Tips for Coaching Unmotivated Teens

Youth careers coaches are used to encountering a variety of motivational levels. Those lacking drive to join the workforce are not only a professional challenge; they also offer an opportunity to make a huge difference to the wider community.

Find out why

There will be a variety of reasons for lack of motivation to enter the work force. Self-doubt, poor role models and little family support are common contributors. These types of social challenges are not quick fixes, where as simple laziness or lack of vision for a future are a little easier to tackle. Whatever the reason, it will help to know exactly what you are dealing with when developing an effective plan for an unmotivated teen.

Keep it simple to start

For the seriously unmotivated, getting into work of any kind (within reason) is the priority to begin with. Over complicating a teen’s preference and criteria for a first entry level job tends to narrow the options unnecessarily.

The priority for the long term unmotivated is to get them into a workplace making a contribution, earning money and being part of a team.

It will be much easier to focus on career plans and study options from a place of employment, rather than from the couch!

Find the spark and show them the job

Everyone has an interest in something and usually there is a job associated with it, or at least a work experience or volunteer opportunity. Even those interests that are not necessarily positive can all be translated to meaningful work with entry-level employment and volunteer opportunities to get them started.

For example:

Partying                                                               Event management

Gaming                                                                Game developer

Screentime                                                         Volunteer technology tutor at retirement home

Eating                                                                   Hospitality

Hanging out at the shops                                Retail shop assistant


Go a step further than just suggesting options and offering course material. Reach out to your community contacts and pair up your teen client with someone in the industry for work experience or arrange for them to sit in on a training program for a day.

Access to a network of individuals, volunteer organisations, businesses and course providers in your community is a great way to introduce young clients to work and allow them to try different options in a real world scenario. These contacts are invaluable and should be treated as such.

Some organisations can be hesitant about accepting work experience students as there is not always a clear benefit to them. A bad experience generally results in the refusal of further requests. In order to keep these valuable community contacts, accompany your student to work experience initially to ensure they are punctual and are settled in, following instructions and know what to do. The extra effort is worth it to keep an industry contact onside for future placements.

Help to develop a work ethic

When arranging to meet your student or client, make it 9am. Give them some homework to do, such as researching a job, contacting course providers or working on their resume. Give a deadline and offer some form of incentive to meet this.

Celebrate successes

No matter how small the achievement, acknowledge and celebrate it. Recognition and praise go a long way to building self-esteem and the desire to continue achieving.

Give them a reason

Develop information around the benefits of working versus staying unemployed. A brighter future speaks for itself.

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