What's your problem?

My eldest child graduated from university this summer with a degree in business studies. He has since moved back home but, as far as I can detect, has no inclination to find work.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'm worried that the longer he puts off his job-hunting, the worse it will get. A good job has come up in the company in which I work, which I'd put him forward for. My son sounded relatively enthusiastic about it at first, but has since lost any scrap of interest in it. He tells me he's 'not bothered' by it, but I want him to put some effort into it as I don't want him to - dare I say it? - show me up. What should I do about this, and getting my son into employment?

A: I hope I'm right in thinking that this unenthusiastic son of yours hasn't been offered that job in your company. I can't offhand think of a dottier idea - and not just because he might show you up. Far from being grateful to you for putting him up for it, I suspect he'd actually feel resentful. It wouldn't be reasonable, I agree, but the last thing he needs at the moment is to feel even more dependent on you.

So if he hasn't yet applied for that interview and is still 'not bothered', I'd forget about the idea completely.

For a lot of young people, the thought of their first job - some unspecified employment called work - is deeply unappealing. This doesn't necessarily mark them out as work-shy layabouts; it just means that no particular activity has yet caught their imagination.

His degree course will have given him a useful grounding in the business of business but is unlikely to have ignited his enthusiasm for any particular calling. I'm prepared to bet he's got a headful of cliched images: the office junior chained to the photocopier, being patronised by some insufferable superior, watching the clock for eight hours a day and dreaming of the distant weekend. And, perversely, the more you go on about his getting 'a good job' - stressing salary and security and prospects - the more he'll feel you are trying to sign him up for a lifetime's hard labour.

I'd also bet that the moment he gets a sniff of some real enterprise, and becomes properly involved in something in which he's instinctively interested, he'll amaze you. Where you can help is by encouraging him to put his natural interests first - to follow his nose.

It's extremely unlikely that his natural interests will meet with your own enthusiastic approval. That doesn't matter; don't let it show; above all, don't put it down. What matters is that he gets his mind, his imagination and his competitive juices engaged in something.

Once he's discovered that work can mean getting paid for doing something he enjoys, he'll be a different person. And he can sort out salary, security, prospects, mortgages and all that in the course of time.


Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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