Tough Love For Unemployed Job Seekers Under 30 Years Of Age
WARNING: This article may challenge you and your view of the world, read at your own risk – it is for information and inspiration purposes only! Real situations will be discussed so you can learn how other people have used these techniques and achieved results!! You can then find the right resources to help you on your journey.
You may have passed your period of formal education, but you have not passed your period of learning about life.
There are plenty of discussions that revolve around the idea that people under 30 have it all. Youth, beauty, no commitments and all the benefits of modern technology that older people didn’t have when they were younger.
But not everyone feels this way, especially if they are under 30 and currently ‘unemployed’ (which I will define as in regular paid work).
I have heard all of the following:
• I was hopeless at school and I just can’t study
• Everyone assumes a young person is lazy or distracted by technology
• The only jobs we can get are casual, nobody gives us a permanent job
• I have made a few big mistakes in the past – drugs, alcohol, illegal activity, promiscuity, unplanned pregnancy etc so there is no hope
• I can’t keep a job because nothing I do is interesting enough
• I know I should find my purpose, but I don’t know what that is
• My parents, teacher, someone else significant says I should be x but I don’t want to do that
• I can’t decide what to do. I can’t afford to study and I am so exhausted with shift work
• I feel so lonely and nobody understands me. I just need to find someone who gets me
• I can’t talk to my friends because they already have good jobs
• I keep getting sick and I have lived with anxiety, depression and/or stress for so long that I can’t see a way out
• I don’t have a car, somewhere safe to live, good clothes for an interview etc
• Teachers, health professionals or well meaning others have labelled me with a condition or attitude and I intrinsically believe it (hopeless, difficult, challenged, have a disability of some sort – remember it is all about your abilities)
• I am so busy caring for my parents, siblings or some other person that I cannot escape
• Nobody understands me
And that is just a small sample. However, I do believe that some form of unemployment can be good for you.
By way of background, my own personal story is partly relevant here. I started full time work at an Australia-wide bank in Adelaide, South Australia only six days after my last secondary school examination and I started studying part time.
The bank was extremely patriarchal and as I was married at the age of 20, they assumed that I would just run off and have babies. For some reason, they never complained when a male colleague left without nine months notice. I still think some employers live with this ancient attitude towards women in the workplace, but I digress.
Anyway, I had to prove myself over and over again. Prior to starting my first full time job, I had only ever had part time baby sitting jobs, so I had never worked with adults. My parents were so concerned about how difficult I found my new full time job that they actually rang my supervisors to discuss it with them (without my knowledge).
On the job, I made heaps of mistakes.
For a start, I used to stay up late and then find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning – so I would often leave home, half dressed, with wet hair, running to catch the bus and arrive at work without any make-up on.
I was too scared to ask for advice on how to complete tasks, so I would just repeat whatever had been done last. I was so bad at answering the telephone switchboard (because I couldn’t understand what people were saying when they rang and I didn’t recognise their names) that after one day, they took me off the switchboard.
I was also told to study a Certificate Course part time and it turned out to be completely pointless. As a ‘career recruit,’ part of my employment contract was to keep studying, but I had to tell them I wouldn’t be continuing because the course was inadequate. I withdrew from the program, but ironically, my career took off because I stood up for myself!
That launched me into finding a university degree that I completed part time by correspondence – and it was the perfect fit for my circumstances – because I did the research and I found out what really mattered – for me and my future.
At the same time, I was part of the ‘branch amalgamation team’ so at the age of 27, I was going into bank branches and helping close them down. So as you can imagine, I was in a hotbed of emotional turmoil with the staff in the closing branch. I was also uncertain about my own career during this phase. So I started applying for other jobs – badly I might add – I didn’t get one job offer.
Anyway, my husband was offered a job interstate and as there were no jobs for me in the bank, I had to leave Adelaide and move to Melbourne without a job.
Overnight, I lost my entire identity from being the eldest of 27 grandchildren and part of a large network of people I both knew and recognised with a good job to a complete unknown in another city – without a job.
I had to grow up, and grow up fast, because soon after, I found out I was pregnant. Creating my own identity away from my family and friends was really challenging, but in another way, it gave me the opportunity to experiment, without people saying do this or do that. I had to be willing to make mistakes and take responsibility when things went wrong. I became completely accountable, for everything.
Firstly, I wanted to find new friends – and I thought I would find other people the same age – but I didn’t. I had been reading books on personal development for as long as I could remember, but now it was time to put it all into practice. It was both scary and exhilarating at the same time. But now, I had the opportunity to be Sue, not someone else’s version of ‘Sue.’
The society we live in today is saturated with images of how we should think, feel, be and do. It makes these images so attractive that if we don’t achieve these results, we somehow feel as if we have failed.
Now, I am NOT suggesting that you need to move to discover yourself. Far from it!! But what I am suggesting, is that at some point, before the age of 30, you will need to start creating your own identity.
When I look back on my life, I do so with a sense of both angst and care. Now that I know so much more, in some ways, I am glad I didn’t know then what I know now. There is a part of me that wants to protect myself from some of the suffering that I went through then, but of course, I cannot. I somehow have to reconcile it and just say to myself, ‘I did the best I could at the time.’
Another part of me misses the boldness I had when I didn’t know what the consequences could be.
The courage of youth can be a blessing, if you can use it in a productive way.
For a start, just a few years later, I set up my first website (way back in 2001)! Lucky for me, part of my courage remains as I spent my 50th year writing three books! To achieve this, I set three book launch dates and just went for it!
The other challenge I faced at the time was that ‘older’ people, yes, those ancient ones over the age of 30, all assumed that I was ‘too young’ to do things. That was really tiresome. I felt as if I was a threat to them, particularly as they had stopped learning and I was still learning (and I am still learning to this day – I attend between one and four events, webinars, training etc every week of the year).
Now that I am older, I also realise that I wasted a lot of my energy. I tried to reinvent the wheel and ignore the professional advice I received because I assumed that the other person was out of date and out of touch. In particular, I remember thinking one time that I was actually outsmarting my grandparents – little did I know, they were outsmarting me!
What I really appreciated was the people who were kind to me. People who were encouraging, who acknowledged my capabilities and said so verbally. I found it hard to accept praise, I still do, but a gentle comment, a nice smile and even a ‘well done’ made me feel fantastic. It was even more helpful when the person described what was so well done.
What I found frustrating was people who just would not listen. Who were determined to do things their way and not seek my input or even explain why they were doing it that way. I wanted to understand and started to feel that because I was ‘young,’ somehow I was ‘stupid.’
I don’t believe anyone is stupid. Everyone has strengths, regardless of what has happened to them or what they inherited genetically.
Your mission in life is to identify your strengths and make choices aligned with your values (which I trust will be ethical). I also believe that there are opportunities everywhere – sometimes, you just need to dig a little deeper to find them.
Strategies for people under 30 looking for work
However, if you are stuck, for any reason, are under 30 and unemployed, I would like to share some of these strategies with you. More job search strategies that work are listed here.
Please remember that I am sharing them with you in such a way that I hope will demonstrate to you that there is plenty of hope and opportunity out there – the situation is never hopeless, even if you feel helpless.
There are opportunities for young people and I for one, love having young people around who challenge my sensibilities, who inspire me with their enthusiasm and who constantly surprise me with their suggestions and insights. Most of you have benefited from some of the best educational opportunities ever, and technology has given you access to so many more.
However, if you are unemployed, it is very easy to slip into despair. To lose your confidence and to feel defeated. To lay blame on others and to become a victim.
It is not about your levels of experience, it is about your willingness to learn.
It is not about what others say about you, it is about what you do.
It is not about being disadvantaged, it is about finding alternatives.
It is not about excuses, it is about action.
It is not about money, it is about providing current value (although I do understand that some money is required to survive in modern society). You may need to start at the bottom and move up over time.
It is not about what you know, it is about how you apply what you know.
It is not about doing everything yourself, it is about finding the right help you need (and this could be both free and paid from multiple sources).
It is not about complaining, it is about doing extensive research (not just Google – talk to people).
It is not about ideal and unrealistic expectations, it is about discipline and flexibility.
It is not about a perfect destination, it is about utilising your journey effectively.
It is not about perfection, it is about discovery and alignment (and 80% is good enough).
Ultimately, if you can live according to your highest values (for your context), you are doing fine!
Four steps you can consider
Now let me be a little more specific. Here are four steps that you might like to consider taking.
1. Stop defending and start making decisions
In my interactions with younger career and business clients, I often find that they constantly argue with me. They say, ‘but this’ and ‘but that.’ They appear to have an answer for everything.
Instead of arguing with them, I listen. In their minds, these are the real reasons why things are the way they are. I may differ in my opinion, but I need to respect them enough to understand their objections and work through them.
My first instinct is to provide a solution – but if I do this, I prevent them from solving the problem themselves. It takes all of my willpower not to provide a solution when my natural disposition is to prevent the pain that they appear to be going through (some of your well-meaning friends and family may have already done this to you).
But if I do, I disempower them. But my goal is to empower people. So instead, I have to teach them how to find their own solutions. I have to teach them how to find the right solutions themselves. I can be the backup if things go wrong and I am here if a solution cannot be found externally – but nothing excites me more than when they come back on their next appointment with a solution they have found for themselves.
So if you are looking for solutions, you need to think about a few things.
Firstly, who is giving you the advice? Do they have the relevant experience, qualifications and results to be given the authority to advise you? (I don’t believe your best friend’s brother who has one story about x has the right to tell you what you should do).
Secondly, is there a conflict of interest? Do they have something to gain from giving you that advice? Do they get a referral fee, a commission or some other payment? Are they keeping you stuck in your bad situation because they will feel threatened if you move on or up in the world?
Thirdly, are they accountable in some way? What recourse is there if things go wrong? Do they have some sort of guarantee, exchange or refund? Are they professionally accredited or certified? This is not essential in all cases. You can mitigate against this risk if you get advice from at least three different people – that way, you are not just relying on one source and one perspective and you can make a considered decision for yourself. Do you trust this person (based on lots of evidence over time)?
Remember that YOU should make the final decision, you should not defer any of your choices to someone else, regardless of how much you love them or don’t want to disappoint them or how ‘expert’ their advice may be.
You also need to be courageous enough to make some mistakes (but you will generally make less mistakes if you can do some research first). If there is low consequence potential, you probably don’t need as much research, but if there is high consequence potential, don’t rush things! Especially if it involves a lot of time, money or energy.
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over past decisions. Be kind to yourself. The goal here is to learn to make decisions for yourself, decisions that lead to solutions that work for you and the context of your life. Reasons and excuses that surface when you are constantly defending yourself can hold you back from realising your true potential. They can create limiting beliefs that disempower you and stop you from moving forward.
Limiting beliefs can stop you from seeing what is right in front of you.
It can make you refuse useful guidance and mentoring. If you don’t want to be told what to do, try asking for information instead. Then you can use the information to make your own choices without the pressure of saying yes or no to someone else’s advice.
At this point, remember that starting the process of seeking reliable information from multiple sources is all that is important. You do not need to have all the answers before you move forward. If you have a bit more time at the moment, you can spend a bit more time doing research if you wish, but this is not essential. Just make sure you reduce the amount of time you spend being defensive. Even if your are not the defensive type, try and think a little more laterally in the future.
You may also like to learn some assertiveness skills so that you can be polite when other people provide their well-meaning or inappropriate advice.
2. Stop settling and start striving
It is extremely easy to fall into a comfort zone when you are unemployed. To put up with mediocre (or worse), because any form of change seems too hard, too difficult or just impossible. There is always hope.
Coping can become extremely insidious. You can start to rely on welfare payments and justify that a low paying job will leave you worse off than a welfare benefit. That you could just keep living with friends or family rather than become independent.
As you are still young, it may seem like there is always a tomorrow because you have your whole life ahead of you, but the reality is that the sooner you can live your life with meaning, purpose and contentment, the better.
I remember the story of a very talented musician whose only job was working at the fast food chain McDonald’s. Now as you can imagine, he faced all sorts of criticism from his friends and family because a lot of people usually assume that musicians can never earn a living from music and that a fast food career is a dead end job.
But he didn’t see it that way. He realised that by working the odd hours he did at McDonald’s, he could pursue his music career at other times. The so-called crappy job enabled him to spend the rest of his day doing what he loved. It was a means to an end.
It didn’t happen in a day, a week or a month, but his part time job gave him enough money to support himself and yes, he ended up with a successful career in the music industry.
He had his eye on his ultimate goal, not immediate gratification.
I have heard of many young people who do not want full time work or they want a role that includes opportunities to learn, grow or develop on the job (not something they classify as routine). So this means that they choose to work on a casual basis for say four days a week and they adjust their budget accordingly (reducing their spending on electronic equipment, housing, entertainment, cars, dinners etc).
There is something extremely satisfying about having a goal and doing whatever it takes to achieve it. To have the discipline to manage your time and your life to get to that destination, regardless of what it takes and what you have to go without to achieve it.
You may not be able to afford an international holiday every 12 months, but you may be able to go camping with your friends six times a year for one tenth of the price. You still get to have a holiday!
Have you got your finances in order? Do you have three months of income saved to cope with any sudden emergencies? Did you set aside money from every payment you have received in your career or business to pay for the essentials – rent, food, utilities etc? Are you living within your means or do you insist on keeping up with your friends and spending money you can’t afford? If you need help in this area, consider seeing a financial counsellor.
There are plenty of ways to have fun – for free! Anyone who is not willing to join you at a free festival, movie screening, concert, outdoor activity etc is missing out!! Don’t let unemployment keep you locked inside – try going out and exploring your local parks, have coffee with friends at their house (instead of in a cafe) and play board games together.
If you have let your household tidiness or cleanliness slide, consider spending some time ‘spring cleaning’ – even if it is not Spring! Wash everything in your bedroom – sheets, doona, underblanket, so that you can enjoy a peaceful rest. Make your bed when you get up in the morning. Stop looking at any screens at least one hour before you go to bed.
If you are emotionally anxious, depressed or stressed, find out what sort of support can help you with the challenges you face, whether they are personal or work related. Free services are usually available if you keep looking long enough.
Anxiety is based on worrying about the future, depression is based on worrying about the past and stress is associated with feeling overwhelmed by everything that you think you must do right now. These issues can increase your sensitivity and irritability, reduce your ability to focus and overall, make you feel incapable of making any reasonable change or choices in the short term. Getting the right help can make all the difference.
I know two young people who have been through a raft of counsellors and they are both under 30. Free, low cost, subsidised, through their university, you name it, they have tried it. Ultimately, the first person found a counsellor through her university and she continues to pay for this service even though she has completed her degree. The other person found a counsellor close to work via Google and he describes her as someone who doesn’t just keep talking about the problem, she helps him work out how to deal with his anxiety and gives him suggestions on how to do it. He pays $95 a visit out of his own pocket – but believes his health and peace of mind is worth it!
Remember that we were not born with the skills to overcome challenges, we need to learn them.
Likewise, most people are taught how to do a job, but they are not taught how to find a job.
Perhaps your biggest challenge right now is you simply don’t have the right skills to find a job – it may actually have nothing to do with your age, your skills, knowledge, networks or location! But it does require you to take some action!
For example, a young man who left school at the age of 15 has actually been working in both paid and voluntary roles since the age of 13. He has never been unemployed. He is now 19, has a full time job and a part time job and is preparing to travel overseas for one month on his own. Not only that, before he got his last job, he actually secured 15 job interviews in one week. This proves that if you have the right skills to find a job, you can get one!
3. Stop denying and start setting goals
Once you understand what has been holding you back, how you can find the right answers and how you can set your own goals, it is time to make some choices about what you are going to do in the short, medium and long term.
As Zig Ziglar says “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
Please remember that you have already achieved many goals in the past. Some big ones, some small ones. But you did it. Achieving those goals has helped you become the person you are today. If you are aiming to be a different person in the future, you may need to choose different goals.
Choosing some easy goals to begin with will help you keep going and aim for the bigger ones. Try choosing something you would like to achieve by the time you are 35 – that gives you at least five years from now to get there (assuming that you are under 30 right now)!
So rather than thinking about any of the goals you didn’t reach, start thinking about (and writing down) the goals you can achieve in the future. Forget about the subjects you failed, the opportunities you think you missed and the advice you ignored. You were doing the best you could at that time. There may have been many reasons why you just couldn’t do something at that moment. Remember, be kind to yourself.
This reminds me of a young person I met at a careers expo. He had developed an amazing online tool, but I have to admit, it was really way out, even for me. I simply couldn’t get my head around it. But to his credit, he had developed it and found a way to make it profitable, entirely on his own. He wasn’t your ‘typical, average citizen,’ but he found his niche and decided to do it anyway. What really impressed me about him was his desire to find new ways to promote it and make it more accessible to more people. He was also very conscious of protecting his digital asset which showed a good dose of commonsense (sometimes so rare nowadays that some people call it ‘uncommonsense.’) I have no doubt that this will be the first of many goals he achieves.
4. Stop worrying and start taking action
One of the best parts about getting older is not worrying about what everyone else thinks all the time. The sooner you can achieve this goal, the better!
Now, I am not suggesting that you go absolutely crazy and do something stupid. But I am trying to encourage you to give some things a go – even if you do it on a part time basis to begin with to see if it will work in the longer term.
Try finding someone who can encourage you with your goal setting and action steps. Is there someone you can discuss these with or who can help introduce you to people in the industry where you would like to work?
Can you start going to events and meetings to discuss your ideas and gather information about opportunities? Can you negotiate a trial or some short term voluntary gig so that people can see you in action? Can you do a door knock in your local area? I have a great introduction letter that I can send to you if you contact me directly. Once you have written your version, all you need to do is fold it in three and deliver it in letterboxes every two weeks until someone contacts you.
Each week, do one thing that is easy and one thing that is a bit more challenging.
I always encourage people to do things that are ‘difficult but not dangerous.’
Look at some of the habits you have developed. Are you addicted to looking and playing with your phone? Perhaps it is time to have one hour of ‘no phone’ time per day. Believe it or not, generations of people have survived without a mobile phone! See it as an adventure challenge, not that you are missing out.
I find that on the days when I don’t look at my phone, life seems so much easier and simpler and I am so much more content. I have never fallen into the trap of monitoring my online likes, comments and shares – I believe that this habit can damage your self-esteem. What counts in life is the people who show up in person.
If you are on LinkedIn, perhaps you could start by making a few quick improvements to your LinkedIn Profile?
Also, don’t be overly disappointed if you need to change your goals or something wonderful doesn’t happen immediately.
You may have reached a point in your life where some of the things you would like to do are not possible any more. You may have missed out on an opportunity to play elite sport or become a brain surgeon. It is not the end of the world. There are so many other things that you can do!
Another man I met loved playing drums in a band. He realised that a drummer can’t be a drummer in a paid role indefinitely, so he created a band management company. Although he was originally trained as an engineer, he has managed to be in the music industry now for over 30 years! Even better, he still gets to play the drums!!
Making the transition from school to college or university and a full time career or business can be really tough, especially if you don’t have some learned strategies for dealing with challenges and disappointments.
Combine that with the search for your own identity, relationship issues and hormones, you need to realise that it is almost impossible to have a ‘perfect life’ in your 20’s.
Give up on perfect, as far as I am concerned, it doesn’t exist. What can exist is ‘enough.’ It can be ‘enough for now,’ or ‘enough in preparation for something else’ or ‘ enough overall with some wonderful highlights.‘
I am not suggesting that you settle for less. But I don’t want you to put unnecessary demands and pressures on your performance. Yes, you need some discipline and commitment to get you through. Yes, you need some support and encouragement. Yes, you need to accept responsibility and take action. But you do not need to judge yourself every five minutes and second guess everything. So long as you keep moving forward, that is good enough.
Another young man I met came to me looking for a role as an assistant accountant. His qualifications come from another country and English is not his first language, but he did so well in his home country with his English that they asked him to translate all of their documents.
Unfortunately, here in Australia, most accounting practices want someone with local accounting experience. So although he continues to seek this type of work, to make ends meet, he has started offering general support services to small local businesses. Between our appointments (which he personally paid full price for), he read my books and completed the suggested tasks (the very first younger client ever to do this).
He has a lovely cheerful and respectful disposition and is continually invited back to these businesses. He regularly attends local networking events and continues his voluntary work and hobbies every week. Every time he earns money, he saves money to get through the leaner times. His work ethic is exceptional and I have no doubt that due to his flexible approach towards supporting himself (and his sister with her business), he will be very successful in the future. He is both humble and enterprising and I regularly recommend him to my clients.
Whether you are young or not so young, there is no such thing as ‘job security’ or guaranteed ‘business success.’ But if anything can help, a good (and well maintained) network can!
LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for building your network over time – and more and more young people are joining. It is also a great place to identify suitable experts and mentors that can provide you with more real insights into the careers and businesses you may be considering.
I fully realise that most people under 30 have an online presence. However, if you are really serious about securing the right opportunity in the future, it may be time to delete some content and close some old accounts – especially if you have some ‘inappropriate’ photos that are not aligned with your future direction.
It may also be time to create a portfolio on your own website or on a website for your industry (like Behance for creatives). Stop wasting your energy on providing amazing content for social media – go the extra mile and start publishing on your own name website and create a wonderful archive there! You own this content and people checking you out online can see it all in one place.
Social media creates the impression that everything happens in the cocoon of social media, but it doesn’t!
Consider splashing out on one nice new set of clothes and shoes, a stylish haircut, and book an appointment with the dentist and the doctor for a check-up. All of these things can be little actions that can move you in the right direction.
Ultimately, what you do next will be up to you. No time is ever wasted and it is never too late (even if it feels like it is). Be courageous, back yourself and keep moving forward – you can do it!
For now, I am not going to tell you what you should do and I can’t watch you do it, but hopefully by reading this article, you will be able to pick and choose some suggestions that might work for you!
If you think this article could be helpful for someone you know, please feel free to pass it on (but make sure you introduce it properly so that they don’t feel as if they are being judged).
And finally, I hope you have found this article worth sharing through your network and thanks in advance if you choose to do so! If you have any other ideas you would like to share, suggestions or challenges, please add them in the Comments section below.
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First Published: 19 August 2017
Last Update: 14 August 2022