Should we give up our aspirations to find work?

Tourism, catering, events, culture… Many sectors are suffering the full brunt of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. Among the populations most affected, young “new entrants” to the labor market, who have to deal with increasingly scarce offers and almost non-existent professional experience. According to INSEE, in the second quarter of 2020, the employment rate among young people aged 15 to 24 had fallen to 26.6%, reaching its lowest point since 1975.

A blow for a generation which tended to value the search for meaning in its job search, and which must now learn to juggle between personal aspirations and economic imperatives. Faced with a labor market in crisis, is having a job that makes sense still so important? Should we give up certain ideals, at the risk of permanently moving away from a profession consistent with its values?

This is the question that goes round and round in the head of Louis, a master’s student in history. While he has the impression of having finally found his vocation, the young man is torn between branching out into the public service or pursuing research, a path that fulfills him. “If it weren’t for the current economic context, I would choose history, research. But with the wave of unemployment looming – in a field that already offers few openings – I wonder if it is reasonable to push myself in this direction: I risk finding myself in a too precarious professional situation… ”

Having a meaningful job has become an increasingly widespread concern in recent years among employees; This is evidenced by the growing popularity of professional retraining. Containment, by calling into question the social utility of certain professions, has further increased this phenomenon: according to a Yougov study carried out in April, 55% of French people have questioned the meaning of their work since the start of the pandemic, a figure which climbs to 61% among 15-24 year olds. But reconciling personal aspirations and market reality is not always possible. Lucas, a young photographer, paid the price. “I studied communication, but I have always been passionate about photography. I trained at the same time as my studies, and after graduating I started as a freelance photographer. At the beginning, it worked rather well, I saw my turnover increase steadily, but since the crisis, almost everything has stopped. I was waiting to see if the situation would unblock, but I’ll probably have to return to communication. It’s really hard to admit, because I was touching a dream with my finger and I’m going to have to put it on standby, without being sure that I will ever be able to relive it. “

According to Vanessa Di Paola, economist and specialist in issues of integration of young people into the labor market, the exogenous origin of the crisis is precisely what makes it so difficult to apprehend: “The current crisis was triggered by a health problem. Therefore, it is very difficult to estimate how long it will take before activity resumes. Faced with this uncertainty, some people make compromises in order to be able to get a job, knowing that their professional trajectory would probably not have been the same if they had started under favorable conditions. If this situation lasts, it can then create dissatisfaction and generate consequences in terms of psychosocial risks ”, explains the economist.

In order not to find themselves in this impasse, some students then decide to wait for a more favorable context, by extending their internships, continuing their training for longer or simply putting their research on hiatus. But it is still necessary to have the possibility of postponing obtaining a salary. “Many young people cannot afford to wait: they have neither unemployment nor RSA. If parents can’t help them financially, how are they doing? “, asks Vanessa Di Paola.

Favoring a job that is consistent with one’s aspirations or betting on quick hiring at the risk of giving up certain ideals is a very real dilemma for some young graduates, who have to deal with a highly shaken labor market. If this question is certainly difficult to resolve, it does not arise for everyone: only those who benefit from a privileged social context can afford the luxury of considering it.


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