If you’re young, inspired, believe in social change and want to work with youth like yourself, a career in youth work is your jam.
But there is a chance that at some point of time, you, your family and friends will doubt your choice to become a youth worker. After all, it is not a glamorous profession. People might tell you it’s not a proper or serious job that brings in the money.
At times like those, when you’re in doubt and need to make your decision or reaffirm your faith, you will want to remove the cloud of confusion and gain clarity. Here’s our list of 10 reasons to remind you why a career in youth work is awesome and worth exploring.
1. Youth work helps create the future
Does that sound a bit far fetched? Not really. You see, youth work is essential to building a better today & tomorrow for young people and for the larger world.
If you happen to see an occasional list of top youth icons or young CEOs circulating on social media, please don’t be fooled by it. It may look like they’re calling the shots but they don’t represent the two thirds of the Indian population that is under 35.
That is why there is an urgent need to invest in young people. If we don’t do that, the present becomes uncertain, forget the future!
If you dream of a world that is equal, just and sustainable, then choosing youth work as a career can help you lay foundations of that world.
In 2002, Waqar Qazi was doing his Master’s degree. He decided to visit the rehabilitation camps after the Godhra riots. He realised that many young people had actively participated and suffered in the riots.
This gave Waqar a new purpose – he wanted to help young people to deeply understand their constitutional rights and duties and become active citizens. Today he works as a Programme Manager at Urja Ghar, a non-profit youth organisation based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
He says, “Today’s young people have tremendous pressure and distractions. They are sucked into the cut-throat competition and have no mental space to think about their rights. But if you go dig deeper, you will see their freedom is under threat. If we want to realise the vision of what our freedom fighters wanted India to be, we have to work with the youth. They are at the centre of any social change.”
2. Youth work creates 5th space
All young people find themselves existing in mainly 4 kind of spaces – family, friends, education/employment and leisure. All these spaces are governed by pre-defined norms and expectations, typically set by adults.
Is there a space where the young can truly be themselves and explore their individuality? It is possible when you create the 5th space – a space for yourself where you find your voice and form your ideas.The 5th space houses your dreams, desires, concerns and stances as a young person, but more importantly, encourages a synergy with the other 4 spaces to nourish and strengthen them.
With a whopping 1.8 billion young people in the world today, a youth worker’s job is more important than ever before. How will all these teenagers and young adults discover the 5th space without the support of youth workers? It’s not exactly possible.
Another question is how can we support youth workers who help create the 5th space? It can feel pretty isolating to do youth work all by yourself.
This is why we created ComMutiny The Youth Collective (CYC) – because we wanted youth workers and youth-led organisations to know that we’re all together in this. At CYC, each day we try to aggregate, architect and amplify best practices in youth work.
So, if you deeply care about youth representation, then a career in youth work is a great fit for you. To get a headstart, you can check out Changelooms. This initiative by PRAVAH is designed for youth workers who’re looking for mentorship and in-depth learning.
3. Youth workers are forever young, energetic & passionate
Unlike other professions, a majority of youth workers are actually young, full of energy and passion. Adolescents and youth have so much energy that sometimes it’s hard to contain it.
Youth embody openness and the willingness to take risks in the face of fear. As a youth worker, you are constantly surrounded by people who are motivated, sensitive, creative, receptive and action-oriented.
There’s never a dull moment in youth work. Being a youth worker allows you to tap into youth’s boundless energy and create new synergies that inform your work. Waqar says, “You can find great joy in shaping youth work to make it a recognised and valuable career. Being a part of that is exciting.”
Also, educators can become youth workers. Rather than being authority figures that give information to students, they can become facilitators in learning journeys for young people. They can gently help the youth to navigate through their dilemmas with the experience and wisdom that comes with age.
4. Youth work prepares new leaders
If the current world leaders are driving you nuts, you’ve got to realise that a new breed of leaders needs to emerge.
The Edelman Barometer shows that people around the world have lost trust in political leadership, corporates, media and even civil society. Youth work helps in re-establishing trust among people and nurturing youth leadership capacities.
Its like re-growing a forest on an almost eroded piece of land. Youth workers do the toughest job – they crack the dry earth, plant the saplings, water them regularly and let the forest regenerate on its own. This process can take decades but there is nothing more beautiful than re-igniting hope among the young.
Souvik Saha is a youth worker. While he was in college, he was active in student politics. Getting involved in Changelooms, a programme run by Pravah, was the turning point for him and led him to a career in youth work. Today he leads People for Change, an organisation that works with children and young people in Jamshedpur.
He says, “A youth worker has a completely opposite approach to say, a company, who looks at young people as just consumers. When you believe in the power of the youth, you work ‘for’ their development and not ‘use’ them for your own economic development”.
5. Youth work allows you to participate in the growth of individuals
As a youth worker, you can play an influential role in a young person’s life. You stand right next to them from day one and as cliche as it may sound, you accompany them into the journey of a lifetime. At each step, you assist them in situations where they question their individual purpose and their role as citizens.
Unlike parents or teachers, youth workers don’t expect or train youth to be a certain way. It’s like being on a road trip and you’re in the same car. The driver is the young person and you’re just sitting in the backseat adding to the conversation every once in a while.
When you do this, you entrust youth with the responsibility to create their own life. This is when the true magic of youth work happens – before you know it, individuals blossom into activists, creators, leaders and thinkers. Why would you ever miss that?
6. Youth work explores diverse points of view
Youth work is a broad field and can include working on a number of issues that affect the youth – be it climate change, unemployment or gender discrimination.
As you take a deep dive into youth work, you’ll be presented with several opportunities to explore different perspectives. You may be exposed to these new points of view by speaking to someone face to face, listening to others in a discussion circle or doing an outdoor activity with them.
Youth work frees your mind and helps you respect others even if you disagree with them. It helps you to see the potential in every young person, no matter how ‘misguided’ they may seem.
7. Youth work makes you stay on top of technology & trends
The last few years have seen the emergence of a new set of social entrepreneurs in India – all of whom are quite young. Most of their enterprises use technology to solve social problems. This shows how the young are at the forefront of a tech revolution because of their ability to learn quickly and be agile.
As a youth worker, this gives you great advantage because your job involves learning and working with the latest technology that the youth are using. Keeping up with the latest trends enables you to communicate with the youth in an engaging and interesting manner.
8. Youth work happens when you co-create with sharp young minds
Teamwork is a massive part of youth work. If you like brainstorming with others and involving different people in a project, you’ll love youth work because it’s all about collaboration.
Working in a youth group or team lets you run ideas past each other, debate and essentially co-create with young people who’re just the right cocktail of dreamy, idealistic, smart and practical. Not to mention the high you get from being a part of such a vibrant dynamic community.
9. Youth work helps you make deep connections
Youth work helps you form deep connections at many levels. Firstly, it helps you to connect with your own self. It takes you on a path of self-discovery to figure out what your values are and who you are as a person.
Secondly, youth work connects you with others. It gives you tools to observe the things happening around you and listen to others deeply with empathy.
And thirdly, it connects you with the youth movement. You go from looking at things in a black and white manner to understanding the complexity and nuances of social issues. You begin to play your part in a larger youth movement.
10. Youth work pushes you out of your comfort zone
In India, youth work is not a conventional career. It takes you out of your cocoon. Young energy manifests itself in the form of campaigns, marches, community meetings and volunteer action – most of which happens on the streets.
As a youth worker, you may march in the dark and reclaim the streets for women or spend a night under a flyover with the residents of a slum. You might end up going door to door doing a survey in a village. What may seem uncomfortable in the beginning makes you feel vulnerable and then, out of that place, comes courage and the ability to stand up for social justice.
Also, many youth organisations and their workers have limited resources at hand. Rather than focusing on this as a problem, youth workers use this limitation to be creative and innovative.
We spend most of our lifetime working. If you’re going to work, be sure to choose a job that aligns with your values and motivates you to get out of bed every Monday morning. If you’re thinking of considering youth work, we hope that this article has made you all excited about it.
Trust us, a career in youth work will always be awesome!