There was a time when people would utter classic euphemisms to the youth such as: “enjoy your twenties, it’s the best time of your life,” “things are never easier than right now,” and “these are the golden years, don’t let them slip by.” There was a time when a twenty-something year old graduated from his/her first, more often second, degree and looked at the job market with a big old optimistic grin. ‘The world is my oyster,’ they said. ‘You have the whole world at your feet,’ they said.

And yet, with the summer of 2013 rolling along its merry way, more and more young graduates find themselves oyster-less and the only thing at their feet is a pooling puddle of debt. More contemporarily, when a twenty-something year old graduates from his/her second, often third, degree, he/she looks at the job market anxiously and with desperate anticipation.

Recent Canadian statistics for youth (un)employment paints a dismal picture. While the economy is tough for everyone, youth are significantly overrepresented in the unemployed category. In an uncertain and unstable economy, businesses rise and fall with quickly changing times. As a result, business owners and managers are less willing to invest time and effort into neophytes, when they themselves are unsure how long their position will be available. Downsizing is a constant and ominous dark cloud over head, where the first in – first out rule often reigns. Furthermore, baby boomers are often well compensated for their experienced and established posts at successful enterprises; and unsurprisingly unwilling to make room for new up-and-comers.

What is a young grad to do?

1. Build a Bridge between Academics and Business
The idea of “hitting the pavement” the Monday after graduation is long gone. The job hunt should begin long before you are ever “unemployed.” Look and listen for opportunities throughout your last couple years of schooling. The academic world is much more tightly knit than the “real” working world. Use these connections, friendships, and mentorships to meet like-minded individuals who are employed in your field of interest.

2. Always Be Networking
Many youth make the mistake of exerting their networking efforts during the summer after graduation. Instead, take a lifestyle approach to self-promotion. Join professional associations as a student, attend conferences and talks by prominent leaders in your industry of choice, and build relationships long before you will need to call on them for a job opportunity. Similarly, branch out from just your industry and attend networking events for young professionals and entrepreneurs to meet successful individuals in your peer group.

3. Don’t Do Nothing
You may not get a job out of the starting gate. Not many people do, and that is okay. What is not okay is to have a big black hole in your resume of two to four months when you did nothing.

If you cannot find a paying position in your field, look for an internship or research placement instead. You can always supplement your income with a part-time job. Alternatively volunteer somewhere that will use the skills and tools you have developed through your education. If you are the more adventurous type, go travel or work abroad. Go somewhere interesting, do something, instigate change, and make a difference.

Gaps in past employment are not fatal for future employment. However, if you find yourself unemployed, engage in activities that will show off your potential, talents and personality in the future.