Are young people being too fussy about the jobs that they are willing to do?

Today, the BBC are reporting on a new Institute of Public Policy Research report about youth unemployment.

The report states that around half of young people who are not in employment, education or training have never had a job.

In response, representatives of the recruitment industry claim that this is because young people are being too “fussy” about the type of job they are willing to take.

This story has highlighted the debate around whether young people should hold out for their dream job or whether they should take a different type of role to build their employment experience.

The BBC story included an example of a photography graduate who had worked in a different field but who felt that not doing a job which used his degree was a waste of talent. The piece also highlighted concerns that working full-time in a role whilst pursuing opportunities in a different field was difficult.

The recruiters’ viewpoint that was represented was that young people should be willing to take a job doing a role which might not be their ideal career but which would expose them to employment and demonstrate “work ethic”.

I can appreciate both sides of this debate.

From a young person’s perspective, it is disheartening to feel that you have to ‘park’ or give up on your dream career, especially if you have invested your time, energy and future earnings in a degree. Many would question the point in their three years at university if they take a non-graduate role or a job in a field which doesn’t relate to the subject that they studied.

This feeds into another debate about how realistic the careers advice that young people are getting is. A mis-match of aspirations has a direct impact on the employment expectations of young people. Should we be discouraging young people from pursuing careers where there are limited opportunities? Should education and training institutions at both FE and HE level reduce the number of places on courses which relate to jobs which are highly competitive? Last year’s figures from the Local Government Association highlighted the disparity between the number of young people training in certain occupations and the number of vacancies advertised.

From a recruiter’s perspective, I have recently advertised a role which has attracted a lot of applications from young people. Most have degrees completed in the last three years. However, when I look at their work history there is a vast difference and I have to agree that I view those candidates who have been working since completing their degree, regardless of what field it is in, more favourably than those who haven’t. The role is a graduate level job, but I also want to see that a potential employee is experienced in the workplace. So, when shortlisting, I have scored those candidates who have been doing retail, hospitality or bar work since graduating higher than those who haven’t been working. The role that I am recruiting for isn’t related to these types of jobs but what I can see is that the candidate is used to being motivated to get themselves to work each day, should know how to interact in the workplace, has had to demonstrate their communication skills and is willing to go out of their way to do something that might not be top of their list of interests. If someone hasn’t worked in a year or two since graduating, I worry about how ready they will be to take on the challenges of a full-time job and what issues this could present me with.

I don’t think that young people should give up their career aspirations – most of the applications that I look at where the candidates are currently working in a field unrelated to their aspirations are making efforts to develop their exposure to the type of work that they want to do through voluntary work, self-employed contracts and placements. And that’s an even bigger plus point for me as an employer. It shows me that the prospective employee is motivated to continue pursuing their aspiration whilst recognising the importance of gaining experience of work.

You can read the BBC story on their Newsbeat page here. The BBC Breakfast programme which covered the story can be accessed on iPlayer.

What do you think – are young people being “too fussy” about what jobs they are willing to do and, if so, what should we do to make their aspirations around entering the world of work more realistic? You can join the debate on our LinkedIn group here.

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