Did you know what your superpower was at 18? No? Join the club. For a lot of people it can take a lifetime to figure it out.
“Everyone has a superpower, everyone has a skill they’re really good at or the right attitude to be really good at something,” says Leon Marseglia, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder at Youth Group, a service dedicated to helping people aged 18 to 30 find the right career.
With the UK in the middle of a labour shortage – currently at 1.3 million vacancies, for those counting – there has arguably never been a better time to be a young person looking to find your dream job. The tricky part is discovering what that is.
“One of the biggest challenges young people face in the UK is navigation around what they want to do”, says Marseglia. “There’s a lot of opportunity, it’s really overwhelming, there’s too much information.”
Indeed, for your average 16- to 18-year-old there’s an array of options. Apprenticeships, “flexi-apprenticeships”, traineeships, internships, supported internships, and not to mention the brand new T-levels – a more vocational version of A-levels – introduced by the government as part of a “skills revolution”.
The UK education system has long been criticised for focusing too heavily on academic achievement, which has arguably led to a skills shortage. The House of Lords Committee on Youth Unemployment has found that England’s academic-heavy curriculum comes at the expense of developing skills like teamwork, communication, creativity and problem-solving.
Marseglia grew up in an area that was voted one of the worst places to live in Great Britain. He managed to get a finance apprenticeship, which he describes as a huge learning experience that introduced him to the corporate world and gave him insight into how a business is run.
But it wasn’t his super power. It wasn’t, to borrow the name of Youth Group's CEO Jack Parson’s new podcast, his ‘duvet flip’ – that thing that makes you jump out of bed, flip that duvet and make it a good day.
Marseglia himself found his superpower via a mentor. Having stumbled across Parsons asking if he could shadow him for a day to see if it was something he wanted to get involved in.
That day of shadowing turned into a week, the week turned into a month, and at that point Parsons turned to him and said: “Look Leon, you’ve been following me around for a month, do you want to join us or not?” And that’s how at just 20 Marseglia, without a university degree, co-founded Youth Group.
Youth Group – run by Big Issue Recruit ambassador Parsons and Marseglia – has over 100 staff who work to connect its 1.7 million members with jobs, mentors and skills.
What’s unique about Youth Group is that it’s run for young people, by young people. Sixty per cent of the people working at the company are in their first job, an achievement Marseglia is particularly proud of.
The organisation has helped 95,000 young people into work, orchestrated 22,000 mentoring sessions with professionals in all sorts of businesses and supported its members with interview sessions and CV support.
It takes a lot to make him angry, says Marseglia, but one thing that frustrates him is that “young people are often overlooked because they’re young, and they might not have experience, so they kind of get put to the side”.
While it might seem obvious that a younger person shouldn’t be disregarded for someone who is older based simply on age, this is something that is common in workplaces.
This is even how the minimum wage is structured, with different rates for different ages. It is under this notion that a waiter aged 17 can be paid £4.81 an hour, while their 21-year-old colleague who is doing exactly the same job gets £9.18.
“If you’re doing the same job you should be paid the same,” says Marseglia.
For someone aged 23, Marseglia has a lot of wisdom to share. But why shouldn’t he? If wisdom is based on experience, he has more recent experience of what it’s like to be young than anyone older than him.
“A lot of people find it hard to find their passion…. And I’ve come to realise, don’t follow your passion, follow with passion,” he adds. “It doesn’t have to be your passion, but if you follow whatever you find with passion, that’ll help you get there.”
And if all else fails, find someone you admire, and ask if you can follow them around for a bit. Who knows where it might lead you.