TORONTO – From extra money to experience, securing summer work can offer plenty of potential rewards for youth – it’s landing the job that can be challenging.
As post-secondary students and new graduates embark on the job hunt, they’re vying for hotly contested positions in a particularly tough job climate for the country’s youth.
According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate for youth aged 15-24 in February was 13.6 per cent – nearly double the national average of 7.7 per cent.
Lauren Friese is the founder of TalentEgg, a Canadian job site and career resource for students and recent grads. The site recently launched “Bright Ideas,” an online initiative aimed at crowd-sourcing solutions to improve Canada’s youth employment.
Friese said some of the top ideas so far centre on helping high school students make better decisions about what they study and also teaching youth about the need to have marketable skills.
As TalentEgg continues to gather “Bright Ideas” on how to help improve youth unemployment and underemployment among Canadians, Friese has some suggestions for students and new grads currently looking for work.
1. Seek help. Friese said one of the most underused resources students have at their disposal are their on-campus career centres where services such as resume writing workshops and interview coaching are offered for free.
“That’s the kind of service that once you’ve graduated if you decide to go and work with a professional costs a lot of money,” she said, adding that most schools will even allow alumni to make use of their career services.
“That one-on-one attention … (having a) professional looking over your resume and telling you what to change – that’s something that you shouldn’t take for granted.”
2. Tap into digital tools. Friese said digital tools can help job-seekers not only in distinguishing themselves but to help broadcast their message to a broader audience.
Not only can individuals send a link to a digital portfolio to a prospective employer, they could also use online tools as a possible platform to highlight their areas of interest, from writing an article about environmental consulting or a blog post on the latest IPO, she noted.
“Showing that demonstrated interest and keen desire to work in the industry is the most important thing in getting through the resume, interview and screening process.”
3. Know the employer. Friese said it’s important for applicants to show a demonstrated interest in the industry and job they’re applying to, as well as the company.
“It’s not even about being flattering; it’s about showing that you’ve done the research and you know what the opportunity is and why you would be good at it.”
Friese said a key way for job-seekers to distinguish their applications is to ensure they’re taking the time to modify and tailor their submission for each company.
“I have very little sympathy for people who say they sent out a hundred resumes and got nothing and all those resumes and cover letters look identical,” she said.
“Job hunting is work. It’s not easy, it’s hard. But it’s because it’s a serious thing that you’re getting. It’s a job. It’s someone paying you real money so you should have to work for it. And so that’s the very, very basic step is to customize it.”
4. Job hunt outside the lines. Friese said many of the structured programs which offer summer jobs and entry-level positions are already full. But those still seeking work with bigger companies may still be able to find positions which are being posted, she noted.
Students should start looking toward small and medium-sized companies and should consider roles outside of the specific area they’d like to pursue in the long term, Friese said.
“I think a lot of times people are looking for the wrong thing at the entry-level. They’re really focused on ‘How much they’re going to get paid?’ or ‘Is this exactly what I want to do?’ or ‘Am I going to meet exactly the right people?’
“It’s all about building up an experience and a track record in the workplace … in a way that helps you understand what it is you’re really good at, what you’re bad at, what you like to do, and what you really don’t like to do so that when you go to your next opportunity you can better focus and better articulate why you belong there – both things that will help you get the job.”