"They have absolutely no realistic expectation about what their advancement opportunities are going to be, or what their pay increase possibilities are likely to be," Prof. Lyons says.
Because many are landing in positions they don't want, they will hop from job to job and employer to employer, predicts Lauren Friese, founder of Toronto-based TalentEgg.ca.
And that won't help them look like loyal and desirable employees, she says. "If I am a recruiter, three to five different jobs does not look great on a résumé, and it could impact a person's career path," she says.
All of this could dampen the ambitions of an entire generation, Dr. Moses says. "If this generation is denied, either by being stuck in the wrong entry-level jobs or not being able to get up the ladder, they may become disappointed, which could turn to bitterness and simply giving up," she says.
To avoid such a thing, young people will have to adjust their career expectations, Prof. Lyons says.
"We are hearing that many are going in with the attitude that 'the employer has to convince me that this is the place I should be working,' which is especially off-putting when it is clear the market does not support that kind of attitude," he says.
This generation needs to shift its attitudes and accept the fact that their first job after graduation is likely to be near the bottom of the totem pole, he says.
Dianne Hunnam-Jones, president of the Toronto district of staffing and placement firm Robert Half International, agrees, saying they should start with a "head check."
"They need to be flexible and adjust their expectations to reflect what is available and what they are qualified for. They should be prepared to pay their dues with entry-level jobs. … Once they get a foot in the door, the opportunities will eventually come," Ms. Hunnam-Jones says.
There are no magic wands. Getting jobs will involve following time-tested job-search basics, from cold calling to networking to drafting error-free résumés to being well-prepared for interviews, Ms. Schaefer says. Young workers will also need to take some more novel approaches, such as creating their own internships and developing their own jobs, she says.
Some companies have set up programs especially targeted at helping young people get those precious first jobs. Last year, for instance, Toronto-based Loblaw Cos. Ltd. launched its national grad@Loblaw program, which provides recent postsecondary grads with full-time jobs and the opportunity to kick-start their careers.
Kraft Canada Inc. is hiring students through its summer internship program. Designed for students still in university, it offers work in the summer months and often links them with full-time jobs after graduation, at the same time helping the company find new talent.
Toronto-based Career Edge Organization, a national not-for-profit, has worked with more than 1,000 employers across Canada to place approximately 9,800 young people in paid internships.
For Ms. Bifield, the route to full-time work came in creating her own job.
When her lengthy job search failed to land a position in marketing or advertising, Ms. Bifield decided to put her self-taught social media skills to work. Early last year, she began pounding on the doors of companies that wanted to use social-networking sites in their own recruiting efforts and, in a matter of weeks, she lined up several short-term contracts. She soon made a name for herself as a social networking consultant.
In April, she landed a full-time job with Toronto advertising and communications agency TMP Worldwide as a digital strategist, helping TMP clients with their use of social networking tools for their own recruiting.
"Once I established myself around my social networking skills, people came to me," Ms. Bifield says. "In the end, I realized that companies … want to hire you for something you know and are good at."
Special to The Globe and Mail
Here are snapshots of two corporate programs aimed at young workers:
Loblaw Cos. Ltd.
Launched: April, 2009
What it does: Provides recent postsecondary graduates with full-time jobs and the opportunity to kick-start their careers. This month, a third batch of 100 students will begin; over five years, a total of 1,000 students will have gone through the program.
How it works: During the 18-month program, graduates rotate through three areas of the company, beginning with six months in a store to gain firsthand retail experience, followed by three months in merchandising. The final phase is a nine-month placement in an area for which the graduate was hired, such as store management, marketing, merchandising, supply chain management, information technology, human resources or finance.