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The elusive "now hiring" oasis

Job hunt often more like wandering in the desert

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It's hard out there for students trying to find work. It's well known, too -- the media has almost gleefully reported on the frustration of youths trying to find employment in these troubling times.

Young men and women across the country -- who have in no way contributed to the current economic crisis -- are beating the pavement trying to eke out any source of income. The old joke about graduates fresh out of university flipping burgers has come to pass for many who took out student loans in the belief that better careers were just around the corner.

Now, if they're lucky, they'll be able to find part-time work in big-box retailers.

Unfortunately, the student job market is even more awful. Anecdotally, many youths are finding themselves unemployed. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, student unemployment is high with 18.4 per cent of Canadian students jobless. The number of students participating in the labour force has dropped significantly, too -- from 75.2 per cent in 2008 to 68.6 per cent in 2009.

These participation figures show something really troublesome: that students are now refusing to go out and even look for jobs. The figures also suggest something more insidious, something that is reflected anecdotally: young men and women aren't bothering to find a job due to both depressing stories in the media and feelings of discouragement. While it's easier to find a job in a city like Calgary, in Ontario it's extremely bleak.

It gets discouraging after 50 resumes are handed out with nary a call-back. Valuable money is used up in ink and paper purchases. When you're supporting yourself, these costs can add up to financial death by a thousand paper cuts. Heaven forbid you don't own a printer or have access to a cheap (or free) printing service. That's an extra cost that helps drain the bank account surprisingly quickly.

But no one should be feeling "oh poor me" during this time. People shouldn't be faulted for feeling despair, but it's not a constructive use of anyone's time. Instead, everyone looking for a job needs to realize one thing: the economy is in the toilet, but it will eventually get better. For now, people need to use the resources available to them for free.

So, for students who are becoming more depressed during these bleak times, here are some resources to help job-seekers stand out in the crowd. One of the first places that students should turn to is the Youth Employment Centre, a free City of Calgary service that only requires a registration. They offer resume building assistance and a job board with useful job postings.

The Service Canada Centre for Youth office in Calgary is another resource, also offering job postings and resume building assistance, along with interview skill-building and assistance with various labour regulations.

Another idea, if a student or graduate is unable to find employment, is to volunteer in a field of interest. It may not be the amazing resume-builder that a paid internship is, but it's always good experience and offers an outlet to work with organizations that are good networking opportunities.

The one-stop shop to look for volunteer work is definitely Volunteer Calgary, located at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Centre Street in the south, where people will direct you to volunteer opportunities around the city.

It's bad out there. Money is tight everywhere and many people are experiencing similar problems. But don't get discouraged and self-pitying -- it won't help anyone's case. Keep handing out resumes, go out and volunteer, just do something and have fun in an otherwise worrisome summer.

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Please let your readers know that volunteering can be just as valuable as an internship. They can search for volunteer opportunities online at www.volunteercalgary.ab.ca You can also encourage readers to negotiate a 'volunteer contract' with a non-profit organization; spell out their skills& expertise & outline their expectations from the volunteer experience. If Volunteers can't find the perfect project posted on the Volunteer Calgary website they can and should work with directly with the non-profit to create meaningful volunteer work and once completed they should request a letter of recomendation or ask their supervisor to become a reference. It is a tough job market out their but volunteering is a great way to open doors.
K