Call it pomp and dire circumstances: The class of 2011 graduates into a not-so-promising job market.

With unemployment rates at around 9 percent, career counselors say the 2011 crop faces monumentally rough competition for entry-level gigs. Students can expect to vie against part-timers, the unemployed, and the far more experienced for that rarest of openings: the publicly-posted job listing.

But there’s hope, says advisor Allison Nawoj.


“We are seeing a slightly rosier picture when we’re looking at the college job market this year,” she says. “It’s not anything like the pre-recession levels we saw in 2007, but 47 percent of employers said they planned to hire college graduates, and that’s a bit better than the past few years.”

Want to get ahead of the game? Employ these two strategies:

1. Compose a skills-based résumé

More often than not, fresh graduates brave the open job market with no contacts, a department of elderly lecturers for references, and a stint marketing the soup du jour as their main work experience — hardly the stuff of a smashing résumé.

The trick to beefing up that meager document is to build it around the skills you’ve acquired at each position, says Natascha F. Saunders of the Youth Career Coach.
“Some people think, ‘Oh, all I’ve got is that summer job, it doesn’t mean anything,” she says. “Just eliminate that thought. You have transferable skills. What did you learn from that retail job that you can now apply to the job at hand?”

Play up your grades, your schoolwork, your term papers, Nawoj adds. If you’ve aced job-relevant courses, she suggests, make a note of it.

“Thirty-four percent of employers said that classwork qualified in their eyes as experience,” she said. “If you’ve got the room for it, certainly include it.”

2. Make smart connections

What graduates most lack isn’t work experience, Saunders notes. It’s that well-placed ex-co-worker nestled one phone call away from a job.

Finding connected people, she says, is as easy as asking their advice.

“This should be your famous line: ‘I’m a student at so-and-so and I’d love to sit down with you and speak to you about x, y, z,’” she recommends.

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