Have Young People Forgotten How to Take Risks?

By Miles Byrd

Risk is defined as ‘The possibility of suffering harm or loss’. Here I’m specifically talking about risk taking with career choices, not parachuting out of helicopters or petting lions. For some, career risks are the hardest to take, for others they just ‘happen’. Young people (me included) are constantly told we’ve got far more opportunities than our parents ever had, which is then juxtaposed with the highest youth unemployment rate since 1971. It’s a recipe for confusion.

Self-belief is a phrase that gets thrown around often in conjunction with risk. I’ve recently faced the same sort of dilemma that a lot of young people must confront. I had the opportunity to accept a 12-month internship at a major music label that have would have given me a great company name on my CV, or work freelance for an exciting agency that would give me hands on experience and responsibility. I took a risk on the agency, but not without debating what was right for me, and my CV.

We’re told there’s a set path we must go down; go to school, then college, then university and find a job straight away. Don’t be a failure. We’re faced with the double edged sword of being told to take internships with massive companies because ‘it’ll look great on your CV’, but then left without the requisite skills to truly make a difference within that business. We listen to this ‘advice’, and we follow this path, because we lack self-belief. I can make decisions on my own, but it’s easier to share the blame of failure if I can point at the person who advised me.

Failure isn’t something that’s easily dealt with, but without taking risks valuable life lessons won’t be learnt. Celebrity culture has promised young people instantaneous success and riches over night. That might be true for a handful, but for the rest of us we’ve got to put in work and graft, which inherently breeds confidence and self-belief. Malcolm Gladwell says you need to dedicate 10,000 hours to your craft to become an expert and I agree (maybe not 10,000, but there goes my instantaneous self again). You must have a lot of dedication and ambition and be willing to run the risk of potential failure to get where you want to be.

My advice to fellow young people is to take more risks. Spend hours learning, and then spend hours doing. Trust your instincts and have a little bit of self-belief and go out and make it happen. If you don’t believe you can do it, why would anybody else?

Mile Byrd of Champion