Case studies Nero, the social networker
Nero, the social networker
Nero, the social networker

Nero, the social networker (6)

Motto: I am such a type. I am appreciative of support of my friends, I like having them around, they help me if they can and I do so in return.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Nero (22, male) comes from a well educated family. He is currently living with his mother (his parents are divorced). His great passion is playing in a rock band where he spends most of his free time. He has a wide network of friends and acquaintances.


Educational and transitional pathways

Nero has finished the Hauptschule (lower secondary school) in 2005 with good results. Between 2005 and 2007, he conducted a voluntary, unpaid traineeship at a social organisation. After that, he did his Civilian Service in a hospital (which in Germany is compulsory for young men refusing the Military Service). This was followed by a six month period of unemployment. From 2007-2009 he attended the Realschule (upper secondary school) in an evening school and completed his leaving certificate with “good” (2,4). After that, he worked few days on a trial basis in a residential home. Since August 2009 he is being trained as social assistant and will finish in August 2011. This will qualify him for doing basic assisting work in the fields of child education/youth welfare, geriatric care and care of disabled people. Altogether, this is a very extended transition of five years, and not yet finished. Looking back, he judges his transitions on the one hand as an exhausting and nerving experience (especially the tense search time) but on the other hand as “inspiring” and positive: he is thankful that he did not enter a vocational training directly but instead was able to make job experiences beforehand, thus finding out about his occupational preferences. In the retrospective, he perceives further qualification (Realschule certificate) as being crucial for his successful employment market integration.

Motivations and Strategies

Nero´s efforts in finding employment are connected with the wish to “having something to do” and to do something meaningful. He had experienced that sitting at home and being unemployed is neither satisfactory nor rewarding for him, but boring and isolating. He did not mention economic matters. After not having been successful in his efforts to finding a vocational training place after school (“no perspective” with only a Hauptschule certificate), Nero used the traineeship and the Civilian Service as interim solutions in order to avoid unemployment periods and to gain work experiences. His decision to go to an evening school for attaining a Realschule leaving certificate resulted in his experience that his former certificate was not sufficient in order to get a traineeship position. He experienced a longer period of unemployment which was connected with a lack of motivation due to the failure in entering the job world. Nero perceives the vocational training he is currently undergoing as a passage to a more skilled job in the social field. To achieve this, he intends to intensively use the scheduled traineeships in different fields for finding out which area he likes most. After this training, he will be doing another, more advanced training in the field of his choice as he considers the current training as not sufficient in order to find proper work in the social field.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

Unemployment period

Nero has been unemployed for six months before doing a traineeship which firstly he originates on him having been “lazy”. The underlying reason for this he sees in being discouraged and drooping by his failures in finding a vocational training. He describes the visits at the local employment centre as being particularly awkward and futile. He did not feel comfortable there, but exposed to the staff who did not know anything about him and fobbed him with useless and inapropriate job advertisements. He managed this crisis with the activating help from his friends and family. During this experience, he came to the conclusion that there was no use of waiting for job offers to come. He learned that he had to get active himself in order “not to get lost”, to look around in his own informal network for ideas and opportunities. As another key element of coping with such a difficult situation he mentions stress resistance in order to endure disappointments and offences as well as “staying power” in this period of live.

Re-orientation in Transitions

In his orientation period after finishing his Realschule certificate, Nero had been working on a trial basis at a residential home with the aim to start a vocational training there. Soon he made the experience that this was not the right place for him (rather because of the way the elderly were treated there than working with the elderly themselves). He decided to stop going there. This was a risky decision as there were only two weeks to go until the official period for vocational trainings started and all places would be taken. There was not much time for reorientiation. Additionally, this placed considerable pressure of justification on him as many people in his environment criticized his way of letting such a chance go by. However, his mother accepted his decision and supported him in finding alternatives. She finally explored in her own network the training school he is currently attending.

Although, looking back, Nero himself considers the trial work in the residential home as wasted time, this has prevented him of starting a vocational training at a place where he did not agree with the working approach and from probably dropping out of it.

Standing up for his own plans and interests has been one of the key tasks in his transitions. For example, this has been the case also when he decided to attend the evening school. He managed not to let himself being forced to do something he did not wish and in the end has been respected, tolerated and supported in his ways by friends and family.

Support Services used

The first support came from Neros school where pupils received vocational orientation and assistance in compiling application material. In the retrospective, Nero considers this as helpful not so much in terms of easing his way into employment but of having an orientation for writing applications, although he developed his own ways in doing so. Furthermore, he got information on opportunities and links to other support measures at his youth club which he recommends strongly to other young people looking for help. The Employment agency invited pupils for a short interview and provided information on the variety of job opportunities and with job offers. To Nero, this has not been valuable help. He assesses that they did not have the resources to respond to his specific needs. Therefore, later on he did not make use of this service anymore. Neros peer network plays the dominant role in his transition process. Already his first traineeship organization outside school was chosen because he knew it from attending its youth club himself as a pupil. The idea of going to the hospital for his Civilian Service came from a former schoolmate. A friend told him about the possibility to catch up on his leaving certificate from the Realschule at the evening school free of charge. When learning there, a friend from his rock band gave him private lessons in Maths. From an acquaintance he heard about a company for a minijob he did in order to finance his evening school. The residential home where he worked on a trial basis was chosen because the director was the father of a former schoolmate. More than that, friends have been of great value in being receptive to just listening to his concerns so he did not feel alone with his problems.

Another mayor support factor was Neros family. He received help from his sisters and brothers in form of information material or assistance by compiling applications. His mother kept her eyes open for him and gained information about possibilities. Her backing of all his decisions and continuous support meant much to him. His friends and family activated him.

The Support Nero lacked was on the one hand comprehensive and structured information on the variety of options available and, on the other hand, early assistance in order to find a vocational way appropriate to individual interests and resources. Nero sees the need to fathom individual interests as a basic pre-condition to find appropriate tracks.

Learning type

Three main ways of learning are detectable:

Learning from practical experiences: in order to find out what he would like to do professionally, Nero identifies traineeships in and outside school as the best method. Getting an inside in different working fields gave him the orientation needed to come to a job decision. Here he learned, that “social work is my thing”, whereas beforehand “I had never thought of ending up in the social area”.

Social learning: Neros main way of getting information on options available, but also of dealing with difficulties was to talk to friends. He relied on informal knowledge sharing among peers and learning from their experiences.

Self-directed learning: While finding it difficult to gain knowledge and support from pre-defined, institutionalized support measures and formal learning, Nero rather likes to develop his own ways of dealing with transition challenges: getting active himself, informally asking around for options in his network, trying out what he really wants, seeking orientation by looking at friends and family – and taking the time he needs for this.

Information and Communication Technologies

The internet has not played a major role as area of support. Nero used websites from the local employment center for finding out about job offers. Google served as information platform (job descriptions) and for the search of vocational training opportunities, as well as linkage to other useful websites such as Gigajob: a linking page for employers and employees who can place own advertisements for their specific job search criteria. Nero considers himself very proficient in using digital online applications. He is spending much time in the internet, mainly in order to communicate with friends (e.g. ICQ), for playing, but also as a learning area e.g. for the preparation of homework, presentations and as information source.

For the G8WAY platform to be developed, Nero recommends to concentrate on networking, e.g. in form of fora and networks for peer exchange of experiences (e.g. field reports or assessment of companies). Furthermore, he would propose a pool of useful links to job platforms but also to bodies who can help young people in a wider frame e.g. helpdesks, youth welfare services and crisis hotlines.