Keeping motivation in youth work

MotivationMotivation is key

Life is tough, and so is youth work. Keeping motivation can be difficult. From the outside most people only see the coffees, conversations and if everything goes well a young person who appears to be well rounded. What they don’t see is the hours of paperwork, the phone calls, the parent meetings, the heartache and tears. When all of this gets mixed together with the trauma our young people experience and the lack of structured support from our organisations we come up against vicarious trauma. When this happens it is really hard to stay motivated.

At first you find that all the tasks in your day begin to seem mundane. You start to think you have heard your clients stories before. You are bored by tasks you used to enjoy. Your clients become just another number. Then all of a sudden you are looking at the job boards thinking of your next position. I have worked with dozens of youth workers in just this position over the years. They come to me for advice on how to address their job search as they just need to move on. The first thing I alway address is the reason for wanting to leave.

Youth Work MotivationI wish IĀ could catch these youth workers six months earlier. Planning for your care is so much easier than trying to cobble together a career when you have lost all motivation. You see motivation is hard to regain, but it is pretty easy to maintain.

Here are a few of our go to motivation maintenance techniques that we believe will help any youth worker stay fully motivated for the work ahead:

  1. Know why you became a youth worker. Your values, philosophy and frameworks of youth work are intrinsic to your motivation. If you do not know why you became a youth worker, or what your motivations were to start then it is hard to focus when times get tough.
  2. Get supervision. We harp on about supervision because we know its worth. We don’t just mean the task supervision that you might get at the moment. We mean supervision that asks you to be critically reflective, to look at you as a person as well as you as a practitioner. You need a place to wrestle with the challenges of the job and how they affect you as a person.
  3. Have a life outside of work. Most of the people I know that have lost motivation or burnt out in youth work have lost their ability to live a full life. Their blinders are on and all they can see or think about is work. Get a hobby, catch up with friends and family, take a holiday… Live life outside of work.
  4. Stay up to date with the sector. Get involved with your peak bodies and networks, read journals and books, study, sign up to blogs and newsletters. Be involved with the sector not just your little patch. It helps breed a wider and deeper perspective.

If you do these four things you will find that when the dark days come… and they will, you will have a strong foundation from which to stand with motivation.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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