Using the numbers

"I've heard that 20% of young people are unemployed and risk being largely unemployable. I didn't go to a 'good' school, far from it, and I've only got six average GCSEs. Realistically, what chance do I have?"

This came up from a young person in a group training session. It's very easy to pick up the sound bites and headlines telling you that we're all doomed. The media like nothing better than the shock value of a nasty number. It doesn't take long until you begin to believe that the whole situation is hopeless. The big question is - What really lies behind some of these numbers?

Let's get the worst-case-scenario out of the way first. Even if the figures are actual fact, (using the 20% figure above) reality also says that 4 out of 5 people DO get jobs. Furthermore, undoubtedly the proportion of young people who NEVER get work is considerably smaller, it will be a reducing number of some people floating in and out of work. So start by focusing on the positive weight, not the fictitious negatives.

Secondly, find a sense of perspective. Even the BBC, who are generally very good at providing a balanced picture and a realistic analysis, can give you the wrong impression if you just scan the headlines and first paragraphs of articles. On the second of September 2011, the headline on a story read:

"Increase in unemployed graduates, survey suggests."

The first paragraph reads - "Almost 28% of UK graduates who left university in 2007 were still not in full-time work three and a half years later, figures have suggested."

That does sound horrendous, doesn't it? Especially at a time when prospective students have to figure out whether they're prepared to take on a lot of debt, but still carry the risk of becoming unemployed. Arguably, that figure appears to suggest that when you've got a degree your employment prospects are 8% worse than if you hadn't bothered.

Looking deeper into the article, the actual numbers of the 27.7% who said they were not in full-time work are:

  1. 8.8% were working part-time or voluntarily;
  2. 5.3% were working and studying;
  3. 6.5% were just studying;
  4. 3.6% gave their response as "other",
  5. leaving 3.5% considered as unemployed (up from 2.6% in 2005).

Doesn't seem quite so horrendous or hopeless now, does it? The article is here if you want to read it >>>

So thirdly, be positive. It's clear that the numbers reward persistence. The chances of not getting some sort of job and income for yourself are actually quite remote if you're flexible and apply yourself positively, taking things step by step. That's not to dismiss the challenges you'll face, especially in the aftermath of the banking crisis, following a recession and in the midst of European economic turmoil, but there are a lot of resources available to teach you how to present the best of yourself.

Good luck with your job hunt.