This article originally appeared on University Federal Credit Union’s Blog.

I recall my first job out of college. I was young, eager, and the economy was booming.

Then the recession hit. My friends started to lose their jobs and months later I lost mine. The company I worked for declared bankruptcy. My student loans were coming out of their grace period and did not have an emergency fund. I was a recent grad and receiving unemployment.

Graduation

College Grad Tonya

That was seven years ago.

Despite steady economic improvement, prospects aren’t looking up for individuals between ages 16-24, as they remain the most unemployed age group. Governments across the globe are struggling to find solutions as they battle the ongoing youth unemployment crisis.

Youth unemployment has long standing implications. The Center for American Progress reports that workers who are unemployed as young adults earn lower wages for many years following their period of unemployment due to forgone work experience and missed opportunities to develop skills. Let’s be honest, no matter how committed you are to improving your finances, you can only get so far without a steady income.

So you’re unemployed. What should YOU do?

Learn New Skills
Picking up a trade could be just what you need. During the 90s and early 2000s the population moved away from blue-collar work and towards white-collar professional positions. Workers in the trades are aging out and there are few younger workers with those skill sets to replace them. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, radiology technicians and other specialized jobs are in high demand and are paying well. There are many local and federally funded programs, such as those offered by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, that can provide you with education opportunities.

Build Your Networks
The cliché holds true…it’s not what you know, but who you know. Most jobs aren’t advertised online, but by word of mouth. I was referred for my current job after being turned down for a job with the city. I remain in contact with the person who recommended me. And if we are talking about the power of our networks, I landed the Black Enterprise opportunity because a mentor recommended me!

Participate in student associations, local groups, trade associations. Go to conferences and meet-ups in the industry you are interested in. Your newest acquaintance could be the key to a new position.

Volunteer
I volunteered under the AmeriCorps program and ended up being hired by the organization I volunteered for, which ultimately led me to create My Fab Finance. Volunteers are always needed. Even if I had not been hired, the position enabled me to learn valuable skills that made me more competitive than my peers. Find ways to build your skill sets while contributing to the greater good. You never know who is looking, so approach your volunteer opportunities with professionalism and integrity. If you ever need references, your volunteer coordinators are a good place to start.

Improve Your Resume
Businesses are adding technology to everything they do and that includes the way they sort through resumes and select candidates for further consideration. Did you know that several companies now use software that scans through submitted resumes for specific keywords that apply to the job vacancy? If your resume doesn’t have those keywords you are automatically out… without your resume ever being seen by human eyes!

To prevent this make sure you tailor each resume to the job you are applying too. Understand what skills and qualifications they are looking for and make sure to include them in your resume. DO NOT copy the skills and requirements verbatim and paste them onto your resume. Only add the skills you actually possess. If discovered, false information on a resume can lead to job termination and in some cases, legal implications.

  • Many cities have programs that offer free help with resume writing. Here in NYC we have the Workforce Development Centers all throughout the city that provides tons of excellent help and resources.
  • Most colleges have Career Development Offices that provide students and recent graduates with a variety of resources to improve their resume and often have job boards.
  • And don’t forget the Internet. You can find examples of resumes in different sectors, styles, and read articles, blogs, and tips from staffing professionals.

Safeguard Your Reputation
Social media is changing the way companies hire. Most hiring managers look up an applicant’s social media profiles during the application process. The information on your profile could be a deciding factor in a hiring managers final decision.  I know you slayed last night at your friend birthday celebration, but that “experience” might not be well received by potential employers, consider making your profiles private.

Be Flexible
In a perfect world everyone would land a job in their field of interest. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. Keep an open mind when searching for employment. You might have to take a job in a field that you didn’t plan on.

Final Tip?
Don’t give up. Job searching can be exhausting both emotionally and physically. It’s easy to take it personal, but don’t. There are often hundreds of candidates competing for a single position. Virtually all successful and talented people have trouble getting a job at times. Remain optimistic, keep that smile on your face, and a positive attitude in every job interview.