Calgary employment experts offer tips for youth looking to land summer jobs

Calgary staffing experts offer tips for Calgary youth that can give them an edge when applying for jobs this summer.

Following employers on social media and knowing what they're up to could give applicants a leg up

The latest job statistics from StatsCan indicate youth unemployment in Calgary is up slightly from last year. (CBC)

It's not long now before school is out for summer, and for many students that means finding a summer job. But it may be tougher than usual this year.

The latest job numbers from Statistics Canada show overall unemployment in Calgary is down by a couple percentage points, but among 15- to 24-year-olds, unemployment is up slightly, from 13.8 per cent in May of last year to 14.2 per cent this May.

But Jennifer MacSween with the Calgary Youth Employment Centre and Chris Massie with About Staffing have some tips for Calgary youth that might provide an edge when applying for jobs this summer.

"I believe that it's important to stand out, and the best way to do that is in person. If you're just an image through a computer screen, you don't have that interpersonal connection. But if you get that, it can be a powerful thing," Massie told host Jennifer Keene on the Calgary Eyeopener. 

Their interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

Q: Jennifer, does it surprise you that unemployment for youth is up this year?

MacSween: It's traditionally been that trend, they're about double the percentage points that adults are, and that is in large part due to the fact that they don't have a lot of experience. It's a bit trickier and more challenging for them to enter into the workforce.

Q: Are there jobs out there for young people?

MacSween: There's definitely lots of jobs out three for young people. In fact, we actually connect with a lot of local employers who are actively seeking specifically to hire that youth demographic. So we're able to kind of help them craft that targeted resume, with their job search, and then connected to a hiring manager.

Jennifer MacSween with Calgary's Youth Employment Centre says having a targeted resume is key when applying for jobs. (CBC)

Q: Chris, what kind of companies are looking for young people specifically?

Massie: There's really all sorts of companies that would hire young people. As long as they position themselves appropriately and take the steps that they need to introduce themselves to employers. The first impression is really the most important impression that most employers would experience. To be more specific, young healthy companies that are looking for new insights, creativity, energy, a willingness to grow and do whatever it takes — there is lots available in Calgary.

Q: What about summer jobs, how hard is it to find a summer job right now, Jennifer?

MacSween: We just did a hiring event with the YMCA last month were we put 31 candidates up for interviews with the YMCA. So, there are still companies looking to hire young people.

Q: Has the minimum wage raise had any impact on the hiring of youth?

Massie: I think so. It's gradually increased to the point where the value of that labour is an important consideration for employers. So what used to be able to cost 14 bucks an hour has graduated up. Now employers are in the position where they have to evaluate.

Chris Massie of About Staff says it's important to have face-to-face contact with potential employers. (CBC)

Q: So, they might have been willing to hire a teenager if it was 12 bucks an hour but not as likely if it's 15 bucks an hour. Do you agree, Jennifer?

MacSween: We're still seeing a lot of those young people successfully enter into the workforce. I think what Chris said earlier, it's really important to have a strong targeted resume. That's the starting point for a young person.It's a matter of really building those skills so that young person can be successful.

Networking is a huge thing as well. Making sure they have face-to-face contact. Because they're young they can utilize certain skill sets that maybe the older demographic doesn't necessarily have as much experience in, such as that technology piece, so social media.

Start following employers, even reaching out and seeing if they can do an informational interview, that will add value to them and they can then hopefully get an interview.

Q: So if you have a company that you want to target, you start following them on Instagram and Twitter and tweeting at them?

MacSween: Definitely, it's a strategy for young people to start getting their name out there and getting themselves known with that organization, and it does work. If they know about  what that company is doing and they know that they are following them, they can then speak to that piece. 

Q: You've mentioned this a few times, it's really important to meet face-to-face. Is it hard to get young people out there because they're used to doing so much online?

Massie: That is a real challenge when they've been conditioned to communicate primarily through a device.

 I believe that it's important to stand out and the best way to do that is in person. If you're just an image through a computer screen, you don't have that interpersonal connection. But if you get that, it can be a powerful thing.

Q: And yet, many companies, especially the kinds of places I think teenagers especially would apply, like Starbucks or Tim Hortons, you go in and they'll just say to apply online.

Massie: One of the principles that really works is simply exposure. So they may hear that, but demonstrate some persistence. Go in the following week and introduce yourself and try and get a dialogue going.

Q: Is it too late to find a great job for summer, Jennifer?

MacSween: No, definitely not. We work with over 600 local employers each year and our services are completely free for youth between the ages of 15 and 24.

It's really a matter of utilizing those resources available to young people, coming down to the youth employment centre, getting connected to an employment councillor — because we do have those local connections to those hiring managers who are specifically looking to hire that youth demographic. 

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson