I won't pay ya, no way, why don't you get a job?
July 30, 2009 12:53 AM   Subscribe

18 year old Australian introverted indoorsy uni drop-out seeks employment in recession. No qualifications (a business cert from school), no drivers license, no skills (maybe typing), no experience, no references, limited public transport. What now?

This is for my son. I want him to get a job now that he's dropped out, and he understands that he must, but where does he start?

Can he access (Australian) government job placement assistance even though he's supported by his parents? Who's that with? (A long time ago, it was the CES.)

He's certain that he would be bad at anything involving people, ie customer service, sales, waiting tables. I tend to think this attitude would bugger up his interviews but I don't know how to change it, or if I should even try.

I'm prepared to help pay for him to upskilll, but I'm worried he will drop out (again) and waste my cash. It's all very well to say he can pay me back, but without a job, that's just funny.

Suggestions for his action, and for me to encourage him without demoralizing him, please?
posted by b33j to Work & Money (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A stint digging ditches should put thing in perspective for him.
posted by wfrgms at 1:03 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I matched that description, I went for data entry. It's a bit shit, but it's not digging ditches, and "no heavy lifting" was a bit of a thing for me at the time. He may (or, I should stress, may not) end up in an office which is not entirely uninteresting.
posted by pompomtom at 1:11 AM on July 30, 2009

posted by turgid dahlia at 1:12 AM on July 30, 2009

Exactly how does he apply for either (any) of these job types? Sending a cover letter and (thin) resume? I don't tend to see entry-level jobs advertised, how does he find them?
posted by b33j at 1:14 AM on July 30, 2009

Seek, CareerOne and MyCareer would all be good starts. And there are plenty of temp recruiters around (previously-mentioned sites are how you find 'em).
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:17 AM on July 30, 2009

Temp agencies here give a typing and computer literacy test... So he could get office temp work to enrich the resume for a year and then get a permanent job.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:17 AM on July 30, 2009

Check some of the APS entry points while you're at it. Years ago there used to be a public service exam you could sit, for free, but I doubt it's still around.
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:20 AM on July 30, 2009

I don't know what the timeline's like but it may or may not be worth looking into those green job apprenticeships for young people that KRudd's just announced today. 4,000 of them in green construction/retrofitting/similar, I think six months in length...? Even if not his bag, it's possibly interesting, long enough to take a break to think about what to do next, and gain some references whilst doing something not totally evil; but like I say I'm not sure when they're supposed to begin.
posted by springbound at 1:37 AM on July 30, 2009

Your son sounds like he's content to stay at home, avoiding situations that challenge him or make him uncomfortable, and doing without the necessity of succeeding at something. I suspect this is the core of his difficulty, rather than his lack of experience and skills (everyone starts out that way).

His situation is not uncommon; he would almost certainly benefit by being removed from it. I would suggest enlisting for basic training with the ADF.
posted by magic curl at 2:16 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

He's in for a rude awakening. My sister has cycled in and out of unskilled jobs for years. A very common practice now is for jobs to take people on as a 'trial' then claim after a few weeks that they have too many staff. It continues to stun me that this happens in Australia.

His best bet is to apply for jobs through one of the big employers - Target, Woolworths etc in entry-level admin. They all have standard application forms online. But competition will be stiff - he'll be competing against cheaper teenage labour. But there should at least be a little more support and employee protection.

If he's dropped out of uni, it may be worth giving TAFE a try. A different pace and emphasis on hands-on skills. He could upskill his existing business certificate.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:17 AM on July 30, 2009

Can he access (Australian) government job placement assistance even though he's supported by his parents? Who's that with? (A long time ago, it was the CES.)
Yes. Nowdays, it's Centrelink (who will likely refer him to one of the whatever-the-hell-the-Howard-government's-JobsNetwork-is-called-now providers).

In my experience, Centrelink are actually pretty good to deal with, if a bit inflexible. Which can be kinda good - the last time I was in there, the woman who has happily handling the cockup with my student payment and I spent most of the time laughing at the spoilt kid whining in the next cubicle.

Lesson #26: You can't out-moan or out-sulk a government employee ;-)

However, they know their stuff, and seem to be very helpful if you don't know what the hell is going on, what to do, or even where to start.

Caveat: I've never had to deal with them for employment myself (apart from confusing them with my "no, I'm not interested in getting a job at the moment" after I was made redundant a few years ago); all my experience is with them sorting out my oft-cocked-up student support stuff.

(On preview: 2nding magic curl, though I wasn't going to say as much myself. Except the ADF bit - there's simpler ways to learn the lesson that sometime you're gonna have to start looking after yourself. But, since I've started...

Without going into too much detail: I know far too many people going through similar stuff with their own kids and, despite their best intentions of 'helping' their offspring, all they're really doing is enabling their behaviour.

Look at it this way: someday you and Mr. b33j won't be around to prop him up when things are difficult. Wouldn't you rather he be ready to fend for himself then? 18 is plenty old enough to learn those skills.)

posted by Pinback at 2:32 AM on July 30, 2009

This opinion may not go over well at all, and may just show cultural bias on my part, but one thing I notice as a U.S. American who has lived in Melbourne for the past three years is that young Australians are very content to stay at home and not "grow past their parents," so to speak. When I moved here, alone, at 19, I couldn't believe how many 23-27 year olds I met that still lived at home. Very few had sound economic reasons for it, either. Tight-knit cities with universities near family homes contribute to this, but I think a lot of it is culture as well. Parents don't seem as willing to make baby birds fly here, and as a result the baby birds see no need to fly.

Your son is introverted, like nearly half of the population, so he's not unique there. He's also not unique in being a uni dropout. People function just fine with these things that a lot of society deems as handicaps. They don't have to be, and he can learn tricks to overcome some of his insecurity. It takes practice, though, which he's not getting.

One thing's for sure. He needs to get his license, especially if you're in more rural areas with little public transport. I think this is the first step for him. Very few employers are going to be willing to hire someone, regardless of his personality, if he can't easily get to work either by car or public transport. Temp agencies will even have some trouble getting him work, considering this.

Maybe encourage your son to aim at getting his driver's license, and for now work at a local grocer or something similar, that is within walking distance (if possible). Getting a job like this will give him a little bit of money, and it will teach him how to follow through, which he may need. This will also relieve you of the stress that he may dropout of something you're paying for. Maybe earning some easy money will help him realize where he wants to spend it toward his future. (Maybe not, but only time will tell you.)

Once he's got his license and done some easy work, then I'd definitely say look into temp agencies or go back to uni / TAFE / apprenticing. He'll hopefully have gained some people skills from working at a local store, and he'll have a car, so he won't be as dependent. That will instill confidence, to some degree.

As you say, you don't want to demoralize him, but you also don't want him to take advantage of you and your home, as he is moving more and more into what should be biologically and mentally some form of adulthood. Encourage him to be more independent, even if that means cutting off some of your resources to him (driving him places all the time, doing the work for him, etc.). He might get a little mad at you sometimes, because of this transition, but he'll learn a lot from it.

I hope this helps and doesn't step on any toes. If it makes you feel any better, judging by the people in my age group, this is a really common problem in some areas of Australia, again, perhaps because of the structure and the culture that produces.
posted by metalheart at 2:37 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

More info: He's been advised that if he doesn't have full-time work within 6 months, we expect him to spend a year with the Army Reserve (so he doesn't have to get shot at). I think part of the uni drop out thing was that I didn't look over his shoulder, or check his results, assuming that as an adult, he was capable of this himself. He did complete 8 courses successfully over three semesters. We've stopped his pitiful allowance of $25 per week, and upped his chore level (includes all dishes, washing, house cleaning, lawn mowing + cooking a family meal once a week). I am so not into be a helicopter parent, seriously and I have been encouraging him to get a job since he was 15 but you know the old saying about leading horses to water.

Thank you, the answers so far have been very helpful.
posted by b33j at 2:38 AM on July 30, 2009

Join the military.
posted by merv at 3:12 AM on July 30, 2009

An apprenticeship is a great option for a young person. There's a serious shortage of skilled tradies in Queensland, and the Federal government is actively encouraging businesses to take them on.

You can find more info here.

He'll probably need to get his license though. I've managed to stay employed without one, but I'm living dead in the middle of Brisbane so it's a bit easier.
posted by Jilder at 3:19 AM on July 30, 2009

When I moved here, alone, at 19, I couldn't believe how many 23-27 year olds I met that still lived at home. Very few had sound economic reasons for it, either. Tight-knit cities with universities near family homes contribute to this, but I think a lot of it is culture as well. Parents don't seem as willing to make baby birds fly here, and as a result the baby birds see no need to fly.

Most major capital cities are in the midst of a housing crisis. It's very difficult to get a rental here, and young people who usually wind up sharehousing have a harder time of it. Realtors prefer to lease to couples and families; even with my perfect tenancy record I've had hassles when I've been on an application with more than one person.
posted by Jilder at 3:23 AM on July 30, 2009

Links for some of the websites mentioned above:


If anyone's still reading, I'd love to know how he should handle the lack of references.
posted by b33j at 3:46 AM on July 30, 2009

Registering with Centrelink is a good start, even if he doesn't qualify for income support, as they will hook him into the job network providers mentioned upthread. The staff there will be able to help him draw together a reasonable CV and give some basic pointers on how to look for jobs and fields that might suit him.

Registering (in person!) with temp agencies is a good idea, although the limited transport issue may come into play when trying to get to temp placements and will depend on where he lives.

Volunteering is a fantastic way to get experience and enthusiastic references. Doing it in person may help with his communication skills; the UN online volunteering website can match him with projects he can do from home - less personal contact plus sidesteps the transport issues.

OT I guess, but I really recommend that he go back to uni if he's an indoorsy, introverted type, as it will give him qualifications, probably give him some confidence, and definitely give him a few (government-assisted) years to figure out his next steps.
posted by Lucie at 4:12 AM on July 30, 2009

There is getting a job, and then there is getting a career. When I was his age I was pretty clueless about what I wanted to do with my life (not sure I am that much more certain at twice the age) but I went to Uni for four years as a bit of a sheltered workshop for growing up. I had part time work as well. Even after dropping out, trying TAFE or one of the private colleges might be an alternative that will give him some space to decide what he wants to do.
He might want to look into some of the resources that help with career guidance. The usual example is the book 'What colour is my parachute', which didn't really do much for me. A similar thing is a gov website: http://www.myfuture.edu.au/ which is at least a faster version.
If he can get some sort of vision about where he wants to be in 5 or 10 years, it might make it easier to start down that road, even if step one is a job at McDonalds (and fast food is always hiring, just go in and fill out the forms).
With regard to references, I wouldn't worry too much, they are pretty pointless at the start of working life. A family friend he helped move house, or mowed the lawn for, or some other upstanding person who knows him will be a fine reference. They just need to be prepared to say they think he will be a good employee on the remote chance they get a call.
In terms of where entry level jobs are advertised, check out the local free newspaper classifieds, often the assistant admin role doesn't warrant a post on SEEK as they just want a warm body who lives nearby.
Being a little judgmental of the tone of your post, I suspect you are finding this exasperating and having trouble understanding his motivations. Examples like expecting to join the Army reserves or something is probably just going to get his back up. You can require him to pay board, and have some say over what he does under your roof, but he is legally an adult, and I suspect trying to mandate what kind of job to get or push him somewhere he isn't interested will just increase your exasperation.
posted by bystander at 4:42 AM on July 30, 2009

References typically have more leeway for entry level work. I can only speak from experience having seen resumes in the US, but no shortage of acceptable employees use friends, coworkers, and former teachers as references. References to family when not having worked for them formally are the worst, not even having friends who would provide reference simply doesn't look good. Friends of the family work when his own friends are less than impressive.

Your son may think he's above customer service and waiting tables, but he's not. Nobody is. If he can't get work elsewhere, start pushing service jobs. They can be quite unpleasant, but it's also relatively easy to find employment in that sector. It's also quite good motivation to go back to university or learn a skilled trade.

If your son can show up to work every day, on time, and follow instructions, he can find employment. It's just a matter of time and effort in applications. If he's not applying for multiple jobs on a daily basis, he's not trying. Apply. Ask whether right then is a good time for an interview. If not, ask when would be a good time to check back. Desperation is bad, but he needs to look interested in getting the job.

Pushing him is fine. You're not kicking him out, and he knows that. Don't let him think he's going to get away for five months sitting around doing nothing, then panic and try to get a job the last month, whining that he can't find anything when all he applies to are a few that he likes. This isn't aimed at your son specifically, that's just common behavior for an 18 year old.

Also, he really should get his license. Without a way to get to work on his own, this could become a serious hassle for you. My apologies for not having Australia-specific advice, but these ideas should carry over fairly well.
posted by Saydur at 4:44 AM on July 30, 2009

He's certain that he would be bad at anything involving people, ie customer service

Do you think that would include call centres? I worked in them to support myself throughout university, and they mostly involve either working mothers, uni students or people just doing something for a while to make ends meet until they think of something better to do.

Lots of churn, so vacancies always opening. And it's a great foot in the door for large organisations (eg banks, insurance etc) - start there & ask how to move into another role.

As for the lack of references: I'd like to think that most intelligent managers wouldn't expect such a young person to have (many) work-related ones. Any kind of reference from a family friend with some sort of "respectable" status would do, or maybe something from a sporting coach or priest or whoever, depending on whatever he might have been involved in going through school.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:53 AM on July 30, 2009

I'd love to know how he should handle the lack of references.
18yo and spending 18 months at Uni seems reasonable enough to explain that. Pad things out with a few personal references from family / friends / church / whoever, school results, etc, and things won't appear so bleak.

If he can't get a crack at a trade with that (and I'll mention that there's a lot of difference between various trades and what they expect for applications, as well as a huge difference in what trades are taking apprentices at the moment - some seem to be doing OK; builders and brickies less so), then he might just have to accept that the first step may have to be less career-oriented and more "I need money"-oriented ;-)

And I wasn't so much thinking of "helicopter parenting", more that there's a big difference between reporting on the peak-hour traffic snarl from a Bell 407, and picking up broken-down cars with a Chinook ;-)

metalheart: When I moved here, alone, at 19, I couldn't believe how many 23-27 year olds I met that still lived at home.

Yeah, puzzles me a bit too. 20-odd years ago it wasn't the norm - it's not that kids were thrown out when they finished school and went to uni, or got a job or the dole; it was just what you did as part of growing up. I'm not sure I totally buy the the usual current line of 'housing crisis' or 'tough economic times' (17% home loan interest rates - anyone remember them?). It just seems to be something that's become common in the last 10 years or so.

I have my pet theories as to why, but I won't go into them here. It is interesting to note that most of the people I'm studying with are < 25, and most of them aren't living at home. It seems to be much more common amongst those that actualy have a well-paying job, but harbour some ideal of buying their own home ASAP and then finding their dream job or retiring at 35...

That said, being an unemployed 40+yo student, I'm currently living with my father. I don't have a lawn to call my own, so I'll just have to wait for him to yell at the damned kids on his ;-)
posted by Pinback at 5:11 AM on July 30, 2009

On lack of preview: one thing I noticed about the indoorsy introverted type in my course at uni (applied science; it may be different for other courses) is that very few tended to open up and gain confidence - mostly, they dropped out after the first year. It wasn't that they lacked the smarts, or couldn't handle the courseload, or went crazy with the freedom, or were even just sick of school after 12 near-compulsory years of it. It was almost like they were totally unprepared for the challenges that went with it - having to interact with people, having to think for themselves, having their opinions, preconceptions, and attitudes even mildly challenged.

In short, they weren't prepared to leave their cocoon and deal with even a nice, safe, well-rounded model of the real world with all the sharp corners cushioned and marked with yellow safety tape. I offer that more as an observation than a criticism, particularly to those I knew. I hope that they'll eventually come back with a better appreciation of things, and better equipped to enjoy what they missed.

b33j: maybe a start would be to buy him his own MeFi account, so he can query the hive for his own answers to the problems you set him. Couldn't be any worse than some that've gone before...

Just don't get too cut up about any strange powdery traces you may find on the coffee table and antiques ;-)
posted by Pinback at 5:41 AM on July 30, 2009

Definitely encourage him to apply for the dole, which was called Youth Allowance for people his age when I was on it a few years ago. Unless the system's changed he won't have access to a lot of Centrelink job-finding services if he's not on it. Check his dole diary (he should be applying for 10 jobs a fortnight and recording details) to make sure he's actually looking.

As mentioned above volunteer work would be great, even if it's something simple like planting trees to help regenerate bushland. This will get him out of the house, force him to meet people and perhaps most importantly give him contacts who he can use as referees when he goes for actual jobs. Don't rely on him to look for things to do himself, because he probably won't.

Is your area suitable for cycling? A bike would help him get around the lack of licence problem. Might be a good thing to spend his first dole payment on.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2009

This is tangential, but I was an incredibly shy person with poor social skills when I gt a job in a cafe. Having to interact with the public day in and day out really helped me get over my apprehension about talking to strangers. It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, and I'm much less of a social misfit now after that one crappy cafe job many years ago (it also allowed me to get a job as a barista on the 3am to 7am shift at Burning Man 1997, which made it all totally worth it).

Where I live, the average espresso bar will train people with no experience and don't care too much about previous work experience, and the other people that work in cafes are often more interesting than the average entry-level service employees.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:09 AM on July 30, 2009

Not having any real references at that age shouldn't be too much of a problem. Not many people do. My only reference at that age was from stocking shelves in a supermarket after school. My first real job, at 18, was working in the mailroom of a large financial services company. I stayed at that company for 5 years and came out an experienced, well paid IT specialist with some great references.

I think that the lack of a drivers license is more of an issue. Aside from the mobility, having that license shows that he is capable of putting some effort in and completing *something*, which just happens to be something that almost everybody goes through at that age.

I see getting your license as a kind of "rite of passage" into early adulthood. To me, not having a license for no good reason other than you "haven't got around to it", says a lot about a young person - none of it good.

(FYI non-Australians, our legal driving age here is 18 [in most states], which also happens to be same age we can legally drink ... weeee! ... and vote.... so it does make for a fairly clear signpost of the beginning of adulthood)
posted by Diag at 3:38 PM on July 30, 2009

On further thought the fact that he has never had a job and has no license and dropped out of school is a red flag. Something could be wrong, so full medical workup and therapy.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:44 PM on July 30, 2009

Actually, drivers licence in most states comes at 17, except VIC at 18 (and NT at 16 1/2) so he is probably a bit behind his peers.
so full medical workup and therapy I assumed this was a joke, but looking at posting history, I'm not so sure. I would suggest therapy and medical intervention would be inappropriate unless there are indications you haven't shared, and pushing an adult to get such intervention could worsen your relationship.
posted by bystander at 9:19 PM on July 30, 2009

22 year old Australian female.

If he's at all interested in the army reserves, sign him up now; apart from a few weeks of initial training they tend to meet only once weekly on Tuesday evenings and so it won't be a substitute for a full-time job and it won't be a hindrance to him getting one. All earnings are tax-free, and it may solve the reference issue. Other similar options are volunteering with the SES (overrun with volunteers in Vic atm because of the bushfires) or St John's Ambulance (free event entries). Many more: http://www.govolunteer.com.au/

If you're looking for a full time position, look into the new military Gap Year program www.defencejobs.gov.au/ADFGapYear/ but I've heard they had more applicants than they could take last year. Army is the worst service, would advise against this for daughters.

When I had a lot of time on my hands Mum mentioned this to friends of hers. All of a sudden I was babysitting, tutoring, helping prepare food for events, helping people clean their house for rental inspections, volunteer tour guide ... Again this helped with references and skills and made sure I was not just sitting at home.

Nth the licence. He may have to have 50+ hours of learner driving practice, and it's expensive at $50 an hour plus he may have to retake classes aimed at 16 year olds. I made an arrangement that whenever running errands with parents - helping out with groceries etc when I could be driving supervised, I would drive. I had about 6 weeks of steady driving before I got my licence, 2-3 formalised lessons and I passed. A mature attitude helps as much as the skills.

References were not an issue at my first retail assistant 'job' at 18. The manager already knew me through a friend, I listed my volunteer tour guide job and an adult at my long-term extracurricular activity (10 years) and a family friend. The uni careers centre generally keeps a list of suitable jobs for uni students tailored to the correct sort of age and area, and can generally provide some counselling.

Regarding centrelink, get him to apply asap as he won't get assistance or payments until he does. I found the career advice useless - overly generic, they breached my Centrelink payments for failing to attend an appointment in the future, were suprised when I rocked up there two weeks after applying for payments with a casual job already and two more interviews in the next week. The frustration of dealing with Centrelink was one of my main motivators for finding full-time work instead of trying to juggle work and uni.

I'd be avoiding apprenticeships unless it's something he's interested in. He'd be mixed in with a much younger crowd, have to go through hazing, and would be earning pitiful wages meaning he'd have to live with you.
posted by quercus23 at 10:02 PM on July 30, 2009

Thank you every one, for the very useful advice. He's not interested in army reserves, it's a threat. He's refused university counselling (or any kind - he won't speak to outsiders on private matters). He believes he is not depressed and does not want to visit a doctor. (It's kind of reassuring to see you guys coming up with the things I did).

He's really not interested in technical fields (ie apprenticeships) and intends to go back to studying history, in a year or so. I think one of his motivation issues was not that he didn't love history, he does, but he could not see an occupation that he would enjoy arriving from studying it. All the ones I came up with were kinda lame: museum, history teacher, policy maker for government, author.

The lack of license thing is a kinda byproduct of us not having a car for ages, and because in the past, I've insisted that he earn the money (which he has been resistant to) to pay for the licensing process (over $100).

He has a bicycle but would rather walk the distance. I don't know why - might have something to do with the hills around here.

I checked Centrelink, and he is not entitled to any payment based on our income. I have (since I first posted this) encouraged him to register at Job Services Australia (the government job placement agency) and he is resistant to do so, until he is satisfied that he can not find a job without their help.

He's not interested in Mefi unfortunately (a clear indication of some kind of mental derangement), but he does have a number of forums he participates in.

My husband and I both left home as soon as possible and never returned, him at 15, me at 17. We're a little bewildered by the dependence exhibited by this Y-genner. His sister (in G12 currently) intends on leaving home ASAP. I think part of the problem is that we are reasonable people. If he has a beef with us, he's welcome to say so. He can swear (we do). He's been responsible for making most of his own decisions for a long time. So leaving home doesn't give him 'freedom', it gives him responsibility.

Okay, I know this isn't a chat session, but I truly appreciated all the viewpoints (even the somewhat harsh ones - do you know how hard it is to implement those?) and I will come back with a follow-up when I have one.

Thanks again.
posted by b33j at 1:42 AM on July 31, 2009

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