Cultivate Yourself: UN Chief advises youth at the ILO

June 29, 2014

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently visited the ILO headquarters in Geneva. I had the pleasure of attending the session and also listening to his interaction with the participating youth.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon succinctly echoed the ILO values when he said, “Work is more than a source of income, it is a source of dignity.” Referring to the magnitude of the problem — over 74 million youth are unemployed worldwide — Mr. Ban ki-moon termed it “an epidemic of youth unemployment”.

Indeed, it is a tough time for young people. It is increasingly challenging for them to find a job — at least the ones they have set their heart on. As a consequence, people are settling for less and accepting anything that comes their way.

“Young people are losing hope. What would you advise them?” was a question a young lady posed to Mr Ban Ki-moon at the session.

“Cultivate yourself… Young people have the tremendous potential for adaptation,” he replied. Illuminating further, he said, ‘Think where would your talent be best used… Don’t just look for big companies, explore options of working with civil society, getting engaged with humanitarian work… and use your social media skills.’ He also encouraged the youth to adopt a global perspective and become global citizens as “the world is tightly connected”.

These are words of wisdom and sound advice from the UN statesman. I hope youth all over the world will keep this refreshing perspective in mind as they prepare themselves to enter the labour force. Cultivate yourself, is in fact, a message for many across the board: those who want to move up the ladder; and those struggling to find a job.

In one of my earlier posts: Self-esteem @ economic recession (, I had discussed a similar thought: Take stock of your skills and expertise and see where you can apply them. You may have lost a job but you haven’t lost the ability to work.