How Will High Youth Unemployment Impact Your Job Search?

There has been a lot of talk in the news about youth unemployment in Canada (and across the globe).  The current Canadian youth unemployment rate is 16.9%, more than double the general unemployment rate, which is 7.8%. So how does high youth unemployment affect you as a job seeker?  What impact could it have on your job search, and how can you minimize that impact? 

Competition:  There is no doubt that high youth unemployment will bring about increased competition.  If you are a young person, you will feel this competition even more, because the people that you are competing against will have a similar level of experience.  There will be more people applying for every position, and highly qualified applicants will apply for lower level jobs.  The challenge is to stand out in the crowd.

Motivation and confidence:  It can be tough to stay motivated when there is a high unemployment rate, because some days it seems hopeless.  Looking for a job is not easy, so when you aren’t seeing any results,  it can be hard to put in the time.  Even when you get an interview, it is a challenge to feel confident when you know that they probably have at least twenty-five other people on their list who are equally (or even more) qualified for the position.  Don’t forget that a big part of the job search battle takes place in your own mind. 

Employers’ perception of your value:  It is human nature to value what is scarce.  If something is difficult to get, we value it more.  However, if something is readily available, we don’t appreciate it.  This principle also comes into play in the labour market.  If there are plenty of applicants to choose from, the employer may not value them as much as they would if applicants were scarce.  They key is to persuade the employer that while there are a lot of potential applicants available, there are few who are as uniquely qualified for the position as you are.

What can you do to minimize the impact of high youth unemployment on your job search?

Research the labour market:  Particularly when jobs are scarce, it is essential that you research the labour market.  You need to know which jobs are in demand, which industries and companies are growing, and which skills will make you an attractive candidate.  If you don’t do labour market research, you may focus your efforts in the wrong area, and not see any results.

Customize your resume and cover letter for each position:  It is time consuming to customize your resume and cover letter, but in a tight labour market, it is absolutely necessary.  Since other applicants will be customizing their resumes and cover letters, if you don’t, you won’t be able to compete.  By using the same language that the employer uses in the job advertisement, by showing enthusiasm for the particular position and organization, and by clearly outlining how you are an excellent fit for every component of the position, you will be able to stand out, even among hundreds of other applicants.   

Make use of your network:  The reality is that many employers prefer to hire employees with some connection to their organization.  Employers feel that you are a safer candidate if they know someone who will vouch for you.  Also, your network may be able to let you know about hidden or upcoming positions that are available.  Let everyone in your network know that you are looking for work, and meet your networking contacts individually to see if they can provide you with any suggestions or insight.  Most people are happy to help, you just need to ask.

Be flexible:  You began your job search with a clear idea of your goals.  However, after some time, you may be starting to realize that your goals are unrealistic, given the current labour market conditions.  This doesn’t mean that you need to give up on your goals.  Sometimes if you take a lower level position within the same industry, you are able to quickly work your way up within the organization.  Find a way to get your foot in the door, so that you can showcase your skills and your professionalism.

When you see the headlines about youth unemployment, the situation appears bleak.  However, if you handle your job search strategically, and stay motivated, even when you have difficult days, you will be able to achieve both your short term and your long term career goals.

(Source:, Written by: Karen Bivand)




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