Moving From "I Know" to "I Can"

04/25/2013 09:04 am ET | Updated Jun 25, 2013
Getty Images

Self-Confidence: a Legacy of Empowerment

There is no shortage of inspiring young people in this world -- young people who are role models in their communities, young people who are meeting the challenge of unemployment by creating jobs, young people who are leading change.

When I travel to our Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) locations around the world, I have the privilege of meeting young people who are at the center of the unemployment challenge in their communities -- and are doing something about it. The message I hear over and over again from these young women and men is that they need more than technical skills. They stress that both personal and professional development are keys to their pathway to employment and self-reliance. Personal development allows youth to identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to set goals and overcome the daunting transition from school to work. Personal development is essential for youth to develop the necessary self-confidence and courage to form personal networks and to identify and seize opportunities in their communities. However, despite the obvious need for personal development, it is so often missing from learning programs..

Building networks can be a key step to overcoming unemployment in many countries where jobs and business development so often depend on personal relationships. Without a network, marginalized youth fall victim to nepotism and can be overwhelmed by bureaucracy. Networks contribute to a better understanding of self and the community in which one lives. Rita, a young woman from Kenya, has stated that her network has allowed her to: "extend beyond myself, broaden my views, and understand others."

The ability to identify opportunities in their communities is an important part in securing that all-important first job. Self-confidence and self-esteem helps youth inspect the community from new perspectives. The discipline to seek and identify opportunities contributes to career mobility within communities. When youth have the confidence to identify opportunities they become resilient, they are able to mobilize when opportunities disappear -- and an adaptable and resilient worker is a worker that is highly valued in today's economy.

I recently met Nkurunziza, an inspiring young man from Kigali, Rwanda. He was participating in our ReachUp! program and was learning basic technology and business concepts from Hassan, a DOT Intern and college graduate. Nkurunziza told me about how, with Hassan's help, he examined the issues he saw in his community and researched how he might use his new business skills to address them. "I acquired the skills and confidence to believe I could be self-reliant and make change in my community," says Nkurunziza.

Equipped with the confidence to develop networks and identify economic opportunities, youth are able to overcome skills mismatch, bureaucracy, nepotism and geographic location -- all barriers to employment.

Without belief in self, youth rely on others for opportunities and become immobile. It is the cornerstone of belief in self that inspires and mobilizes others, helps youth navigate the path to employment and self-reliance, and creates lasting change in communities around the world -- a legacy of empowerment.