The number one aspiration for Australian youth is career success. This is the finding behind Mission Australia's 2014 National Youth Survey of almost 14,000 youth between the ages of 15-19, which was published on 1 December.
In answer to the question what do you aspire to, approximately 88% said that achieving career success was of high importance. Being financially independent (86%) and owning your own home (73%) were the next highest aspirations. When asked whether their aspirations were achievable, only six out of ten felt that career success was highly likely. In fact, boys were slightly more optimistic than girls about achieving this aspiration.
The survey is a very useful insight into the today's youth. The results suggest the importance of career success as something embedded within the Australian psyche and a significant part of our self identities. It does not answer questions such as "how does one define success?" nor does it give us clues about whether success is interpreted along a single plane, such as the achievement of material wealth. Perhaps the second highest aspiration, being financially independent, gives us a clue about this?
Yet it is concerning that a number of youth felt little optimism in achieving their career aspirations. Youth unemployment continues to be a considerable problem in our community, with youth unemployment rates still above 12% for 15-24 year-olds (ABS (2013) Labour Force Australia, Detailed Quarterly, Aug 2014). It would be difficult to be optimistic in light of this data.
So, where to from here? Do only those youth with exceptional skills and the "right" opportunities have reason for optimism? No. A balanced Christian worldview understands that God has created me as a unique creature (Psalm 139), crafting my experience, natural skills and temperament to be used in this world.
Career success is indeed a noble aspiration. But success, when understood in light of offering my work as an act of worship, is seen as a far richer, more fulfilling thing. Acknowledging that unemployment is a debilitating condition, there is much an able-minded and bodied person can still do to find fulfillment in volunteering their skills and time.
Let's pray that God will give us courage if we are facing uncertainty in relation to our work and wisdom to interpret where we can best find success in our careers, regardless of our age.
(To download a complete copy of the National Youth Survey, go the the Mission Australia website)