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My child won’t get a job, what do I do?

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Listen, let’s not dress it up too much. Work sucks! (Calm down, it doesn’t always suck). But it would be foolish to say that it never sucks. So, what do you do if you have a child that just won’t get a job? Clearly, this could be a tough one to figure out, but we can do it.

Apply Situational Awareness

The idea of work isn’t always appealing

Firstly, we need to apply some situational awareness and see the bigger picture. Anyone that tells you work is always, always, ALWAYS great is potentially a workaholic. The chances are they are lying. Because even the best jobs have their downsides and bad days. Granted, it might not be the job that is the problem. But a bad day is still a bad day. Work is not always great.

And there is some truth in sayings like ‘school days are the best days of your life’. But if that is entirely true, it’s a little bit of a sad prospect, “Oh, I’ve finish school, now everything is downhill from here.” With notions like that being thrown around it’s easy to see why some children, or people in general, are not inspired or motivated to go out and get a job.

Now, always saying that you love your job isn’t necessarily a bad thing; you can absolutely be passionate about your job, and work can be great too. You could just be someone that has the ability to always find the positive in anything. Of course, work doesn’t always suck. It’s all about your perception of it all and how you respond to situations.

Your days spent at school totally might have been great. But your days after school can be greater if you put in the effort. That is the mindset that they have to get into. Work can absolutely be appealing. You just need to find a way to make it appealing.

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Having a higher purpose

You might work in an environment where you know you are serving something bigger than yourself, where you are serving a higher purpose, and doing things for the greater good. The ‘bad times’ might just be part of the job. Your skill and role might even specifically focus on solving the ‘bad things’. You might be a fixer. It’s not like the fire service want there to be fires to fight. They recognise fires as bad things and they deal with them. It’s not like healthcare professionals go around wanting people to be ill. They recognise illness as a bad thing and deal with it. But in both of these professions generally speaking people would rather not have fires to fight or have to treat people that are ill. They’d rather prevent both of those things happening in the first place.

It’s massively important to define the positives and negatives in any situation, especially in this one where your child won’t get a job. After identifying the positives and negatives, the trick is to learn how to love the struggle of fixing the bad things. Then it’s to teach and/or show them how to do it.

So keep in mind, given the choice, the average person probably would rather not work. At the very least, they want to do a job that the love everyday. So, now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, and stated the obvious. What are we going to do about it?

Empathise and show compassion

So, if your child is struggling to find the motivation and enthusiasm to get a job, or simply can’t get one, they might be holding a little bit of hate towards you. A big reason they are in this world and in this situation is because someone brought them into it. And if you are their biological parents, then that one’s on you. If you aren’t their biological parents then, honestly, there is an argument that says, “Who are you to tell me what to do?”. It’s a tricky situation to deal with as a parent. But imagine being them, it’s probably even trickier.

So, show them that you understand. That you get that life can be tough. That you understand getting a job can be difficult. But it isn’t unachievable. They can do it. AND they can find something they can enjoy doing. Show them that other people have done it. They just need to figure out a way that works for them. Most importantly, reassure them that you can and will help them figure out a way that works for them.

If you aren’t the biological parents then arguably things can be especially tough. But the key thing, biological parents or otherwise, is that you don’t ‘tell’ them what to do. You ‘guide’ them what to do. You help them to help themselves. You help them to figure it all out and discover the answers for themselves.

Remember, even when someone tells someone how to do something in the nicest possible manner, for true understanding to be achieved the person receiving the information advice has to come to the revelation and realisation them self. And that does take some time and effort. Some processing has to take place. It doesn’t just happen. It isn’t instantaneous. They have to make sense of it.

Just be sure to reassure them that together you can figure it out.

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Empower them

As stated previously. It’s probably better that you don’t tell them what to do. Instead, you should look to guide them what to do. Appeal to logic and reason. Help them figure out things for themselves. Otherwise, you are just a dictator. Over time, all that dictating does is create a sense of hate as people come to realise, “You aren’t my boss.”, “You aren’t in charge of me.”, “You can’t tell me what to do.”.

Give them the tools and resources that they need to achieve and succeed. Because ultimately, that’s what we are aiming for; independence. You probably can’t and aren’t going to go to work with them everyday and hold their hand. They are aiming to be independent and do things on their own.

Now if you can’t directly give them the skills, tools, and advice needed to achieve things then guide them to someone that can. That is still empowering them, and that is still playing your part.

That doesn’t mean to say you should never be blunt and give orders. It just means that you need to use that approach with care. It simply won’t work all the time. Pick and choose your moments, be selective.

Get careers advice and support

There are hundreds of people all of the world that can offer careers advice and support. JAWS Job Search obviously isn’t the only job search portal on the internet. So, look around.

Going to a recruitment agency is a great way to help them find work. They will have lots of leads and contacts of people that are looking to hire employees. So, search for some recruitment agencies near you. There will also be plenty of job coaches and careers advisers near you too I’m sure.

But in the end, what it all comes down to is how much effort is put in; by them and by you.

JAWS Job Search has hundreds of links to all sorts of recruitment portals and job search sites. If you want to get going straight away, then start looking straight away.

Accept pessimism, be optimistic but realistic

The road to them successfully getting a job, one that they keep going to, and one that they enjoy isn’t always going to be straightforward. It absolutely can be, but probability says that it’s going to be met with it’s fair share of set backs and obstacles. There could be a lot of negativity along the way. So, be prepared for things like,

“I hate work.”
“I don’t want to do it.”
“I’m not good at anything.”
“Nobody thinks I’m good enough.”
“What’s the point?”

or just simply saying nothing and doing nothing.

This can all be identified as venting. It all falls under expression(even the bit where they aren’t really expressing anything verbally or physically). But, whether we believe people should express themselves in certain ways or not is not really the focus here. The focus is that THEY CAN express themselves however they want to at any given moment. And they probably will. After all, it’s their body and their life. Let them express themselves.

Focus on what they ARE doing and saying just as much as what YOU think they should or need to be doing and saying.

Then, signpost them, honestly, with helpful questions and statements.

“Yeah, I hate work too. But not all the time. What do you hate about work?”
“I don’t always want to go to work either. But I have to make a living, so I do my best to make it fun and enjoyable.”
“Clearly you are good at something, moaning.” – Be careful with responses like that one. But sometimes humour is a great way to handle a situation.
“I think you are good enough. Do you think you are good enough or can be good enough?”
“The point is you have to put effort in to get what you want. But there are lots of people and organisations out there that can help you achieve what you want. Do you want me to help you find some?”

Ultimately, just have a conversation. Aim to keep it calm and civilised. No one needs to shout(negatively) No one needs to get physical(negatively). As soon as that even remotely starts to happen let the vibe settle and then continue. If the best course of action is to ‘drop it’, ‘sleep on it’, and come back to it later. Then do that.

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Prioritise things as a team

It’s important to remember that teams work in a whole variety of ways. So, you need to find the dynamic that works well for your mini team; your household/family. Remember the focus is on them and about what they want to do. Not what you want them to do, not what you wish you had done, but what they want to do.

That said, it might well be that in your house they already have certain responsibilities and chores; because you request it of them or because they need to contribute at home in order for things to work.

Maybe a family member has a disability or illness that needs specific support? Or someone has to make dinner every night? Someone has to do the washing and cleaning? Perhaps your work pattern means that they can only really work on specific days because they have to look after little brothers and sisters? The list of complications and commitments that people can have is pretty much endless.

The important thing is to work together so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve what they want to. It may well be that in order for your child to achieve you need to sacrifice something you are doing. You might even have to switch jobs. Maybe you have to give up a hobby. But just be open, honest, and discuss it with them. Work together to find a solution.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Write a CV

You can get a job without a CV. But it’s a lot easier to get a job with one. So, get them to write one. If you can, write it with them. If you can’t, get someone else to write it with them or at least read over it once it’s been done. A second opinion is always helpful. You don’t need to take the advice you are given, but a different perspective often helps highlight things you’ve missed or not thought of.

For more information on how to write a CV and where to find help. Check out the CV and Resume Writing page.

Let’s be honest, it can be a boring process. But just get it done. Create something. Set a benchmark. Something to work from. They can always revisit it later and adjust it. Just get the ball rolling.

After a while, they’ll realise that the process of making a CV can actually be pretty interesting. It’s your chance to present yourself. These days you can be pretty creative with it. It doesn’t have to just be a piece of paper.

These days people make videos, or computer games, or photo portfolios to stand out from the crowd. It all depends on what the job is they are going for of course. But it has to be recognised that employers are looking for creative thinkers as well as doers. If they get the balance right, a creative CV could be something that creates a lot of opportunities for them.

Practise what they find hard

The whole process of getting a job is a pretty complex. So, it’s very understandable that they are going to find at least one part of it hard.

  • Figuring out what they want to do.
  • Searching for a job.
  • Research the organisation and the role.
  • Completing a CV or job application.
  • Arranging to go to an interview.
  • Dressing suitably for the interview.
  • Attending the interview, answering questions, and maybe taking a test.
  • Getting accepted or rejected.
  • Starting the job or repeating the process again (and again, and again…).

And that’s not necessarily even all of it.

But what they need is confidence and self-belief. And you get that by defining an idea about how something could and should be done, and then demonstrating the ability to do it on demand. Once they’ve done that a few times, then confidence will grow and certainty will be created. Then when it comes to that specific task, they will know what to do and be able to do it.

Yeah, there’s every chance you will fail a bunch of times. But every time you fail is an opportunity to learn. Always remember to try and learn the lesson from any setback.

Everything in life is a little bit of art and a little bit of science. So, here are a list of some things that you can practise:

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Job Searching

Give them a task of finding 3 jobs. But don’t necessarily make it 3 jobs they want to do. We’ll come to that later.

They could find 3 jobs with a salary of 40,000. They could be jobs in some place half way around the world. They could be jobs in something they’ve never considered doing. For example, try and find 3 jobs as a dog walker. 1 in North America, 1 in Europe, 1 in Asia.

It doesn’t really matter what the jobs are or where they are. What they are practising is searching for a job. That is the skill they need to work on here; research. So, try and make it fun. Once we’ve enjoyed being a bit silly about it, then we can switch the focus on to a bit more of a serious approach.

This is all about developing a skill that they can then make transferable. Reality is, they probably already know how to do this quite easily. Because they will likely be more than capable of choosing what clothes they want to wear, or what they want to eat for lunch, or what to watch on TV.

But when it comes to job searching, they might start to get overwhelmed, demotivated, and struggle. Deciding on what you want to do to make a living is a big decision. So, this exercise is something that sits somewhere between a silly and serious approach. It helps bridge the gap between the two.

Ultimately, it’s helping reinforce their ability to find things and build confidence.

Research the organisation and the role

There are not many things worse than pretending to know something you don’t to impress someone who is considering hiring you(Unless you are an actor, of course).

When your child gets to applying for a job, and if they are lucky enough to get an interview, they need to know what they are talking about. It’s a real ‘Goldie Locks and the Three Bears’ situation. They need to get it just right. They don’t want to come across as a know it all that is going to tell everyone what to do and how to do it, but they also won’t stand a chance of getting a job if they have no idea what they are talking about. And they’ll soon get found out if they convinced someone to hire them but don’t actually know how to do the things.

Any good recruiter or hiring manager will see straight through a blagger. Because they will ask the right questions in the right way to test and explore your knowledge, skills, and experience.

So, they need to research and study the organisation and role. Unless they are applying for a really specific job with a really specific set of skills and experience, they aren’t going to be expected to know everything about the company and role.

But to give themselves a better chance of success they should be able to demonstrate some knowledge and understanding of who does what, what the organisation does, and why.

The more knowledge, skills, and experience they can demonstrate to prove why they are suitable for a job role, the better.

Completing a CV or Job Application

Again, remember, try and make it fun!

So, one way get good at something is to consciously do something in a way that we know is a bad way to do it(within reason). Because then we have the ‘bad’ comparable to work from. And again, we will have created a transferable skill in the process. But in a fun way.

So, when it comes to making a CV a key thing to do is adjust it for the job you are applying for. You might have a whole range of skills, but when managers are shortlisting a list of people that they want to invite in for an interview they might have 100 applications to go through. You need to spoon-feed them.

You can read a more specific approach to how to complete a CV and Job Application here.

But this is about trying to get your child, who just won’t get a job, to start trying. So, let’s be a bit silly about it again. Maybe:

  • Have them make up a CV for a completely made up person, Bernie Normington; whoever that is. It’s like creating an alter-ego. Create a character that would make a great fit for a job they want to go for. Obviously, don’t lie and use this as the foundation. Just have fun being creative, learning, and practising the process of making a CV.
  • Have them try and make a CV for someone who is going to apply for the dog walker job. But pick someone who might seem a bit silly if they did it, like Mr. Tickle from the Mr. Men, or Reed Richards from the Marvel Comics Fantastic Four; because they both have really long arms. Give them some example scenarios to use, and let them come up with their own ideas.
  • Or maybe put them in the shoes of, “If I was hiring for the position of security guard who would I pick? Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or Kevin Hart? (By the way, it’s not even close, you’d pick Kevin Hart. Because he is an absolute wordsmith and can talk his way in and out of any situation.)

Again, once they’ve done that, then they can switch the focus on to them. ‘Selling yourself’ can be quite a hard thing to do. Especially if you are a bit shy, or if you think people that do it are egotistical or vain. But if you want to get a job, then selling yourself is a big part of being successful. There is nothing wrong with having an ego. There is nothing wrong with a bit of vanity. Used in the right way, both these things can be very healthy and positive attributes.

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Interview role play

The interview for a lot of people is the part that they hate. Because it’s make or break time. If you perform badly in your interview there’s every chance you won’t get the job. Nerves and anxiety may creep in and they might end up not answering things as well as they want to. So, practise.

It might seem weird and stupid ‘to practise for an interview’. To practise ‘being yourself’. But anyone that was ever good at anything practised it; athletes, musicians, actors, business professionals, and so on. I always remind people that professionals like Doctors and Dentists actually work in places called a practice. That’s not a coincidence. It literally identifies the venue and what happens in that venue. Obviously though, they have actually practised a lot and that is why they are professionals. They also have a particular style and approach to working that allows them to be successful. They aren’t just taking a trial and error approach. They put into practise ‘good practise’.

Create a pretend interview and practise it.

It all comes back to certainty and self-confidence. If you can define and repeat confidently what you believe is right is in practise. Then when it comes to the real interview you will have given yourself a much better chance of being successful.

For more advice on how to prepare for an interview click here.

Create a plan

Set targets, start small, aim big

Now, they might know what they want to be. They might know exactly what they want to do for a job. But not everyone is going to be fortunate enough to become a professional athlete, gamer, or entertainer overnight. So, let’s make a long term plan. And a long term plan is made up of short term goals.

So, just encourage them to find something. Something that allows them to make a living but gives them the opportunity to work on the other thing they really want to do in their spare time. They don’t have to completely abandon their dreams. They just have to learn how to multi-task.

Then they can also set aside some time to study and train and get better at whatever it is they want to do. And in time, and with enough hard work and effort, they will be able to transition into this job that they want to do.

So, in that case, if they can’t do the thing they want to do straightaway maybe encourage them to get a job that in the grand scheme of things requires very little of them. Dishwasher, cleaner, hotel porter, delivery person, shelf stacker, litter picker. It’s not that these jobs aren’t valuable and important, they absolutely are. But the skill required to do them and do them well isn’t as much as if you were an airline pilot, brain surgeon, or professional athlete.

After they’ve done that for a while, then they will have some experience on their CV. They will have some good references to support there progress. Then they can start to aim for other jobs that require more skill and have more responsibility.

It’s all about taking it one step at a time.

Ask family and friends

An easy place to start is to ask family and friends if they have any jobs going. It will often lead to a good opportunity. But remember that doesn’t mean they will enjoy it and stick at it. Working with family and friends can be difficult; for a whole variety of reasons.

Now, it might be that they only do it for a little while. A few days or weeks. They might even just volunteer; to get out of the house. To engage in something and get their confidence and enthusiasm levels up.

All you need to aim for is those little steps to get the ball rolling.

But the thing here that is most important is that, depending on how shy and confident your child is, is it’s often more comfortable to work with family and friends; to work with people you know. Working with people who are basically strangers can be really hard. You have to get to know them, you have to get to know their habits, likes, and dislikes. It can be a really demanding and complicated experience.

But at some point, depending on what they want to do. They will have to step outside their comfort zone. The goal is to make that as stress free and pleasant as possible. So, same approach as before. Start small, and progress to more complicated and demanding jobs and opportunities.

Summary

There are lots of things to consider and ways to approach supporting a child that doesn’t want to get a job. But focus on the simple things and get them right. They can worry about becoming mega rich and famous later.

  • Complete that CV.
  • Complete those job applications.
  • Do the research on companies.
  • Practise the things that are hard (job searching, interviews, handling rejection.)
  • Keep going until you get what you want.

Together you can do it.

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