What is your dream for the year of Black Dragon?
We have just entered the new year of 2012. It is a Korean tradition to give 12 different animal signs – cow, tiger, horse, monkey, and others – to each year in rotation. This year is the year of black dragon which comes around every 60 years. In the East, the mystical imaginary animal is thought to have royal traits and appears in stories as a divine animal with goodwill. The black dragon, in particular, is considered the best of the kind, and there is a mythical belief that in the year of black dragon, babies with divine spirit are born.
Everybody has their own new year’s wish, and many Koreans like to go to places where they can get a nice view of the rising sun for their little wish-making rituals. In a survey by a Korean job portal asking people in their 20s and 30s about their new year’s wishes, 45.6 percent of respondents said they wanted to get a job, get a promotion or change jobs. As for the words of blessing they would like to hear most, every second person said ‘make lots of money’. We can see that the tough conditions in the job market and consequent financial difficulties are one of the biggest problems facing our young generation.
The problem of unemployment is becoming a serious social issue that we now have a neologism “spec-poor” ― in short for “specification poor” referring to qualified graduates who have high English test scores and excellent academic records from reputed schools but still struggle to find a job. Young Koreans of today are all in the competition for more and better “specs”, missing out on all romance and experience they deserve to have. On top of that, the global financial crisis hasn’t made things any easier.
This is an agonizing situation for our youths. A survey found that eight out of 10 college students are obsessed with “spec” improvement and suffer from depression, lethargy, indigestion or other stomach disorders, headache, sociophobia, insomnia among other conditions.
In order to resolve this problem of unemployment, the government, citizens and businesses must all join forces. It particularly requires action on the part of businesses as important members of the society. It is the role and indeed responsibility of businesses to provide young people with more practical opportunities and substantial help to reach out to the world.
Employing talented people is also in the interest of businesses themselves for developing and managing human resources, one of the most important factors of corporate management. For example, companies can partner with universities to organize training specific to the demand of the industry. They should also absorb young workforce by offering more internship opportunities. Global companies with sound infrastructure for nurturing talents must also take responsibility and initiative to address the issue of youth unemployment.
To this end, my company, Amway Korea, introduced a global internship program last year through which we have been hiring outstanding interns as our regular employees. The one-on-one mentoring program, in particular, has helped provide hands-on training in a systematic way. In addition, the trainees were given an opportunity to visit the headquarters of Amway Global in the U.S. where they worked with local interns on a global project, improving their leadership skills.
Many economists are putting forward negative prospects for this year, and it looks like the unemployment problem is not easy to tackle. Despite these circumstances, however, I would like to offer one piece of advice to young job-seekers: give much thought to and maintain a clear vision about “your dream”, instead of searching for security only. Encouraging young people to choose jobs as a means of fulfilling their dreams and to prioritize meaningful experience over the size of the company would be the key to reducing the level of youth unemployment.
The focus of Amway Korea’s global internship program, therefore, is on helping young people who are embarking on their career to develop and unleash their potential, rather than turning the spec-poor into the spec-rich. We are doing so in the hope of sending a message that those who work hard with a clear vision and goal will succeed.
Park Se-jun is CEO of Amway Korea.