Six Strategies for Overcoming a Tough Job Market

High youth unemployment means career seekers need to know what employers value most

TORONTO, April 4, 2016 /CNW/ - With college and university students worried about their post-graduation job outlook in an intensely competitive market, it's never been more critical that they know how to separate themselves from the competition.

In a comprehensive survey, George Brown College asked GTA employers from industries spanning a range of industries about their current hiring practices and the skills they prize above all. The results are the latest in a series of employer studies that began in 2008, with employers helping the college identify short and long-term trends to ensure it is best preparing students to be candidates of choice as they start their careers.

Students may be surprised to know what employers value most as they prepare to compete for those highly-prized positions.

While employers were honest about the diminished opportunities for young hires in the year ahead, they were also very instructive about how students can set themselves apart. Looking at the year ahead, almost 10 per cent fewer employers said they planned on hiring college or university graduates than five years ago. They also said they'll be hiring more part-time and contract employees and fewer full-time, and that over the next 15 years a third of all current jobs are likely to be replaced by technology.

This means that the savvy student looking to make it to the top of the resume pile needs to take specific action to set themselves apart. George Brown's research revealed six clear strategies to earn the favour of future employers:

1.  Know where the jobs are

  • Pursue a career that's in demand. In talking to employers across a range of sectors, the most promising program areas from which employers have hired new college graduates are Computer Technology, Business Management, Marketing, Culinary Arts, Finance/Accounting, and Early Childhood Education.

2.  Job skills might get you the interview, but people skills will get you the job

  • When employers are hiring, they expect candidates to be competent in the technical skills of their field of study – you won't even get the interview without them. But to stand out from the competition, you also need the people skills employers value, which include work ethic, communication, teamwork, adaptability/reliability and problem solving.
  • Beyond the technical skills that employers  expect new grads to have, they rate 'people skills' as the most important attribute in new graduate hires, followed closely by education that integrates workplace experience. Contrary to popular opinion, it's the absence of people skills that is the greatest skills gap - not industry-specific technical skills.

3. Take initiative before you graduate

  • Don't wait until you're job hunting to take specific steps to stand out with employers. In order of importance, they told us the following behaviours strongly demonstrate that candidates have developed strong people skills: 1) Operating a student-run business or starting their own business; 2) Acting as a peer coach or tutor; 3) Participating in faculty or student-operated labs, clinics, restaurants or businesses that provide services to the public; 4) Having experience with applied research projects and 5) Playing an executive/leadership role in student clubs.

4. Consider all post-secondary options equally

  • While university remains an excellent choice, employers told us they are more likely to hire college graduates than university graduates this year, and nearly half said the proportion of college graduates they're hiring (vs university graduates) is increasing.
  • They are equally satisfied with the quality of college and university graduates.
  • More college graduates demonstrate the employment attributes employers value most, but university credentials can still carry more weight. 

5. Get a foot in the door

  • Employers value field placements and co-ops as an important differentiator and a supplement to in-class learning. So make sure you select a college or university that will give you the chance to gain some invaluable experience that will count toward your credential and show your future employer that you understand the workplace routine.
  • Employers told us they don't just value students who come to them with experience in the field, they hosted almost 10 per cent more field placements in 2015 than they did in 2010. 

6. Guard your online profile!

  • While interviews and reference checks remain the most usual ways for employers to evaluate candidates, the next most common method is checking social media profiles and communication. Be careful with the information you and others post online!

The 2015 George Brown College Employer Tracking Study was conducted by Northstar Research Partners and included a representative sample of 852 GTA employers including line managers (55%) and human resources professionals (45%) across a range of industry sectors the college supports, including Arts, Entertainment, Culture and Performing Arts, Business, Community Services and Early Childhood Education, Construction, Engineering and Architecture, Health Sciences, Hospitality and Culinary Arts, Information and Computer Techology. The mix of respondents included those in the City of Toronto (57%) and from the GTA outside of Toronto (43%) as well as a mix of small, medium and large sized companies (79% small/medium). Interviews and surveys were conducted during the summer of 2015.

SOURCE George Brown College

For further information: Jodi Serwatuk, George Brown College, 416-415-5000 ext. 3767,


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