Viewpoint: Sponsorship, Mentoring, and Counselling for your Career

For every young person who is currently struggling to find a job, a support system is ready and waiting to help them. Since beginning our search for a ‘career’ (i.e. something more than stocking shelves or walking dogs), my partner and I have been fortunate to find many hidden resources and support mechanisms lying in wait to prop up our failing job-search motivations.

There are a multitude of articles and reports out there which provide a dismal outlook for youth employment in Ontario (e.g. Ontario’s youth unemployment among worst in Canada, CBCNews). It is not unique for any single young person to be struggling to find a job – this Globe and Mail article from October 1st, 2013, notes that the statistics around jobs and employment in Canada are biased based on the relevant statistics:

The official unemployment rate is now 7.1 per cent, well below its peak of 8.7 per cent in mid-2009. On the surface, this looks pretty good. But one reason the unemployment rate falls is that some people become so discouraged by their inability to find a job that they stop searching and drop out of the labour force; when this happens, the resulting decline in the unemployment rate is not good news.

Statistics Canada publishes an expanded measure of the unemployment rate that includes discouraged workers as well as workers who are working at part-time jobs even though they continue searching for full-time ones. This alternative unemployment rate is still above 10 per cent. Even worse is the prospect for Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24; their current unemployment rate is over 14 per cent, and has shown no sign of declining in almost two years.

Hence, the statistics are not adequately representing the joblessness rate in Canada. Some young people may feel that they are ‘doing something wrong’, that they’re ‘not working hard enough’, and so on. But this is simply not true. And there are many supports that young people should be seeking out to feel aided and invigorated during their job search.

First, there are mentors and there are sponsors. Unfortunately, young people are just entering into their professional careers and are not generally regarded as experienced, knowledgeable, wise, etc. Mentors are valuable to a recent graduate because they act as advisers and provide knowledge council when looking for work or job advancement. In particular, mentors provide (for full article, please see this Investopedia entry):

  • Respect and credibility to the young person through association;
  • Practical advice in everything from job search tips to dealing with difficult people;
  • Guidance through the challenge of organizational politics;
  • Advice on how to conduct a professional self-SWOT analysis (SWOT = strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats); and,
  • Locating career opportunities previously unconsidered, based on strengths and natural aptitudes.

Sponsors take things one step further by actually investing in the young graduate – these sponsors see helping young people as a way to benefit their own career, thus creating a win-win relationship (Schachter, October 1st, 2013). The purpose of the sponsor is to go out on a limb for the young person (ibid). Sponsors may assign their proteges higher-level projects, provide constructive feedback on the protege’s work quality and habits, and actively defend the young person in front of senior associates (ibid). These are invaluable assets to a young person struggling to find their way in a tenuous and complex job market.

Lastly, I have identified counselling as a method for young graduates to find and/or enhance their career. If you’re like me, you may have been utterly focused on school and scholarly success in a general arts or humanities program in university; your dedication has garnered you high academic value, but this matters little outside the walls of the ‘academy’. You’re thinking that maybe academia isn’t the way you want to proceed – but the world doesn’t seem to want you either. Career counselling can provide a reorientation and non-critical space for recent university graduates to consider their options, move through the guilt of being unemployed, as well as build an effective job search procedure (see this article on the benefits of career counseling, and consider the available services of Mosaic Counselling).

I believe that my generation has art in its heart, strength in its soul, and bounce in its bones. We need to remember that we’re lost but not alone, and that there are many supports available to get us through the turmoil of our complex world. There is always strength in numbers, so today I leave you with this quote:

When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb. – Patanjali Quotes

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