It deeply concerns me that Australia’s youth unemployment rate is really high, and in particular in Queensland is currently at 6.9% and as high as 20 per cent in some regional areas.

I’m well aware of this issue. It seems to come up in numerous conversations and has done for ages. I hear my parent friends with school leaver aged kids pulling their hair out with their kids moping around and supposedly unable to get a job.

I hear colleagues on my partners building site saying their son has been laid off, has applied for 60 jobs and can’t even get an interview.

That’s not to mention the barrage of emails I receive each and every day with students asking for everything from work experience to internships and actual jobs.

Believe me. I know.

I remember what is was like being out of school and completely lost. At that point in time I wasn’t living at home and I wasn’t on speaking terms with my parents.

Going to University or any tertiary study wasn’t an option for me, I had to find work to support myself and I had to find it quick. I was lucky enough a recording studio in downtown Wellington, NZ took a chance on me placing me on reception, where I developed essential skills I simply hadn’t developed at school. Such as sticking my hand out and introducing to someone. Yes, I really used to be that shy!

Nine months later, the NZ Government took a chance on me, when I was an 18 year old, still with no qualifications and only a little work experience, when they took me on as the Communications Assistant for the Hillary Commission. I was lucky, I got a break. They took me under their wing, gave me a study budget and I voraciously gobbled up any kind of learning going, studying all the Microsoft suite, all the Adobe suite and they even put me through a Diploma of Journalism over a 3 year period, for which I am forever grateful.

Paying it forward.

Knowing I got a lucky break, but many young ones don’t, I have been trying to pay it forward and doing what I can to help including:

  • Choosing Digital Careers as our chosen charity for 2014, given that out of the 100,000 odd jobs on seek.com.au, at any one time, up to 10% of them are in ICT (information, communication technology) related fields
  • Mentoring at Start Up Weekends and encouraging entrepreneurialism
  • Speaking at events where influencers of youth or youth are in attendance

However despite my efforts, despite all sorts of initiatives and things, I believe young ones are approaching it all wrong, and the proactive parents who are doing their best to encourage them along with getting a job and a career on track on not necessarily versed in the ways of the world in this new very digital era, where applying for jobs is certainly nothing like it was ‘back in their day’.

So here are a few tips, for everyone out there who is a young one looking to get employed, or who knows a young one they’d like to help into employment:

1. Put your hand up for work experience

I know, I know. You are so hard up you need money and you don’t really fancy working for NOTHING. But here’s the thing. I once had a guy come to me and offer to work for me for 3 months FOR FREE. Nice offer. He seemed like a nice guy so I said yes and man was I glad I did.

Glenn turned up every day for those 3 months, well dressed, sharp and ready to work and he impressed me. At the end of the 3 months I couldn’t help but offer him part time work. Later a staff member was away and he stood in and proved he could do her job. Then she left and he took her job. Then he worked his way up to become my right hand man for a 3 year period. He’s since moved on to an agency in Brisbane and has had promotions and from all accounts is doing great. But remember where the journey started? With a generous offer of work experience.

We regularly take on work experience students, but we want to see real commitment over a period of time and not everyone has what it takes. But if we see what we’re looking for, we look after them.

2. Stop job hunting and freelance instead

The system tells us that we must go to TAFE or Uni and then find a job. Well, not necessarily. We can also find a series of jobs and effectively work for ourselves too!

Keep your eyes open for opportunities for freelance work on sites like freelancer.com, fiverr.com, guru.com and elance.com. Many companies don’t need to hire someone full time but have a project that they need done and you just may have the skills for this. If they like working with you, they may offer you employment, just as we have done with some of our best freelancers.

Freelancing will also force you to develop some really valuable business skills. You’ll learn to communicate, take a brief, quote, fulfil the work to expectations, resolve conflict, promote yourself and more. It ain’t easy but if you build up enough of a clientele you may never need to work for the system in your life!

3. Hang out in places where the ‘right’ people hang out

Is there a café in your area where lots of creatives or freelancers hang out?

Are there any events in your region that you could attend and get to network with people and show them your skill set?

Start Up Weekends are excellent for this and many businesses have formed post these events, along with new skills developed and new networks formed. Take an idea to pitch, or just watch, or go along and volunteer your time (it’s just one weekend) and just see what comes out of it.

Out of the Start Up Weekend event that happened on the Sunshine Coast in May 2014, a thriving and supportive community called Silicon Coast has come up (see this Facebook group for more) and jobs in the industry are posted.

4. Go for one ‘coffee’ a week with someone who could help you with your career

When I first got to Australia in 2004 I didn’t know a soul except my parents and brother who were based here. I needed to make contacts and fast – for work, for friends, for life!

I made a policy of going out for 1 coffee a week with someone that I thought would be interesting and could help me get established in some way.

Sure, some people said no, but some also said yes and I made some excellent contacts in that phase that remain my valued business contacts now that have really helped me out along the way.

5. Get on Linkedin!

I’ve written many articles about the power of Linkedin and why everyone who wants a job should have one. Probably this article is worth reading if you don’t know what Linkedin is or why you should get on it. But place it on the high priority list!

6. Be curious. Think laterally.

I LOVE magazines and newspapers (I was a journalist for years). I love reading them not just to be informed but I also have my ‘entrepreneurial’ hat on each time I read.

A new multi-billion mining project is going ahead in a region? Hmmm could be good to invest in real estate there. The plaza is going to be extended? Hmm what sorts of shops are going in there – could we brand them? I wonder if they are employing people? Get my drift?

It may not be obvious but think laterally and don’t be afraid to investigate further and make stuff happen. People will admire your initiative and enthusiasm in pursuing such opportunities.

7. Make sure your resume and cover letter is tip top and customised for EVERY job application

I can’t believe it when I get applications for jobs we advertise from time when the person has clearly not even bothered checking what they are sending off.  ‘I’d like to apply for the position as a builder at your building company’.  ‘Errr we do build websites but not buildings sorry. Though I notice you have an IT degree? Maybe you want to check that cover letter and resubmit your application?’  ‘I’d like to apply for the position at The Creative Collection’.  ‘Ummm we’re The Creative Collective, but you can go right ahead and apply for a position at The Creative collection right after you get out of the bin pile I’m chucking you in because your attention to detail is so crappy.

These are all real life examples I’ve encountered in every round of hiring we do. It’s so slack. And unprofessional. Clearly the applicant doesn’t really want a job. Do they?

Pretty it up people!

Employers today get bombarded with pages and pages of boring A4 black and white resumes, which some clever cookie (horrifyingly, sometimes actual professional resume consultants) has encouraged them to craft, often with little to no design consideration.

Whilst I appreciate some employers are more conservative than others, there are some great tools that can make your resume look good online and, therefore, help you to stand out from the pile.

Have a look at a cool tool called Visualize.me. With your LinkedIn profile, you can connect it to Visualize.me, and it will instantly create you an awesome looking online resume full of colour with an infographic like design. A friend of mine in New Zealand that I introduced this free tool to let me know that she thought it was the very reason she was selected for a job. The employer commented on her hire that she really stood out from the rest, and it was a very clever thing to do!

In summary

If it’s taken you an age to get a job your self esteem can really take a blow. But keep at it.

Try everything I’ve outlined above NOT just applying for jobs on seek with the same cover letter and boring Microsoft black and white resume that is the same as the next person. And let us know how you go!

Got something else to contribute to the conversation on youth unemployment? Post your comments below.

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  • My daughter decided she wanted to be a nurse. To be able to afford to put herself through Uni, and to help out with her Uni application, she went to TAFE and studied Aged and Community care. The aged care facility she did her work experience at loved her so much she was offered full time employment.
    My son struggled a bit more. He chose the army. Successfully applied, completed basic training, was awaiting employment training when he was injured. Spent the next 2 years trying to fix his injury, unsuccessfully, and was medically discharged. He was lost for a while,,struggled to find work. Happy to report, he now has a job he loves. It’s hard for our kids, but there are things they can do to help their situation. A lot think they are owed and have babies at young ages, survive on Centrelink etc. Sad to see a waste of lives


  • good to read


  • work experience is everything! and starting a job at 14 or 15 helps!


  • sounds awesome and looks great


  • Totally agree that work experience is much more important than any piece of paper you could hold.


  • some great ideas for kids starting a work forse


  • Really liked you comment about work experience. Will encourage my children on that path.

    • A lot of schools help to arrange them. In some areas they are called placements. Some schools provide froms for those who supervise the pupils to comment on. It gives teachers guidance to explain to students where they can make improvements in order to be successful when applying for employment. I actually started applying for employment about 4 months before the end of the school year. If you get work experience it may not necessarily be in a career you think you are interested in but it involves you learning different skills, teamwork, and communication skills. If you gain employment as a result of it, it may be a stepping stone towards your goal at a later date.


  • Love tip number 4! Would definitely be interested in starting something similar


  • Yes very interesting article. My son found a Trade Apprenticeship very easily. He is in his third year now. My two daughters have had a string of jobs but nothing permanent. They are looking for a permanent roll. They have both gone to many, many interviews been to second and third interviews and then nothing. The person interviewing either did not phone back or nor did they send a email. So rude! I am a HR Manager retired and so is my Sister we find this amazing. We encourage young ones to chase up the interviewer by sending them a email or phone up. My girls can not get past the receptionist’s most times. Know wonder these kids get disappointed and as you say.. their self esteem can really take a blow. I always encourage them to keep going and they will get something soon.

    • It is disappointing that they did not receive any feedback.


  • You right so well as of yet I do not have a teen. In saying that ms 12 already has a part-time job and that was cause she worked for them for free for a few months. Her words never to young mum


  • Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative article.


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