By William Damulira
Happy International Youth Day! There is one thing that can’t go off my mind as we celebrate this day: youth unemployment! Youth are the backbone of economies not just as customers for the available products on market but also as workers. With the world having the largest number of youth in the history of mankind today, it’s evident that youth world over face a lot of challenges in accessing meaningful employment making them vulnerable to unrests. Long-term peace does not necessarily imply only an end to physical violence but starts with peace of the mind. When youth are employed, they are in a more stable state of mind to fully engage in productive activities that promote positive change. This makes youth employment a very crucial factor in the achievement of sustainable peace.
What do the figures say?
Unemployment has been defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as the state of being out of work, in need of a job and have sought work within four weeks prior to an unemployment assessment. The ILO estimated the global youth unemployment rate to be 13.1% by 2017. In Uganda, the World Bank statistics indicate that unemployment has increased over time; from 1.9% in 1991 to 4.0% in 2016 with urban youth being more likely to be unemployed.
In the past, remaining in full time education created more opportunities for youth to get employed. However, recently, unemployment levels increase with the level of education attained. In Uganda specifically, unemployment is slightly lower among persons with little or no education at all and higher among those with a secondary or higher education. This does not necessarily downplay the role of education. By fact, education raises one’s capability to access meaningful employment. However, the highly educated tend to ignore some jobs thus keeping unemployed. The other factors contributing to youth unemployment in Uganda include low levels of economic growth and low investment, lack of job related skills, limited motivation to work as a result of frustration amongst the youth and skills mismatch in relationship with the available jobs among others.
Efforts to curb unemployment
In an attempt to overturn the situation, different stakeholders in Uganda have had a variety of efforts in place ranging from the National Youth Policy to graduate schemes and social enterprises by the private sector. Amidst all these efforts, there still lies a large proportion of unemployed youth in Uganda; leaving so many questions unanswered. In this chapter, I respond to the question “What can you (youth) do differently to earn that job”? Honestly, there’s totally no straight line to follow, however, a change in daily practices can earn you that job or any other dream you might have.
Set your goals. Goal setting is all about establishing a set of activities or milestones to achieve in a specific time period. The goals can vary from financial, career, educational, spiritual to personal developmental goals while the time period can vary from a day, weeks and months to years. While setting goals, don’t just end on making a goal statement. Go ahead and establish the actions required, the frequency of the actions, resources required, measurement standards as well as the reasons for the goals and actions. For example, assuming my goal is to get an internship, the actions would be writing and submitting applications plus networking. The frequency of the actions would be three applications and two work connections a week. In terms of resources, I would need time, money and internet data. That goal and actions are very important because I need to lead a better life. Setting your goals will not only give you a sense of direction on what to do, when, why, with who and how, but will also help you utilise your time efficiently.
Network. This is one of the most important concepts as Bob McIntosh (2012) indicates in his blog that 80 percent of the jobs are found through networking. Networking is not just a process of information exchange between you and another person but involves the establishment and maintenance of relationships with people who matter to your career. When building a network, it is crucial you:
- Get to know who your networks are and why they are important to you.
- Design a pitch message taking into consideration factors such as: what you want from them, how they fit in and why they should care about you.
- Deliver the message: Don’t just say out what you want to say but first of all create rapport.
- Identify what you have in common and utilize it while articulating your issue.
- The most important reason for networking is to create allies, so, ask for advice and not a job
- Don’t forget to smile, everyone loves a smiling face!
Manage yourself. For one to be productive and efficient in all spheres of life, one requires well developed self-management skills and this is because we are 100% responsible for everything that happens in our lives. Taking charge of your life requires daily practice, and one can achieve this by using tools such as: time management applications, online and offline calendars, journaling or documenting in one’s dairy, and having one person or two who you account to your actions. To get to all this, you have to first of all learn to agree with yourself and have a positive attitude in everything you do. Reflecting back to my lifestyle, the greatest and longest conflicts I have gone through have been with myself and I can say the situation can be really challenging. However, have your goals clearly written down and frequently ask yourself the question “Is what am doing right now moving me towards my goals?” Besides that, use your goals as a guide to thinking positively.
Practice concentration. Although this might sound easy, it is equally important and might actually be the gap between you and your dream job. One of the challenges youth still face today is submitting resumes, cover letters and application forms that have a lot of preventable mistakes. This is partially because we do not allocate enough time to ourselves when completing the forms thus making very simple but costly mistakes. This can be turned around by allocating enough time to all tasks, concentrating and finishing up one task at a time.
Lastly, develop a faster operating tempo. One of the things I have disliked and always talked against is youth living like they are elderly. At this stage in life, one has the energy; all one has to do is to stop over thinking and do things with a sense of urgency. Remember, for you to get that job, you need to take charge; you need to manage you.