Even though the worldwide economy is slowly getting back on track after the lengthy recession, employment problems continue to plague certain segments of the population. According to Jan Hein Bax of the Financial Post, in Canada, this is a particularly difficult issue for people over the age of 55 and especially young people under the age of 25.
Under- and unemployment rates for young people are especially problematic because they go hand in hand with increasing student debt loads — so much so that a growing number of people wonder if getting a higher education is no longer financially prudent because a college degree is no longer a surefire conduit to lucrative employment.
A recent survey by Randstad Canada Workmonitor found that more than 84% thought employment experience played a bigger role in landing someone a job than a degree did. However, would the story be different if the respondents were recruitment professionals rather than average Canadians? According to Bax, the answer is yes – sometimes.
There are fields where specific qualifications are mandatory, such as medicine and law, but how you communicate your experience in any sector and at any life stage can be equally important. On the other hand, with candidates applying for a more diverse range of roles, and new positions being created in response to technology or compliance, for example, direct experience seems to have become less important than the ability to demonstrate the relevance of your education and career history to the job at hand.
And sometimes it's not even a matter of choice. A lot of the time, even recent graduates have experience that can be highlighted on their resumes although they don't even know it. Things like class projects, on-campus activities and any leadership roles they played are worth mentioning – if only to give a prospective employer a fuller picture. Also vital is knowledge about the company and even the industry that the applicant is attempting to join.
Getting some help in the form of references also helps. Bax recommends that students begin developing a relationship with their professors early in their academic careers so when time comes to ask for a recommendation, they won't be just a face in the crowd.
Regardless of age, the ability to adapt to new or old systems and technology is paramount. As is a willingness to continually learn and apply newly acquired knowledge and skills.
With Canada's current skills gap there is a greater focus on employers helping with on the job training, be it assisting employees to gain industry mandated qualifications or in nurturing the experience and expertise of high quality candidates. As such, any candidate young or old needs to be prepared to demonstrate their abilities in interview situations and share their interests in personal growth.