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Why is it So Hard for Youth to Find a Job?

Today's job market is competitive.  It is difficult for a young person to break in and land their first job.  It is extremely discouraging to keep sending in your resume only to be greeted by silence.  Perhaps you are afraid that no employer will ever want to hire you over more experienced candidates.  Don't get discouraged; as a young person, you have strengths that employers are seeking.  If you are strategic about your job search and you persist with it,  you will find the right opportunity.  Here are some common concerns of youth job seekers and how you can overcome them:

"I don't have any experience!"  When you are looking for your first full-time job, your lack of experience can feel daunting.  Even entry level jobs request one to three years of experience, but how can you ever get that experience if nobody is willing to hire you?!  The truth is that even if you haven't had a paid job, you still have lots of experience.  Consider your internships, volunteer work, school work, and hobbies.  Make a list of the experiences you've had and the skills that you've developed.  Many of these skills are easily transferrable to an entry-level position.

"I don't know what I want to do!"  Many people graduate from high school and university without a clear idea of what they want to do for a career.  As a job seeker, this can be a big problem because you don't know where to look.  Also, if you are applying to different types of jobs in different industries, customizing your resume is time consuming.  Your job search will be easier if you choose a career or an industry that interests you and focus your energy there.  You can always change your target, but your job search efforts will be more efficient and effective if you have a goal in mind.    

"I don't know anyone!"  We often hear about how important networking is to your job search but how can you have a network if you've never had a job?  The truth is that you probably have a lot more people in your network than you realize.  Make a list of everyone you know including your friends, family, classmates, teachers, teammates, people you know from volunteer work, people you know from church, doctor, dentist, neighbour, etc.  When you are talking to all of these people, tell them that you are looking for a job and ask if they know of anyone who might be hiring.  The best opportunities can come from the most unlikely sources.    

"I'm not bringing anything to the table."  Looking for a job can be tough on your confidence.  After a few rejections, it can start to feel like you don't have much to offer.  It's important that you stay strong because you have to believe in yourself if you are going to sell your skills to an employer.  Make a list of your skills that are relevant to the job and be sure to include specific examples of when you demonstrated those skills.  If you focus on your strengths, the employer will too.  

"I'm never going to find a job!"  Almost every job seeker reaches a point where they feel like nobody will ever hire them.  Looking for a job is time consuming, frustrating, and sometimes heart breaking.  If you have hit a wall and you are starting to feel like this is never going to happen for you, know that you are not alone.  This is the time when you have to pick yourself up and just keep going.

As a young person looking for your first job, you might feel like you have challenges that other job seekers are not facing.  However, the reality is that everyone has a weakness or a reason that employers might not want to hire them.  Some job seekers are afraid that they are too old, have gaps in their job history, have no Canadian experience, are coming from a different industry, are overqualified for the job, have a disability, have a criminal record, have experience that is too general, have only been self-employed, have been with the same company for 20 years, and it goes on and on.  The point is that there is no perfect candidate; just focus on how your strengths relate to the specific position and eventually a door will open for you.   


 (Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Marcolm at