I was the kind of teenager who counted down to the exact day I turned 14 years and 9 months old so that I could go out and get my first job. I had been casually babysitting for cousins and family friends, but I craved that satisfaction of going to a shift at work and bringing home a pay check. It felt responsible and grown up. To me, getting a job not only meant that I could start saving up for things that I wanted for myself, it also meant that I could start contributing to my family expenses.
The year was 2007, the month was August and after seeing a sign on a shop window, full of nerves and in my best crisp white shirt, I walked into a newsagency at Chadstone Shopping Centre and handed in my resume. I had an interview and was offered a trial shift. I fumbled around, momentarily forgot how to count when trying to figure out a customer’s change and left my first three hour shift absolutely exhausted, but full of pride and excitement about what was to come. I had a twinge of sadness at the idea of my “childhood” being over, but that feeling quickly dissipated amidst juggling a new work schedule, school work and my caring role.
Now, my first job wasn’t a huge success. My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2007 and by November, less than three months into my first job, I quit over the phone with no notice because my anxiety was sky high and I physically couldn’t do anything else. I wasn’t proud of it.
I spent the next six months in full Young Carer mode for my mum and my brother, creating a formidable team with my dad to keep our family together and most importantly, to get my mum healthy again.
Over the next six years I had nine different jobs, ranging from retail, to a short (and very poor) stint in hospitality, to working at a boarding school and as a leadership program facilitator. I met hundreds of people, worked five boxing day sales and saved up enough money to travel and help my family out with rent and medical expenses as and when needed.
In 2015, I landed my first “adult” job as a marketing intern at L’Oréal in the Garnier Skincare team. I bought a whole new wardrobe, decorated my desk and that year, even saved up enough to buy my very first car. It wasn’t all glamorous and at the beginning, I didn’t tell my boss about my caring role because I didn’t want to seem weak or unreliable.
It wasn’t until I ended up at the hospital with my brother at 2am on a Tuesday morning and then tried to complete a full day of work on less than 3 hours of sleep, that I told my team about my family. They sent me home to get some rest and I came back the next day to find that everything was the same, nothing had changed, their expectations of me were still the same, and the weaknesses I thought my caring role brought with it were actually strengths that made me the kind of employee they wanted on their team.
The most daunting thing about getting your first job is realising that you’re already expected to have years of experience. On the flip side, the beautiful thing about growing up as a Young Carer is that we already have years of experience. We’re organised, great multitaskers, empathetic and incredible advocates, and that’s just the beginning.
This year, with support from the Victorian Government, we have launched the Young Carer Job Readiness Project, a comprehensive support offering aiming to ensure young people with caring roles have the same access to employment opportunities as their non-caring peers. Together with Holmesglen TAFE and a range of corporate partners, Young Carers will access vocational skill development and training opportunities, alongside workplace mentoring, internships and work experience.
Applications are now open for The Young Carer Job Readiness Project and close on Sunday 27 February. We’re even holding a virtual information evening on Monday night (21 February ) to answer all of your burning questions about the program.
You can register for the information evening here.
When you’re ready, you can apply for the program here.
We can’t wait to get to know you more through this journey.