There’s no denying it’s been an unfathomably tough year for everyone, but my heart has really gone out to all the year 12s who, thanks to COVID-19, had a milestone year thrown into complete chaos.
Graduating high school is one of life’s most monumental rites of passage – you’ve worked hard for years, gained a stronger understanding of your likes and dislikes and become more familiar with your strengths and weaknesses.
Many school leavers will go straight onto further education, however taking a gap year to work or travel has also historically been a popular pathway for those still appraising what their future looks like.
But what does a gap year look like in 2021?
With the ensuing pandemic hampering overseas travel plans, founder of school leaver service Year12 Saxon Phipps said year 12s who wanted to take a gap year “should go ahead with the idea, as a year off often helped students avoid burnout, improve their grades upon return, and become more employable by learning new skills.”
However, the prospect of finding first-time employment, especially in the current environment, can seem a daunting and overwhelming prospect for many young people.
As a parent, it is important to understand how you can offer support and guidance to your child during the decision-making process.
Ask questions and really listen to their answers
Life is busy and sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day grind, leaving little time for meaningful conversation.
In saying this, it’s important to find a time without distractions where you can sit down with your child and work through exactly what they want out of a job.
For instance, are they after something part time while they also study? Or are they interested in a full-time commitment?
The other pertinent details to sort through is whether they are searching for a specific job (for example, in retail or hospitality) or are they open to casting their net a little wider?
I’m a mum myself and while I still have another 15 years before my daughter graduates high school, I know that all you ever genuinely want as a parent is for your child to be happy.
By thinking of yourself as their ultimate foundation, it's possible to lift them up and support them as they navigate their way to finding the perfect job or ideal career.
On the flip side, for the sake of building their resilience and encouraging healthy learning processes, parents should be conscious not to confuse acts of support with a “hover” approach.
Helicoptering kids (please don’t accompany them to job interviews, unless it’s to drop them off and collect them after) can inadvertently impact their sense of self and confidence in their capabilities.
Letting go and leaving them to make their own decisions is hard, but at the end of the day it's best for their own growth and development.
Help them identify strengths
For many young people, self-awareness might not come naturally. In fact, adults can deeply struggle with pinpointing their strengths and weaknesses (until I was in my mid-20s, I absolutely dreaded that question during job interviews).
By working with them and utilising helpful prompts within conversation, as parents you can help your child build a bigger picture understanding about the traits and skills they bring to the table and what is going to make them feel most fulfilled.
For example, do they thrive working in a team or do they prefer more autonomy? Are they strong communicators or do their actions speak louder than words? Do they manage pressure without panic or are they more comfortable in calmer environments?
Psychologists call this "strength spotting"; it’s all about reminding your offspring what they do well on a micro level.
For a more official strength-spotting exercise, suggest that your son or daughter take a personality test such as Myers-Briggs or the Strong Interest Inventory.
Familiarise yourself with the local job market
If you haven’t been entrenched in the job-hunting process for a while, it’s understandable if you feel a bit out of touch with what’s out there for recent graduates.
Especially with the current state of the Australian job market, educating yourself about the current state of the job market can help you have more informed conversations with your child.
Know how employers recruit
Did you know that in Australia, up to one third of jobs are not externally advertised?
There was a saying I heard a lot during my university degree and that was, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” I didn’t fully understand the importance of that quip at the time but now, after more than a decade into my career, few truer words have ever been spoken.
So how can you help your young job seeker?
Spread the word – mention to your friends, family members and colleagues that your child is looking for work. You never know what opportunities might be available unless you talk about it
Hit the pavement – encourage your child to physically approach local employers or even email their resume directly to hiring managers, ensuring its tailored to each individual business
Back to basics – one of the biggest challenges first time job seekers come up against is lacking the practical work experience. But everyone must start somewhere. As a parent, suggest volunteering or unpaid work experience to help build confidence and skill set
Consider other alternative education pathways
If you have a daughter or son who has recently completed high school, you may want to recommend other alternative education pathways other than university. Upskilled has a variety of courses to choose from. With the flexibility of online learning, young job seekers can upskill while also being able to tend to their work responsibilities - either in a full-time or part-time capacity.
Interested in studying online? Get in touch with our education consultants and enquire about a course today!