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10 tips to help school leavers be successful at finding work

Leaving school marks a significant milestone in your teenager’s life. As they prepare to take their next steps into further study, a gap year, or the workforce, your guidance and support could make all the difference. Here are 10 tips for parents or guardians navigating this transitional period to help their school leavers find work.

Talk positively

Young people get enough negativity from the media about unemployment and careers. If you talk about work in positive terms, encourage them to explore lots of options, and stay upbeat about their opportunities, it could boost their confidence and inspire them to keep looking.

Help them find professional support

Although it might be hard, stepping back from your teen’s decision making and just supporting their choices could help your relationship along, and also give them the space to become more independent and responsible for their own choices.

Even if things aren’t going to plan, there’s lots of support available to them. From employment agencies to careers advisors, to financial support and training organisations, there are plenty of services around to help young people transitioning into the world of work. A quick internet search or a call to your teen’s school could help you find what’s available in your area.

Realise their skills

Sometimes your teen might feel stuck writing resumes and job applications, that they don’t have enough experience, or that they don’t have the skills listed in job adverts. You can help them by going through their entire school life and highlighting any projects and activities they’ve done, experiences they’ve had, and all the skills they’ve learned along the way.

Young people (and often us as parents and employers) forget to see the value in achievements at school, so it’s valuable to go through them thoroughly and work out what skills and experience they might already have.

Transferable skills and experience can come from:

  • School leadership positions (i.e. school or house captain)
  • Buddy programs
  • Tutoring
  • Joining clubs (environment, chess, robotics etc.)
  • Cadets, guides, or scouts
  • Team or individual sports
  • Coaching or mentoring
  • Umpiring or refereeing
  • Volunteering (in the canteen, on sports day, for a community project, etc.)
  • Part-time or casual employment
  • Work experience
  • Caring for a family member
  • Participating in a production or musical
  • Appearing in an art exhibition
  • Competing in the Eisteddfod (music, dance, etc.)
  • Entering competitions (STEM, maths, entrepreneurship, photography, writing, art, etc.)
  • Youth forum participation
  • Public speaking or debating
  • Expeditions and awards, e.g. Duke of Edinburgh
  • Exchange programs

Not only can you help to elevate their resume, but it could also help your young person’s self-worth and allow them to see how they could be an asset to employers. That could shine through in their application and give them more to talk about in interviews.

Encourage self discovery

Introspection is something that can be difficult for teens, but it can also be useful for boosting their confidence. Help your child identify their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. This self-awareness can guide them toward careers that align with their passions.

Explore local opportunities together

Finding work can sometimes be tricky, whether it’s because there’s lots of competition, or there aren’t many jobs out there your teen wants to do or feels qualified for. If this is the first time your teen has dipped their toes into the world of work, they might not know where to start or what to look out for. And not getting jobs that they’ve applied for could be demoralising.

As a parent or guardian, you can help guide them towards where to look, help read through job descriptions to decipher what the job could be like and if they’re eligible. You could help them to work out who the major employers are in your area, and look at ways for them to get a foot in the door.

Looking into labour market information in your area could provide lots of insight too. Here are some examples of sources you could use:

Interview preparation

Parents can assist their teens in getting ready for job interviews by conducting mock interviews, asking common questions and offering feedback on their responses. Encourage your teen to dress appropriately, emphasising the significance of good posture and positive body language. And don’t forget to remind your teen that interviews are actually a two-way process, where they are also assessing if the job is a good fit for them. These can all help your child feel confident and ready before their first interview.

Be their sounding board

It can be difficult to step back, but sometimes it’s best to just listen to their frustrations and offer whatever help or advice you can. If your opinions or advice aren’t being well received, that’s OK; just be patient. Let them know you’re there to support them and that they’re always welcome to let you know what they need from you.

Encourage personal development

Networking and gaining new skills are all excellent ways to boost your teen’s self confidence and make them stand out during job applications.

You could encourage them to create a professional social media profile on LinkedIn, or attend local community, business, and other networking meetings. Groups like Toast Masters could be a great way to meet professionals and build public speaking and presentation skills. Volunteering is another great way to make connections with organisations and individuals in your local community, gain skills, and explore a variety of jobs and industries.

Attending workshops and talks, or completing short courses, microcredentials, or other part-time studies could also open new pathways, make their resume shine, and appeal to a wider range of employers.

Set realistic expectations

Talking about your own career journey or reading about other career stories is a good way to show that it’s OK to start with a part-time job, entry level job, apprenticeship or traineeship, or even stick it out for a bit in a job that they don’t particularly love as they explore options and gain work experience. All these things could be a great stepping stone to their next opportunity.

Have a plan B

Having a back up plan is always a great way to roll in life. So why not help your teen to think about or formulate a Plan B, just in case things aren’t working out the way they hoped.

Remember, school leavers might be eligible for certain government payments and support, designed to relieve some pressure from young people while they look for full time work. This could help pay for rent, transport costs, work wear, and other living or job seeking costs.

Find out more

For more practical tips and help, you could grab a copy of the Getting a Job Guide, packed with things to help school leavers find work, from what to include in their resume to sample interview questions and checklists to help them be better prepared.

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