1. Navigating through the job market

“ I just wanted to ask you like, how long would you say it took you to like find a job?”

“I started applying for jobs in like January. So my grad school application, they finished and they finished it closer to the end of January. So I had February, March, April, May. So I would say I got the job. I started interviewing for it in I think June. Yeah. So it was a very long interview process took almost like a month or something. So I started doing it in June and again, no certainty at all.”

Tulenkova is an international student who studied sociocultural anthropology and a minor in art history and media culture. She graduated in June 2023 and is originally from Russia. She currently works as a research lead and program coordinator at design thinking firm. Her day to day life of her work can be quite hectic and very different from her life as undergrad student.

“​​But I do work nine to five, right? Some on Tuesdays. So today’s Tuesday, I work eight to four, I just asked my manager to, I guess, help me with my energy levels. That’s what I realized that I have energy levels. And I didn’t know that in my undergrad, I thought it was like, Okay, I’m just sleeping during that time sometimes. But I was not really like tracing any, like repetition or any like dynamics in this. But then when your job is nine to five job. And within those hours, lots of crazy things are happening, right. But they’re not spread throughout the day. So the biggest difference between being a student and working nine to five is that as a student, you feel like you have more time, so you can wake up. And usually my wakeup time was like 9am, right? And then at 10am, I would start my homework, right, or preparing for a class or prepare for that coffee chat that I have scheduled.

“Again, I have to say that I was a very active student in terms of student leadership. So bunch of meetings with people who are also interested in this. So it’s like glam, right? My, my cloud, I found it at U of T, or a bunch of other different initiatives. And you’re constantly also researching and searching for more opportunities, right? And you’re constantly in this kind of craziness and chaos of searching for more opportunities to attend and take on. But your day looks okay, you wake up at 9am. And then at 10am, you started working, and then somehow it just passes by and you go to bed at like 12. Right? And then you wake up and you repeat the thing. But I know that and that’s something that I really enjoyed in my undergrad. My life was like, every single day was different. For four years, I never had the same day that it would look like so similar to a previous one, right? Like in four years, literally. And I think that’s the beauty of undergrad. But at the same time, you do have more time you do have time to take a nap right if you choose if you don’t choose that you can go attend some conference or something right. So basically you shape your life right within those 10 years.

 Tulenkova says that she started looking for jobs in her fourth year of January 2023 and received an interview and offer in June 2023. It took her five months to receive an offer for the job she is currently working at. 

According to Statistics Canada’s Labor Force Survey of October 2023, the unemployment rate sat at 5.7 per cent, a 0.7 per cent increase since April.

 With this increase, the unemployment rate in youth ages 15-24 had the highest growth in unemployment, at 11.4 per cent. The rate was 2.4 times higher than the unemployment rate for individuals aged 25-54, 4.8 per cent.

Unfortunately, this number was not surprising as a youth; unemployment, according to the survey, has always been historically high.

In fact, during the pandemic of 2021, when the unemployment rate sat at 7,5 per cent in April, youth were still disproportionately affected and had to face through navigating brutal job market. 

As an international, Tulenkova not only faced having to navigate this job market that has a high unemployment rate for youth. But, also had the pressure,the stress of applying for permits being an international student, she shares.

“I had only 90 days to either find a job or apply for a study permit and then go to go to go to grad school which will delay my immigration process. Right. So you have 90 days, and I got my job. I started working on day 82. So I was so close to just, you know, crying and everything. But I know I did cry multiple times during this whole thing.”

After graduation, international post-secondary students or any “foreign nationals” have 180 days to apply for a Post- Graduation Work Permit ( PGWP) after students receive their final marks. The permit allows international students who have finished their degree programs longer than 8 months to gain professional experience in the Canadian workforce. 

 According to the U of T website, on the PGWP, the permit allows graduated international students three years to study and work in Canada and it is only a one-time opportunity. Students don’t necessarily need a job offer to apply for a permit; they can start working after graduation if they are offered a job while waiting for the PGWP. However, they need to apply within the time period; students’ study permits are only valid 90 days after the program. 

Visa.com, also known as CIC news, shares that International students typically need post-graduate work experience to receive a permanent residence PR. However, the PGWP is not always the most straightforward way to get PR.

Through the process of navigating the job market, with the stress of having to figure out what Tulenkova was going to do right after university she shared that this process had affected the stress of the whole process and affected her mental health.

 “It was crazy. And when you are writing, like a cover letter for, I don’t know, 30 years time now and for different industries that you’re interested in. It is exhausting. It is really exhausting, especially after just being done with graduate school applications.”

Laura Cohen, a career counselor and registered counseling therapist at the Canadian Career Counseling, an organization of individuals seeking career support, says that mental health struggles during the job process is very common.

” it takes a lot of resilience and patience and emotional Gousto like it. It can be personally taxing when you’re trying to find work and you haven’t found work. You know, it could take six months to a year sometimes to find a career related job. times longer. So the process of mental health, I think it looks differently for everybody. But it’s quite common to see a fresh like a just a general frustration, and general kind of exhaustion or self doubt when when people are trying to find work and they can’t find work. Some people have really great luck. And there’s no mental health issues like some people are doing this work.”’

“young people in their 20s, who are maybe looking for work and don’t have success might start to doubt themselves and then spiral and like, who am I? What am I doing again? So there’s that like, existential anxiety again. But yeah, that stress, that stress is really common when it comes to job search.”

Part of her work, Choen, is to help clients learn how to manage stress through the process.

2. Mental health and Post- College depression 

“One thing we talked about is like the loneliness like the feeling of like loneliness., do you feel like that’s a feeling that you’ve experienced, like since graduating university and like transitioning to this, like new phase of life?

“100% All the time, even if I wasn’t like super social in university, the fact that I could sit in a class and be surrounded by people my age who would give their opinions and I could talk to that was so such a gem that I didn’t realize at the time. And now it’s like, you know, obviously, my family I see the most, but I just don’t get a lot of time talking to people or going out or anything social. And I missed the fact that you have a sort of like forced socializing in university, you have to talk to people, you’re forced to be in a group. I wish someone would force me to be in a group right now”

Zahedi majored in political sciences and minored in sociology and history. She graduated in 2022, lives with her parents, and works at her family business.The one thing she shares she missed the most about university was that feeling of freedom and responsibility it had provided her. Zahedi explains in this transition in her life she has a a duty to help her parents and her mother how has been dealing with mental illness.

“ I miss how free I felt when I was in university. You know, I, you know, I’m lucky to live at home. So I was never, you know, too worried about having to make rent. And that’s just, you know, personal privilege that I have. But that was definitely a good time where I could just come to school, I could just take my classes how I could stay late, I would stay late until like 12 and then go home. Nowadays, I can’t do that as much because if I’m not home by then I’m not sleeping that I’m not waking up the day after to go to work. So I definitely missed the freedom I had. And University.”

In 2018, the BBC created a survey of a loneliness experiment in which 55,000 people took part to see who experienced the feeling of loneliness the most. The survey found that 16-24 years later, reported feeling the most lonely with Older individuals on the survey shared that ” young adulthood” felt the most loneliest. 

In a 2017 article in the Washington Post, Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez found that post-graduation depression, although unreported and understudied due to the way researchers look at many causes for depression, can be a very real experience. 

There is no official diagnosis for post-college depression, but it can be categorized as “the extreme sadness and impaired feeling” that new graduates report when they normally leave college.

According to the Councils of Ontario’s University, 75 per cent of mental health problems appear before the age of 24 years old. 

Zahedi shared she had struggled with mental health during the job process with constant rejection letters. And something that she has been struggling with three years after being out of university is keeping in touch with friends.

“in terms of social life, I was definitely doing better then than I am now. And that’s because like I think it was just closer to graduation, so it was a lot easier to keep in touch with friends. It’s not so much now because you know, they’re all doing their own thing. And you know, maybe they’ve moved and you just don’t have as much connection.”

 Zahedi finds that although living with her parents can create this lack of privacy, her parents help her feel less lonely through this transition as an adult in life.

“If I lived alone, I would not even be talking to my parents like it would leave, it would just be empty. So the way I was talking about being forced into, like a group discussion was a good thing. living with your parents is sometimes a good thing. Because at the end of the day, I get to talk to people, I get to tell them about my day, if I’m going through something, I get to talk to them. So it’s a plus in those ways. And plus, you know, when you get older, you’d like your parents more. You gossip with them now. And that’s, that’s a good thing”

“It gets worse before it gets better. And I will tell you, I literally had a breakdown today in the car with my mom, and we’re both crying and screaming. Sometimes it gets mad, but sometimes it gets better”

3. Unaffordable Housing and Debt 

Do you ever like…, you were like you you wish you could move out got like you had plans to move out, you want to save up to move out? Like, is that something that you’re looking forward towards in the future at all? 

“Far future, I don’t think it’s happening now, I definitely was planning on it, I was hoping to move out of Toronto, and to like a cheaper city or town nearby. That’s not in the plans. Because when you’re an adult, you have responsibilities. And my personal responsibilities now are like, I have to stay with my parents, and I have to take care of them. And that is something that they haven’t requested. But you know, when you grow up, you’re like, I have to do this.”

“ don’t feel embarrassed right now. But I do think there’s a time limit on it. I think it’s normal to live with your parents and like big cities up to a certain age. But I think like if you’re 30 and live, you live with your parents, people are going to look at you weird. And, you know, I know people who live with their parents in their 30s. And that’s okay. But I know you’re a younger sibling. When you have an older sibling, and they do things a certain way, if you don’t do it that certain way, by that point. Done. You know, like my sister had her first job by 23. If I don’t get it by 23, I’m dust. And it’s not like she said anything. I just have it for myself. So she moved out at like 25 or six. If I don’t move out by then at least I feel that life and I don’t know where I’m going.”

According to 2021 data from Statistics Canada, 35.21 per cent of young adults aged 20 -34 still live with a parent. In a 2001 study, it was found that only 30 per cent 20 – 34 year olds lived with a parent, making the increase 5 percentage points in the past few years.

There are many reasons studies have found that adults will live with their parents as long as they do. Umay Kader, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia who is planning to study this phenomenon further predicts that part of the increase of adults living with parents probably has to do with the housing market and sometimes the precarious job market. Other studies have found it can also be due to the payback of post-secondary loans that can create that delay.

Canada is currently experiencing an unaffordable housing crisis, where many young Canadians cannot afford to buy a home as the cost of housing tends to become higher than people’s income. 

Part of the unaffordable housing crisis is from how house prices have risen 44 per cent during the pandemic or to one of the biggest factors the National Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) have seen the demand outweighing the supply. There has been a demographic population boom with new immigration, creating scarce housing. 

Canada has also priced an increase in rental rates up to 12.2 per cent from December 2023. According to Global News, the average one-bedroom rent cost in Toronto, one of these and most expensive cities to live in after Vancouver, is around $2,457 dollars per month. This rental market has also affected domestic and international students moving out for post-secondary studies.

A report by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) that did a poll by Abacus Data that surveyed 750 post-secondary graduates that took on student debt, 750 who did not found that student debt was one the biggest barriers from homeownership.


 The survey found that graduates who took on student debt on average owed about $14,500 in student loans. 42 per cent of graduates were looking to move out of the province for more affordable housing. The other half said that they planned to stay in the family home for the next decade to come.

But regardless of all the struggles this translation of this next phase of life has brought to Tulenkova and Zahedi there is a lot more to look forward to in the future with both in this more “adulting phase of life”.

“But for the next year, so we’re talking about what November 2024? Right? I, like I’m smiling right now. Because I do imagine such good things happening to me. Like, I really believe in balance in life.”

Tulenkova sees her next year in adulting working on the balance of life finding that balance ‘

“I feel like I’m going to work for a year. Absolutely right. Hopefully, you know, getting some promotion at my current organization and working at and just if Going through that job, I see how I’m growing, growing personally and professionally. So I will keep doing that. And honestly, I’m very excited about building more. And building new community networks are building more friendships and really staying engaged with social life. Because I feel like the biggest fear for people who are graduating, is that okay, social life will disappear. Like the second someone, you know, announced your name on that stage. That’s it, you are done. No, you’re not done. But you will have to put some effort in, right. And I feel like I’m really excited about I’ve already joined some groups like I love dancing, right? So I found that such a joy, to be dancing with those people and just like trying to make friends trying to see the world.”

And Zahedi maybe one day moving out 

“I think definitely more financial freedom. A big one, I hope to make more money, I hope to save more. Aside from that, honestly, I hope sometime like next five years, I do move out. I really hope so because I’m getting old. And it’s getting embarrassing. So I do want to move out. You know, it depends what time of the day you catch me. But if you catch me late at night, I will say I’d like to be married. But that’s not gonna happen.”