If you don’t know what you could do, or be, how can you even think about getting there?
A guest blog by Lucy Griffiths, CEO at sortyourfuture.com and board trustee at The RSA
Around this time last year, we launched a platform designed to help open up ‘hidden’ career opportunities to young people from all backgrounds, and to help them move towards the kind of working life they wanted to have. Little did we know that this year would be one of the most challenging ever for young people at critical stages in their education and career development.
Our starting premise in designing SortYourFuture.com was that if you don’t know what you could do, or be, how can you even think about getting there?
This was certainly true for me. If I’d known I could be a novelist, an advertising copywriter, an editor, I might have made different choices and my life might have taken a different turn. Instead, I ricocheted around from role to role, not really thinking the things I wanted to do were ‘for me’, a working class girl from a tiny village in the wilderness. There’s always time, of course, to follow your dreams, and I’m working on my second novel now, in case you’re wondering!
When I finally got into my career groove and became an educator, I saw thousands of students being pushed through the system on a conveyor belt, not getting the support they needed to see their own potential, their possibilities. I knew I needed to do something about it.
So I co-founded this project with a bunch of people who felt the same, and in the year since we’ve launched, we’ve helped more than 250,000 young people from across the UK explore the widest range of career options possible, with their passions, interests and strengths in mind (not just what everyone else wants them to do or ‘where the demand is’).
Right now there has never been a greater need among young people for reassurance, advice, and support on this front. The messages young people are receiving from the mainstream media are not just bleak, they’re downright scary if you’re coming up to a stage in your life when you need to make decisions about your future.
But, these messages are for now, not forever. Just because things are difficult today, it does not mean we should be telling young people to give up on their dreams. Those who are saying that careers in the arts, for example, are no longer ‘a good choice’, are, to me, fundamentally failing our youth – and in particular young people from poorer backgrounds and those who experience the effects of systemic injustice and disadvantage.
Members of our Youth Advisory Panel tell us that they’re frightened to make a move right now, as everything seems so difficult. We’re hearing from talented, skilled young people who are ‘hunkering down’ until things blow over; just trying to survive until things get better. It’s tough on them, on their mental health, on their finances. But things will get better, they are getting better.
We’re already seeing things settle and the roles that went away start to return, slowly but surely as employers start to recalibrate. It’s still difficult, of course, but there is no reason for any young person to give up on their dream career. It may just take a little longer, and the path to get there might be a little different. ‘This too shall pass’, as the saying goes.
The opportunities are re-emerging, we’re posting them to our site every week, and we’re seeing a steady increase – and while things are still tough, there’s also a community of organisations determined to provide help, and hope. We’re proud to be one of them.
For more information about Sort Your Future and the Youth Advisory Panel, click here.