"Be active, reinvent yourself and take the initiative to go to the places to be a face instead of a number. For the most pessimistic people who think success doesn't depend only on our effort, but also on good luck... I think in the end we make our own good luck. We have to see opportunities around us, like a photographer sees pictures in a landscape."
That powerful message comes from Carmen Reina, a young journalist from Spain currently doing an internship in Brussels. We believe in people that are dynamic, entrepreneurial, talented, self-motivated and dedicated. People who have bright ideas and are motivated to follow their dream. People like Carmen.
Young people double hit when searching for a first job in times of economic crisis
"It has been already four months since I came to Brussels. My internship finishes very soon, so I am already looking for another job to continue my experience as a journalist. For last two months I have been sending loads of curriculums, letters and applications, and it can be exasperating but I know this is not a waste of time because I´m always learning, even in the hard periods," says Carmen.
In October 2013, 5.657 million young persons under 25 were unemployed in the 28 countries of the European Union. It seems that young people have been hardest hit by the crisis. Youth unemployment rates are generally much higher than unemployment rates for all ages. As if it is not difficult enough to be faced with the anxiety of searching for the first job, young people are also faced with the precarious situation of a changing job market and an economy fighting to get back on its feet.
Shape a better future for our youth
The hard truth is that the young are paying for other people's mistakes. A vicious circle of debt has severely undermined the economies in many countries. And more debt means less future. It means less education, less innovation and less freedom for future generations.
Pumping money into a system that needs fixing without fixing it first is irresponsible. For this reason many people have been asked to make sacrifices that have strained the fabric of society and they are the ones to be thanked for the first signs of economic recovery we are seeing.
If societies are built on trust, we cannot let this trust be lost by the people who are most open to the things that the world has to offer.
Carmen says that an optimistic attitude often helps: "Job searching is a full time job. You really need to have strong self-discipline and be conscientious. Sometimes the more time you have, the more you waste it. Since my first exams at school, my mother kept telling me about Parkinson's law, which states that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion'. True story!! We shouldn't waste our valuable time!"
Lessons to learn from countries with low unemployment rates
Countries with the lowest unemployment rates are Austria, Germany and Luxembourg. Germany is a good example of keeping people in jobs by offering flexible work schemes and favouring cutting work hours rather than laying people off. For example, if firms cut back 20% of a worker's hours the German government makes up for half of the lost wages.
For young people finding their first job, Bavaria performs especially well. What makes the difference is the German dual education system which combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school in one course. Basically, you get on-the-job training while still in school.
Professional experience is key to the first job
The EU is trying to emulate that system with the so-called Erasmus for apprenticeships. The idea is simple - an exchange programme that would allow young apprentices to gather cross-border experience that could give them an edge in the labour market.
Carmen explains why experience is important: "I guess the main challenge we face when applying for jobs is that there will always be someone better qualified than us, or that's what we think. 'Experience required' is the greatest burden that young people carry."
The programme has still not reached its full potential primarily because being an apprentice means different things in different countries and until this is solved it will continue to give only partial results. If its older and more well known brother Erasmus (the student exchange programme) is anything to measure by, the possibilities are great.
Nowadays it is more difficult for new generations to break into the labour market. As our MEP Zofija Mazej Kukovič so aptly puts it: "the job market that young people knew from their parents doesn't exist anymore".
For Carmen perseverance is the key: "However difficult it may seem, I keep my aims high and I am still trying hard until one seed blooms when I least expect it. In fact, maybe on my way I will find a different motivation or a different opportunity than the one I started off with and it will be the right one!"