American Money: Survival Tips for Unemployed Youth

The economic recovery is leaving America’s young people behind.

Posted: 06/25/2013 08:00 AM EDT

America’s young people are facing an unemployment crisis and their outlook isn’t set to improve any time soon.

A newly released report from the Center for American Progress says that 10 million Americans under the age of 25 are unable to find full-time work. That is more than the entire populations of New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C., combined.

This crisis has far-reaching implications that affect more than just youth: unemployment among young people could cause the nation to lose up to $18 billion in earnings over the next decade, according to Bloomberg senior economist Joseph Brusuelas.

In fact, young people who have been out of work for six months can expect to earn $22,000 less over the next 10 years than they could have earned if they had not been unemployed.

Youth unemployment figures are even more alarming for young minority workers — Black teen unemployment rose to a staggering 40.5 percent in April.

The country is clearly moving in the wrong direction on this issue. Congress has cut a billion dollars from youth jobs programs over the past decade and recent government budget cuts will eliminate 4,200 AmeriCorps positions — a valuable source of marketable skills and work experience for young workers.

To prevent further economic stalling, we must enact bold, progressive policies that put our youth back to work. But young workers can also take a few personal steps to ensure they’re doing everything they can to find jobs. Most local state department of labor sites offer a range of employment services for young teens such as educational and training programs, job-shadowing and apprenticeship opportunities and career counseling.

Teens looking for work should also make full use of their social network to help them find jobs. Reach out to parents, relatives, older neighbors, teachers and parents of friends to help find jobs that aren’t publicly advertised. And don’t be afraid to send out a message on Twitter and Facebook noting that you’re looking for a job — employers are increasingly using these tools to seek out employees. But before reaching out, make sure your Twitter and Facebook accounts are going to represent you in a positive light to potential employers.

And if you have relatives in a state with more work opportunities, consider staying with them over the summer or winter so you can take advantage of seasonal jobs.

Finally, remember to keep an open mind. Restaurants are set to hire 448,000 summer jobs this summer and many of those hired will be teens. In this downturn, it’s likely you might work a job that you originally thought was beneath you like picking up trash, cleaning bathrooms or washing dishes. But such jobs may lead unexpectedly to other opportunities if you’re savvy and work hard. For instance, you could develop contacts at your workplace that may lead to better jobs in the future. Don’t be afraid to use whatever job experience and contacts you’ve accumulated to market yourself for future positions.

It’s important that you remain resilient and not give up on the job search. And we all must continue to raise our voices and demand greater opportunities for our next generation of leaders.

American Money is a weekly column written by Dedrick Muhammad, the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks. 

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 (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


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