the job you have always dreamed of, there are stop gap jobs and that soul destroying time sat at home doing nothing but applying for jobs you don’t hear back from or receiving the dreaded ‘you have been unsuccessful in your application’ email. A nice little insight to my life as I’ve spent months in that position and whether you are an extreme life planner or not we all know this is a huge set back and can also be hugely disheartening.

I’ve been to university, I’ve got a degree and I spend all my time writing blogs and articles for free and planning in order to get that dream job. I don’t think I will ever stop planning, it’s just the way I work but I have learnt that my life plan I made at 12 is more than likely not going to happen right now but I’ve also learnt to except that, to be more flexible and ok about things not going my way.

But a major problem highlighted recently is the impact of being a young person who is long term unemployed has on your mental state. More and more young people aged 18-25 are being diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorders and suffering from panic attacks because of this. The cycle of feeling worthless, stupid and like you have wasted your life, time and money on an education that got you nowhere is creating a generation not only worse off financially than their parents but also more stressed and troubled mentally and emotionally then their parents. Luckily, new campaigns like ‘YoungMinds Vs’ by mental health charity YoungMinds set up to fight for improvements in the mental health and wellbeing of young people are around for us to get involved with if we feel like we need help. Campaigning for better services for mental health is something I’m hugely supportive of and this is a much needed project for young people at the moment.

But comments from Tory MP Esther McVey on how young people in the UK are too picky with jobs and we should ‘all work at Costa’ don’t help. It paints us in a bad light, Guardian journalist Erica Buist raised some brilliant points in her article in response to the MP’s comments this week. Firstly, raising the point that Costa unfortunately for us all does not have 941,000 jobs going for all the unemployed youngsters in the UK to fill up and secondly, we should not be considered ‘job snobs’ for wanting something better. For years we were sold the ‘you must spend years in education and you will get a good job’ card, we worked hard and played the system as we were told in order to get to our dream and it is not our fault the economy and job markets have gone to shreds making that more difficult to achieve.

I don’t know how long it will take me to get to the point where I can get paid for my writing either as a freelancer, a staff member at a magazine/newspaper or working on the radio but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up. Everyone is in the same boat jobs wise at the moment and the safety net of education to degree to guaranteed job is all but gone in the majority of careers these days, it’s terrifying but unfortunately the norm now. There is still something to be said for that life plan though and I still have one but these day it is much more flexible, a lot more realistic but like me completely determined to be successful.


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