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The death of the Canadian dream? Not necessarily…


The death of the Canadian dreamIn a National Post article by Andrew Mayeda, he discusses the challenges faced by the Millennials — those born after 1980 — in finding a job in today’s economy. Specifically he  profiles an individual with a master’s degree in international affairs and volunteer experience working abroad for non-profit organizations. At 27 she is finding it challenging to find full-time employment and has been forced to take a contract job.

The recession hit many individuals hard, but the younger generation was particularly disadvantaged. According to Statistics Canada, the summer unemployment rate for workers aged 15-24 was 16.8%, better than last year’s average of 19.2%, but still an alarmingly high rate. Students are therefore finishing school with higher debt and tougher prospects in finding a job in their field.

It is therefore essential for new grads to carefully plot their professional endeavors. Weigh the pros and cons of travel, internships, co-op employment, volunteer work and entry-level roles. Below are some of the basics:

Travel: For personal development purposes, travel offers job applicants the ability to develop their problem solving, interpersonal and communication skills while also gaining  independence and cultural understanding. While an important life skill, individuals need to realize that employers may not consider this as practical work experience when evaluating entry-level applicants.

Internships: While often unpaid, internships offer job seekers an invaluable opportunity to get their foot in the door in their field of interest. This may lead to a full-time offer or at the very least practical experience in the work force. With most internships lasting three to six months, job seekers are then armed with professional contacts and work experience that will help them land their next opportunity. The down side is that unpaid internships may not be economically feasible for some individuals.

Several universities, including SFU and UBC offer co-op programs where students are placed in full-time, paid work arrangements to gain practical work experience in their field of study. They gain academic credit for their efforts and finish their diploma/degree with an advantage over their peers.

Volunteer work
: With numerous non-profit organizations needing assistance, volunteer work is a great way to gain practical experience in your field of study. While sites like posts opportunities, also consider organizations that are most important to you and reach out to them directly. You can gain experience in a variety of professional fields including accounting, fundraising/sales, marketing, event coordination, operations, IT etc.

Entry-level work: Don’t shy away from entry-level opportunities and the value they offer for new grads. Consider companies and industries of interest and apply for entry-level or administrative roles. Once you’re employed, work hard and express interest in upward mobility within the firm. By proving yourself on the job, employers will take note of potential talent and reward accordingly!

A tough labour market does not mean the death of the Canadian dream. It is about adjusting expectations and pursuing opportunities that will lay the foundation for future career success. Individuals need to remain focused during their job search and upon hire while maximizing opportunities and making smart and strategic decisions. While you may not find the job of your dreams in the first couple of years, work hard, use sound judgment and enlist the help of friends, family, career coaches and mentors. You will find your path and achieve your Canadian dream.


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