It's a ballsy move starting a business when you're young," a senior careers professional recently told me. "I'd be keen to know how it works out."

Ballsy or smart? In today's labour market where applicants are many and jobs few, the odds are stacked against people gaining work in their preferred field.

In the wake of the recession recent graduates are finding it even harder to find placement this year, confirms Dale Bailey, area manager, Northern Career Services Rapuara. "There is I think an interest in employers to get a quick start on the recovery. Employers are thinking about how long it will take to get you up to speed, so people with skills and experience may look more attractive to a potential employer," he says.

It's a catch 22 - no experience, no work. No work, no experience. However a lack of experience doesn't have to be a barrier to employment - not if you employ yourself.

Mira Miliszewska graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Graphic Design from Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design. Talented and passionate about her chosen vocation she confidently set about applying for jobs. However hope soon turned to despair when her job applications fell upon deaf ears. With rent to pay and bills stockpiling she took a full-time job in a cafe.

"By August, the year after I graduated, I'd had enough of working in hospitality and was feeling really disheartened by the failed job applications and also the complete lack of jobs that were actually available to apply for. Being a graphic design graduate meant exactly that, a graduate, no one was hiring graduates, and a junior designer requirement is at least one to two years experience."

While working in the cafe she continued with the freelance design work she'd begun during her final year of study. As her freelance work began to build juggling two jobs became too much and, with no salaried design job to go to, she took the leap into self-employment.

"This was a huge move for me, after earning a full-time wage for over six months I had to take the risk of only having enough money to just cover rent and basic food if I didn't get work. I had to learn heaps about tax, organising my time, networking, nailing down jobs and also how to keep inspired. But I really love the freedom of working for myself, being able to start really early in the morning and having the afternoon off, being able to work closely with the client and seeing their excitement when I produce the design."

Having the courage to create her own job as a freelance designer helped Mira stand out from the huge crowd of design graduates and eventually landed her a full-time position with a design firm she'd been freelancing for. A job that without the experience of working for herself she would not have got, she says. Running her own business is still something Mira would like to do again but right now she's enjoying being part of a team and working with more experienced people.

A shortage of design roles and a surplus of bar work led arts graduate Matthew Nache into a stint as a cocktail waiter, but it wasn't long before his design skills came into use helping set up new bars, designing their layout, logos and other design-related work. Several years later he used this valuable experience to follow his passion for art when at age 23 he and some fellow design students opened an art gallery in Gisborne. A few years on and several reinventions later Matthew says PAULNACHE is now regarded as one of Australasia's foremost contemporary dealer galleries.

Financial backing came from a variety of sources. The Chamber of Commerce enabled Matthew and his business partners to get started initially, funding a good proportion of the materials needed to set up the gallery. Family and friends were equally as generous with their time, financial assistance and support. As were mentors and the advice from people who have succeeded in a similar field.

While many students start their training with high expectations of getting work Matthew says it's time for graduates to get real.

"We have to remember it is a privilege to have a job and I think it is completely unrealistic to expect to find work after you graduate. No one owes us a living and we need to re-educate new graduates about this mindset," he says. "I noticed a couple of people on my course who had set up their business as they studied, and used the facilities and knowledge to develop and advance that model. When they came out, they had four years of test marketing behind them and often a sound product, while at the same time earning a modest salary in the form of student allowance. I think this example is a very clever way to get started."

"Young people will need some finance and some mentoring from someone more experienced," says UK work philosopher and founder of Inspired Entrepreneur (www. inspired-entrepreneur.com) Nick Williams. "But the real barrier," he says "is that most young people haven't been educated to believe that being self-employed is a valid career option, or they think it is something that they think they might do after success in a 'proper job'.

Williams believes we're still educating people to slot into jobs. "But the sausage factory isn't working and what we're churning out isn't relevant anymore. So there's a big mismatch going on," he says.

Employing yourself may be risky, but then what's worse - no job, settling for less or taking a calculated leap of faith and creating a role just for you? Steve Jobs' success, starting Apple computers in his garage aged 20, is proof that no matter how young you are, anyone can create their own job, and that this, in time, can become a mega-successful venture. But even if fame, riches and glory aren't in your orbit, success to many is the satisfaction of doing a job they love. If you can't find one - create one.