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Unemployment – a young person’s view

The following was written by Ashley, a trainee at Spear Harrow. We’re grateful to him for allowing us to share his experiences.

Finding work was something that, if I were to believe the expectations set by by my school, might be challenging, but would come about eventually. Generally, the main advice that I would have, not just for work, but most trouble as in life, was to just have a positive mood, a good strong outlook, and just sit and just think to oneself, ‘it’s going to be fine. It’s all going to work out. Just keep that smile up’.

To the best of my ability, I would be trying to keep that optimistic outlook; even as I floundered my final year of school and dropped out pretty hard; even as I was growing up with a broken home life; even as my trust in authority figures was being betrayed seemingly at every opportunity that I put my faith in them.

That outlook quickly gave way to a facade, a false persona that I would present to give the illusion of strength where there was none. It was compounded by growing social anxiety and paranoia, brought on partly by an undiagnosed case of autism, and magnified by the extenuating circumstances. Trying to find work amidst all of this seemed like an impossibility.

The self-imposed obligation that I had, to get into the workplace, and my persisting failure to do so, crushed me beyond understanding. It left me becoming a self-imposed shut-in, afraid to leave my own home – at times my own room. Afraid to interact with people for fear of how I might disappoint them or fail them. It seemed at that time that there was no hope to climb out of that void. All there was, was the people just telling me it would get better, when I could see with my own eyes everything was just falling to pieces.

So then, what’s changed? In large part – practical, tangible advice to help me right that broken course. In part from a close childhood friend, who helped me get signed on to my first job volunteering at a charity shop. Help from my family who kept me afloat on a day by day basis. Help from a charity dedicated to supporting the autistic, who helped to secure the seemingly unattainable diagnosis I would need to get any help elsewhere.

And now that journey has led to the Spear Programme, who have practically gift-wrapped me the compass that I need to navigate the workplace. From helping me to explore the vast scope of hidden market jobs that were seemingly unattainable, to clarifying how best to handle difficult situations in professional environments, even when those around us do not demonstrate that same courtesy of professionalism.

The advice was genuine, the criticism well-constructed. The praise felt real, not like the empty flattery I had been used to prior. And it was all presented in a welcoming environment with others who have gone through their own struggles just to get to this point – all of us sharing in that journey to get into work and progress our journeys from this point forward. I feel fairly confident in saying that we have become our own biggest support group and will continue to be that way for some time to come.

I can’t say with absolute certainty what the future might hold. I know that I that in the immediate future I have a study course coming up to further prepare me for work. Maybe then some small time work to get onto the ladder, a retail position or something of that nature. In the further distant future, well – my dream of a political career doesn’t seem quite as distant now as it did way back then.

So all in all, it’s been quite a wild ride to get this far. But now I feel empowered to take the next few steps and to strive towards that aspiration, which I hope to one day claim, as all of us trainees here will hope to claim our own dreams for ourselves.

Because regardless of how bad of a hand life may deal us, (and we should be under no illusion that it will work in our favour all the time), meeting those challenges will better prepare us for the next obstacle. We learn something regardless of whether we succeed or fail. And I will take that that mentality to heart as I take these next steps forward, as I hope you will as well.

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