Sarah* had always dreamed of working in the fashion industry. At 21, she decided to follow her dream, move to London and find a passionate job in which she could develop a career.
“Like many young people, my passion was fashion,” he says. “But the reality was not so glamorous.”
After working in fashion retail for less than a year, Sarah landed a position as an e-commerce assistant at the headquarters of a luxury international brand.
In both jobs she was surrounded by like-minded twenty-somethings: succeed in the world of fashion.
“It’s like any creative industry: young people always see it as interesting work,” he says. “And the perks are great, including sales and items we get at deep discounts.”
However, Sarah adds that there was always a lot of turnover in the office, especially low-level staff.
“An 18-year-old intern only lasted a week after realizing that his job consisted basically of unpaid manual labor and long hours loading and packing clothes that came back from shoots and photo shoots,” recalls Sarah.
“And those who stuck out a few months doing their internships ended up quitting due to exhaustion. There was a constant stream of young, impressionable workers and nothing was ever done about it; it became a test to see who had the most stamina.”
Although Sarah lasted two years in her position, the excitement of working in fashion soon gave way to frustration and tedium from a myriad of “low-paying, long-hours clerical tasks.”
On many occasions young people are asked to do jobs that are not listed in the position they hold. GETTY IMAGES
And feeling like her bosses weren’t offering her a clear career path or a sense of progress, Sarah recognized that her job eventually dragged her down and she left.
“Managers and employees alike knew that it was a competitive workplace, that there was always a lot of demand. If you left, they would replace you with another young person who would surely be very excited just to be there“, he reflects.
Experts say there are many companies that specifically hire recent graduates who want to pursue their passions, often in highly competitive and “glamorous” careers.
Something that in some cases can be positive for those looking for a way to enter a sector in which they believe they will get the job of their dreams.
In other cases, however, there is a risk that newly hired young people will be pigeonholed in low-paying and demanding rolessince employers know that vacancies will always be highly coveted.
This situation often creates a lot of pressure and anxiety for many young people who start a career hoping to settle down and fend for themselves, but who end up vulnerable to burnout or disappointment from their first work experience.
right of floor
Many jobs are created with the expectation that younger workers will grow up in them.
There are often clear paths for promotion and goals to be achieved, with companies even offering mentoring and development programs to guide employees starting at the lowest levels up the organizational chart.
Although the promotion can be tough, many companies want to invest in their workers so that they stay with the organization.
Young people lack experience to be able to know if the conditions in which they work are the most appropriate. GETTY IMAGES
However, according to experts, there are other companies that take a different approach: they create infrastructures in which they hire young employees who have few or no opportunities for promotion, and then give them very demanding tasks.
A scenario in which employers expect their workers to leave the organization at some point, andeither because they are in a dead end or because of a burnout in the positiona term that refers to that feeling of demotivation and progressive loss of energy until reaching exhaustion.
Then, they are usually replaced by other young workers, destined to suffer the same fate.
It is clear that young people are often expected to push themselves in the early years of their career by showing ambition, persistence, effort and resilience in the workplace, or put another way, ‘paying the right of way’.
According to Helen Hughes, associate professor at the University of Leeds Business School in the UK, not all young workers without an explicit growth trajectory are found in companies that intentionally rotate their workforce.
Hughes mentions, for example, the case of public relations, where the lowest jobs, which are often the lowest paid, “fit into a person’s career path: the expectation is that, in the early stages, you have to accept jobs lower category before you can progress.
Industries like fashion are very attractive to many young people who dream of growing up in a glamorous world. GETTY IMAGES
However, some companies choose to establish what Hughes calls a “short-term model.” And there are many reasons why companies choose to encourage this model of rotating young workers, instead of investing in them.
First, there are the financial implications. Recent graduates start at the bottom of the salary scale and are not expected to earn as much as more experienced employees.
“Companies often hire recent graduates because they can pay them less,” says Dominik Raškaj, director of marketing for Croatia-based employment website Posao.hr. “It’s effectively a cheap and undervalued source of labor.”
In addition, workers who are entry-level may be more malleable and more willing to accept certain working conditions.
“The less experience an employee has, the more open-minded they are and, in general, the more willing they are to accept the conditions of the work environment they find themselves in,” says Hughes.
“They are not conditioned by experience, which has advantages for the entrepreneur: they are easier to shape.”
However, this can leave young workers looking to forge a career open to being offered the wrong jobs or toxic work environments.
“Recent graduates may be exposed to exploitation if they haven’t had the experience to know what’s right and what’s not,” says Hughes.
“They may feel that this is a really competitive field, so they are desperate to accept a very challenging role that may not have the best conditions.
“It can distort someone’s vision,” he says.
In these situations, the short-term risk is burnout, extreme exhaustion.
Reaching job burnout can cause young people to accept other jobs far from the sector in which they wanted to develop a career. GETTY IMAGES
Young people can be burdened with long working hours, huge workloads or menial tasks and, due to their lack of seniority, are unable to defend their interests.
This can leave workers frustrated or, in cases like Sarah’s, under a lot of stress.
Many, however, they feel they have no choice but to put up with it, especially if they try to break through in certain sectors They usually have many barriers to enter them.
A reality that can be very damaging for a young person desperate to establish himself in a competitive career who accepts being subjected to long hours and poor working conditions.
“Some decide to stay and hold out as long as they’re just starting out,” says Hughes.
“But without previous experiences to serve as a reference, the risk is that they accept that this is what it takes to be able to be in that place, that the bad conditions return to normal and that person ends up thinking that this is all it’s worth.”
This can have long-term repercussions for these young people, as it can create false expectations about what it means to be in the job market.
“Workers begin to withdraw, not exert themselves, and exhibit behaviors of silent abandonment,” says Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management and well-being at US analytics firm Gallup.
“This can distort the vision of what a professional career means and its relationship with work,” says Harter.
“Recent graduates may be so worried about getting a job that they think any job will do.Hughes adds.
But working long hours, poorly paid and with no projection in sight has long-term consequences. “You adapt to the rules around you – bad rules – right at the beginning of your career.”
there are alternatives
The good news is that today’s employee-friendly job market can give young workers options if they find they are in a role where they feel they are being exploited, with no prospect of advancement, or finding it too difficult. .
“Now there are more questions about graduate jobs as well,” says Hughes. “And there are more reports of poor labor practices on social media, which means there’s more pressure on organizations that don’t take care of their younger employees to change.”
Although sometimes it seems that there is no way out, it is important to know that there are alternatives, even if they are different from the path that one had initially thought. GETTY IMAGES
However, even in an era of understaffing and internet feedback, many of these challenging environments will endure.
This means that the burden of recognizing when they are in a bad position may continue to fall on the shoulders of beginning employees.
But identifying this can be easier said than done, as employees with little work experience may not know what is normal for the role they are working in or what is going too far.
In Sarah’s case, she recognized that her work had pushed her to the limit, and she walked away. But instead of insisting on the same sector for which he had originally dreamed, he took another path and now works for a creative agency outside the world of fashion.
He says he is much happier in his new position, which offers clear progression, challenging work and varied daily tasks.
“I might have found (fashion) an awesome place to work,” she says, “but I realized that having a fulfilling job is more important than having a flashy name on your resume.”
*Sarah’s last name was kept secret for professional reasons.
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