Declining youth employment rates due to COVID-19 mean sound career advice has never been more important. But for parents, who are key career influencers, giving the right guidance can be daunting.
Australian youth have been hit hard by the pandemic with the current youth unemployment rate at 16.4 per cent.
Edith Cowan University (ECU) Associate Professor Denise Jackson, an expert in improving students’ employment prospects, explains what employers are looking for and why.
Professor Jackson’s advice is relevant for both secondary and university students and combines evidence-based practical strategies for parents to help their children achieve career success.
“Parents have an important role to play in supporting their children to make informed career decisions that optimise their chances of employment,” Professor Jackson said.
“Conversations might include what to study and whether your child should follow their passion and strengths or enrol in a discipline flagged as having better job prospects.
“Parents also need to know how their child can maximise appeal to recruiters, including which employability-related activities to engage in, for example, volunteering, internships, hackathons, part-time work or study exchange.”
Professor Jackson said employers want to see students engaging in a range of activities that will assure readiness for work that is rapidly changing, driven by technology and globalisation, and cuts across different industries and sectors.
- Part-time work (shows self-management)
- Relevant work experience (ability to transfer skills across different contexts)
- Engaging with the community (demonstrates citizenship)
- Life experience, such as travel, sports and interests (confidence, resilience and creativity)
- Networking (holding conversations and building relationships).
“Students must also understand the labour market, know where the opportunities lie and be able to network,” Professor Jackson said.
“To secure jobs, prospective university graduates should be actively engaging with professionals in the industry and community during their studies.
“As graduate recruiters are focused on seeking out talent as early as the first year of study, students can no longer wait until their final year to start thinking about their career. It needs to happen from day one at university.”
Professor Jackson’s top tips for parents and career influencers:
- Get familiar with what employers are looking for in new workers and where opportunities lie. This is about which skills clusters, capabilities and mindsets are in demand and where.
- Understand the labour market and that the ‘job-for-life’ has largely been replaced by contract and gig working, freelancing and multiple career movements across different industries.
- Encourage proactivity in engaging in activities offered in study institutions and the wider community. Help them to target those that will develop them personally and professionally to meet employer expectations in the areas they are interested in.
- Encourage the accrual of a bank of evidence that demonstrates skills and achievements.
- Assist with the development of a personal brand, including a professional social media profile (e.g. LinkedIn) and a high impact personal statement that concisely communicates who they are, what they want and why you should engage with them.
- Help them to grow their networks through learning how to connect and sustain relationships.
- Look for opportunities for practical and authentic learning when assisting with choosing courses, such as the opportunity to undertake an internship as part of their studies.
- Encourage career planning, including setting goals and identifying development activities to plug skill gaps.
- Help build resilience and self-belief to cope with career shock and contingency plan for rejection.