Every spring, Ottawa's labour market gets flooded with a batch of fresh graduates hoping to enter the workforce.
"I was relieved to be done school, but at the same time, was really nervous about getting a job," said Melissa Mair, a recent criminology graduate.
"The reality of job searching hadn't set in. Graduation is the beginning, not the end."
Mair isn't alone in her struggle to find a position that she is both qualified for and possesses the necessary experience to get hired.
"It is an employer's market and they are being selective," said Monster Canada spokesman Robert Waghorn. "Over the last year, we have seen an increase in resumes of 30 to 40 per cent."
To combat being lost in a sea of online candidates, University of Ottawa job search specialist Clair Cayen suggests taking advantage of face-to-face networking opportunities.
"By meeting professionals who are already in the field working, graduates not only make connections, but get the opportunity to reflect and stay current with what is happening in their industry," said Cayen.
The good news for graduates is that there are jobs to be had. According to Statistics Canada, youth unemployment dropped in January for the first time since the economic slowdown. And according to David Rodas-Wright, co-ordinator of employer relations at the University of Ottawa, there has been a return of small- and medium-sized businesses interested in recruiting on campus.
"When the economy slowed down, we noticed a drop in employer interest, particularly the IT sector. Since January there has been a resurgence of these companies seeking graduates," said Rodas-Wright.
Still, new graduates need to be prepared to actively compete for jobs. In lieu of a dream job, graduates should better prepare themselves by seeking out related volunteer or part-time experience.
After months of searching, the contract position Mair finally landed was bittersweet.
"I'm glad to get the experience in my field, but it is an uphill battle. My job search really isn't over."