Unemployment for younger workers, those people in their twenties trying to get their careers started, continues to be a major issue across North America.

A new report south of the border finds job opportunities for youth are at an all-time historic low. The report from the Brookings Institution, indicates that employment opportunities for youth and ‘twenty-somethings’ has plummeted in recent years.

The report states that of the students who completed high school in 2012 and didn’t immediately go on to college, 70% tried to get a job, but less than half (46%) succeeded in finding one. This is the lowest number on record in the U.S., since the Department of Labor started tracking the data back in 1959. See ‘The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults’

Canada does not fare much better in dealing with this issue. A report from the CIBC found about 420,000 youth aged 15 to 24 (nearly one in 10 young Canadians), are neither employed nor enrolled in school. One in five unemployed youth has never held a job. See ‘Study: Why youth unemployment in Canada is even worse than we thought’.

There are more questions than answers when it comes to youth employment. Youth are more educated than ever before, so why is a university degree no longer enough to land a job in most disciplines? How can we overcome the catch 22 cycle of no experience-no job, no job-no experience? Why is the transition between school and work still so difficult for most youth? These questions need to be addressed.

How can you beat the odds in landing a job upon graduation? Regardless of the statistics, there are things you can do now while in school to make a difference in your job search down the road. Here are five important ways:

    Work Every Summer – Have you started looking for work this summer? Now is the time to start lining up contacts. Having a summer job gives you vital experience that employers want in a new graduate. If you are unsure which career path to choose, a summer job is the perfect way to try new things and determine your likes and dislikes in the world of work. If you’ve done the same job every summer, consider trying something completely new this year!

    Start Developing Your Network – Networking can often seem intimidating. It is nothing more than meeting others. While in school, get out there and meet people in your community. Social media sites, such as LinkedIn, are a great way to network with others, but don’t forget that meeting people face-to-face can even be more powerful!

    Actively Build Your Resume – While in school, use every opportunity to build your resume. Volunteer your time, learn a new language, or get work experience with a part-time job. All of these activities will help boost your skills and abilities, which you can proudly present on your resume. It will be much easier to market yourself to employers upon graduation with a well-rounded resume.

    Tap Into the Hidden Job Market – The hidden job market is comprised of those positions that are not yet advertised. You may not be graduating from school right away, but you can start to become familiar with your industry and its key players. Consider joining an industry association and research potential employers you wish to work for in the future.

    Learn to Brand Yourself – You may think branding is only for large companies, or major products, however, it’s for you as well! How do you want to be perceived in the job market? It’s never too early to start this process. While in school, start building your brand within your industry. Write a blog, attend industry networking events, or enhance your social media profiles to reflect your involvement in your field. Separate yourself from other job seekers and learn how to market yourself.

The transition from school to work continues to be a major challenge on both sides of the border. Increase your chances of finding a job upon graduation by starting early and having a well-rounded job search plan. You’ll be far ahead of the competition!

Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of DirectoryOfCareers.ca. He can be reached at kmakra@sentormedia.com.