Perspective For The Overeducated And Unemployed


There has been a lot of coverage recently of the high youth unemployment rates in Canada: the national unemployment rate is 7.2% while the youth unemployment rate is 14%.

If these statistics have not scared you enough, what about the $23.1 billion in lost wages that Canadian youth will experience over the next 18 years? (According to a TD Economics report.)

To make it even worse, Martin Schwerdtfeger, Senior Economist at TD Bank, writes that “being unemployed at a young age can have a long-lasting impact on an individual’s career prospects.”

I read, hear and watch these media reports and understand exactly why students are flooding into my office looking horrified about their future prospects.

I see why the anxiety, stress and depression levels are high in this population.  Not only do we live with the constant threat of impending doom from terrorists and swine flu but, to top it all off, members of the current generation are going to spend thousands of dollars on an education and may end up unemployed – or under-employed – and broke.

If we send young people out into the world of work with expectations of disaster, that is exactly what they will get.  I prefer a less defeatist approach.  After all, people are more likely to hire recent grads if they are full of energy and optimism.

So let’s turn it around.

Great news: 86% of youth are going to be employed soon after they graduate!  That seems like a not-so-bad number and the chances of ending up in that category are likely pretty high if you are taking the time to read this post.  It means that you are dedicated to doing something about your future, taking action and getting results.

In fact, a report from the Certified General Accountants of Canada entitled Youth Unemployment in Canada: Challenging Conventional Thinking, points out that:

  • The highest level of youth unemployment (15.2%) during the recent recession was noticeably below that experienced during previous recessions when youth unemployment swelled to 19.2% in 1983 and 17.2% in 1992. Remember: it’s currently about 14%.
  • Nearly half (46.8%) of unemployed youth were able to find a job within one to four weeks in 2011, while the average duration of unemployment experienced by youth did not exceed 11 weeks in that year. In fact, the average duration of youth unemployment in 2011 was well below the shortest average duration ever experienced by young and mature workers over the past 30 years: 12.5 weeks in 2006 and 16.2 weeks in 2008 respectively.

The truth of the matter is that there are people without jobs and almost as many jobs without people.  What we need to do is educate youth on emerging markets, and required and desired employability skills.

So rather than sit back and wallow in self-pity, blaming the Baby Boomer generation for not retiring already, do your research.  Take a look at where the jobs are. What are the growth industries? What personal and technical skills do you need to succeed?

And then start planning.  Be strategic, focused and dedicated.  Take a couple of technical courses, volunteer with an organization to gain practical skills, attend networking events and, most of all, stay positive.  You are more likely to be motivated by working toward a positive outcome than by trying to avoid a negative one.

And when you have just been turned down for a job and are starting to feel defeated, take the advice of author Napoleon Hill, who said that “most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

Photo credit: Dave Emmett

About the author

Clare Tattersall is the Manager of Career Development and Community Based Learning at Huron University College at Western University in London, Ont. She oversees the international exchange and internship programs, offers career counseling and development appointments and workshops, and has developed and implemented a co-curricular certificate in Leadership and Professional Development. Clare holds a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature and has over 10 years of experience in the communications sector and post-secondary administration.