IT’S funny how older people always say, “it’s great to be young at heart”. Yet in many businesses, younger workers are dismissed as fickle. Their desire for job satisfaction and mobility is sometimes seen as a cost and disruption to business, rather than a positive challenge to current organisational culture.
However, as the talents of young people are becoming more valued, networks and organisations are popping up in the UK and Australia to support our future leaders. And to get ahead in these tough economic times, instead of becoming a lost generation, many young people are taking charge of their own professional lives.
Youth unemployment is a major bugbear of many governments throughout the world. One woman in the UK is taking a lead in supporting young people. Claire Young, best known for reaching the final of series 4 of BBC1’s The Apprentice (2008), wants to use her experience to motivate others and to show that with hard work, drive and determination, anything is possible.
Ms Young was born in South Africa and her family moved to the UK because of her father’s career. With close friends living in Melbourne and her best friend from New Zealand, Ms Young has a strong connection to Antipodeans, and she is also being sought by youth groups in Sydney for speaking engagements.
Age has been no barrier for Ms Young and the straight talking, no-nonsense business woman is passionate about spreading that message. Since her stint on The Apprentice (2008), Ms Young has been working non-stop, setting up numerous businesses including a start up scheme for under 18s. Working ‘hands on’ in schools and across multiple government organisations, Ms Young is helping students raise their aspirations and think big. Ms Young believes that it is important for young people to be informed, inspired and motivated about future decisions, and the younger they start, the better.
While Australia has always encouraged apprenticeships, here in the UK the government has started seeing the value of providing support to young people and employees by subsidising apprenticeship schemes. Young, herself, supports the National Apprenticeship Service, heading up their Young Ambassador Network, and works in partnership with the Peter Jones Foundation. Young recently met with the Prime Minister for roundtable talks and has been invited to join the House of Lords Youth Unemployment taskforce. With a host of other appointments both here and in Europe, Ms Young is an unstoppable force.
If you are young and want to get a head start and control your future, what do you do?
Decide what you want (or don’t want)
Take some time out to reflect. Identify your goals. Sometimes we are more attuned to what we don’t want rather than what we do want, so try what works for you. Whether you are entrepreneur or a superstar at work, knowing what your goals are keeps you motivated and focused so you can spot opportunities.
Ms Young says that entrepreneurs need energy and drive to keep going, especially during the really tough days.
“Life as an entrepreneur never runs smoothly and it’s critical to keep your attitude upbeat and positive; you never know when that all important phone call will come and you’ll need to be on your best game.”
Find yourself a role model
Role models and mentors can be integral to success as they can show you what is possible and help you pave your path. As more women are exploring greater opportunities, Ms Young says that “young girls need to seek role models and experience sparks of inspiration”.
In particular, “women in business need to be seen loud and clear. We need figureheads to fly the flag high to encourage the next generation of female business talent to step forward”.
Find your life balance
Every person has a different life situation and we all seek a balance that will work for us. Time to relax and nurture relationships is important. Many young people are concerned, for example, about the culture of working 24/7. Many women are deferring having children and some decide never to have them because of fears for their career.
When you find your life balance and have the right support, you can reach your aspirations. Ms Young believes that you can have a career and a family, admitting that you do need to make some sacrifices and learn to delegate.
“I run a business, have a daughter and I do this by myself. I’m a single mother”, says Ms Young.
You are only young once. The younger we take charge of our own professional lives and careers, the better. With growing support systems and a belief that age is no barrier, you can reach your aspirations. Believe in yourself and nurture your confidence: you need to be own fan club and acknowledge your successes.
With today’s economic climate it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel and keep cheering. Ms Young advises that to be successful, you need to be yourself and JDI – Just Do It.
“Take some risks, work hard and set yourself a goal”.
The beauty is that this advice can be applied to anyone of any age, gender and ability.
Claire Young has numerous business ventures including www.schoolspeakers.co.uk, www.girlsoutloud.org.uk and www.teenbiz.org.uk the UK’s first business start up scheme for under 18s. You can find out more about Claire at www.claireyoung.co.uk