It is generally acknowledged that pursuing, and succeeding in, a career will lead to a certain degree of stress. As the financial crisis worsened, so too did working lives for people across the UK with work-related stress soaring by 40% in an economic downturn according to research by the University of Nottingham and University of Ulster. Over the last few years nearly everyone has felt under pressure in their careers, but sadly it seems that those who are paying the highest price for our workaholic culture are the next generation.
The tragic death of 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt, who collapsed after eight all-night shifts whilst working as an intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has shone a light on the increasing pressures that young people are under in the working world. Whether he suffered from any pre-existing medical condition has yet to be discovered, but Merrill Lynch has since launched an internal review whilst the media were quick to blame the working practices of 'stress in The City'.
Unfortunately this is a generation who are starting their careers in the wake of one of the worst economies for decades and they are feeling the pressure to succeed. Many of them will have worked incredibly hard through school to secure a place at university where it is now expected that they must secure at least a 2:1 degree. When they begin to look for a career they are competing with rising unemployment figures, 973,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in April to June 2013, as well as rivals who had previously been made redundant and have the added advantage of experience. As job opportunities have become scarcer, the pressure has increased for young people and even the most talented graduates have struggled to find work.
So after all of that, if any young person is lucky enough to secure a place on an internship programme, it is no wonder that they are willing to push themselves in the pursuit of a career. Understanding the pressures that today's young people are under will only help us address this situation and try to ensure that an internship is something to be enjoyed, where young people can learn about a profession in a welcoming and friendly environment.
Equally this sad case has prompted soul searching across the wider business community and rightly so. Employers must ask whether we are expecting too much from interns who are often fresh out of university, eager to learn and often desperate to prove their worth. As part of my role as an Ambassador for LifeSkills, I constantly encourage businesses to hire young people as they are a brilliant way to grow your company, they bring with them a fresh perspective and often end up an invaluable part of your team. Nevertheless all employers have a duty of care, regardless of whether you're a large corporation or a small family business, to ensure that every employee is being looked after, especially if they are an intern.
Although we all tell ourselves we need to address our work-life balance, have we ever thought about the effect we are having on the next generation? Careers and success will always be an important part of everyone's life, but that doesn't mean success should have to come at so high a price.