THE BLOG
07/10/2015 13:03 BST | Updated 06/10/2016 06:12 BST

The Alternative Guide to Getting Ahead

Your 20th year should be an exciting one; a time when you stand on your own two feet after university and start to build your career while enjoying the freedom of being young and carefree. But the sad truth is that today, 1 in 6 young people in the UK are struggling to find work, education or training.

Unfortunately, that statistic chimes with my memory of being 20--not only being without work, but also without much hope. Back in 2013 I found myself homeless. Although I'd been doing well at university, I left before graduating while suffering from severe depression. Several relationships collapsed, I ended up in a shelter, where I was attacked, and I was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness.

As someone who had always worked tirelessly to succeed, this wasn't how I'd envisioned my life. I'd almost given up at this point, and my confidence, which like many people's had always been fragile, was shattered.

Yet today, just two years later, I find myself in a fantastic position. I'm working in digital marketing at iProspect, I'm ambitious, and I'm confident that if I work hard and to the best of my ability, I can be successful.

So what changed? And what advice would I give to anyone in a similar position?

1. Ask for help

I first encountered The Prince's Trust through my local jobcentre, which was referring young people to courses to help them get into employment. I started on their Team programme, a 12 week personal development course, which transformed my life

It can be intimidating to take the first step on a new journey, but if I hadn't made the initial decision to accept their help, I could be somewhere very different today.

2. Don't worry if you don't have the perfect experience

I didn't finish my degree due to my difficult circumstances, but found that a social media apprenticeship with the Juice Academy & West Midlands Fire Service gave me a career direction for the first time.

You should never underestimate the value of your work ethic to potential employers - and professional networks like LinkedIn allow you list transferable skills and upload examples of work, which can be really useful if you don't have an employment history.

3. Keep your self-belief

The Prince's Trust Team Programme helps young people develop employability skills - but perhaps even more important is the self-belief it imparts. The Prince's Trust believed in me, and that helped me start to believe in myself. It wasn't a quick change--when I first arrived on Team, I felt apprehensive and I wasn't very optimistic about the future.

4. Look beyond a day job

You don't have to be in an office to get experience. I applied to volunteer as a Young Ambassador for The Prince's Trust because I want to help people facing similar challenges to those I struggled with. But it's also been a way for me to get some amazing experience - including making a speech to 650 people at an HR industry event.

5. Remember, you have a future

The Team programme taught me that, with the right support, situations can always get better and it is never too late for things to change. If there's one thing I want to pass on to others, that's it.

So many young people experience hardships that can really knock their confidence--but with the right encouragement, they can develop the skills and self-belief to turn their lives around. Even young people who felt they will always amount to nothing can become something beyond their wildest dreams.

I'm extremely proud of my journey, and I now have confidence in both myself and in the work ethic that got me here. But I owe a huge amount to The Prince's Trust, and I want every young person to have the same opportunity to achieve.

Between 5th and 7th October LinkedIn, a partner of The Prince's Trust, will be donating £1 for every UK member that uploads a LinkedIn profile photo for the first time, and 50p for each UK member that shares my LinkedIn post with their connections on the LinkedIn network, to raise awareness and help support vulnerable young people in the UK (up to a combined maximum of £100,000). My LinkedIn post can be found here: http://blog.linkedin.com/get-ahead-uk-2015/

Craig Butler is a Social Media Assistant at iProspect and a Young Ambassador for The Prince's Trust.