No one gets rich from youth work. Youth workers serve young people because they care about them. Period. There is nothing more admirable than living out one’s concern for others. Youth workers personify altruism.
When one thinks of a youth worker, traits that immediately come to mind are personable, optimistic and energetic. But there are other traits a youth worker possesses.
Here are the often forgotten traits that make youth workers awesome.
- Adaptable –things hardly ever go according to plan in youth work. One’s personal agenda is less important than a young person’s needs at the moment.
- Compassionate– a deep sense of concern is required if you are to help youth make changes in their lives. This ongoing and intense level of compassion is exhausting. It is why so many youth workers have to leave the field.
- Creative – authentic and effective youth engagement takes a lot of on-going creativity. It’s not easy being creative each and every day.
- Farsighted – as with planting seeds, there is no expectation of immediate gratification. Youth workers understand that the fruits of their labor will only blossom years from now.
- Genuine –youth look for guidance, but will not accept it unless it is genuine. Youth workers cannot “fake it” when working with young people.
- Innovativeness – in youth work, there is no specific prescription or treatment regimen like there is when addressing a physical disease. Each youth is unique and youth workers need to find an innovative approach for each youth.
- Intuitive –with many youth finding it difficult to share their thoughts and feelings, youth workers often have to go with their gut feelings. This means having the ability to tie in multiple factors to become confident in one’s gut feeling.
- Empathetic –because a youth worker will never have direct experience with each youth’s situation, a youth worker must have the ability to imagine what a young person is feeling or experiencing about his or her particular situation. Empathy allows you to walk with the youth.
- Resourceful – no one knows better how to do more with less than a youth worker. Finding ways to keep the interest of a young person with very few resources is part of the day-to-day work of youth worker.
Not everyone possesses the unique blend of skills and traits that form the core of successful youth work. Yet, rarely does the broader community recognize this uniqueness or the value of what youth workers do and the tangible results they produce.
Youth workers are awesome and deserve a day to celebrate together.
YIPA FEST is a celebration of youth work. A day filled with fun, entertainment, learning, and inspiration. It honors those who do amazing things in communities everywhere. The entire day is FREE to YIPA members and a small fee for non-members.
Youth workers are awesome. You are too valuable to not celebrate all that you are and do.
Paul Meunier is the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA)