Call it pomp and dire circumstances: The class of 2011 graduates into a job market so dismal you might as well keep studying.

With unemployment roasting at nine per cent, 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, CareerBuilder.com advisor Allison Nawoj proclaims.

“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 per cent of employers said they planned to hire college graduates, and that’s a bit better than the past few years.”

Skills-Based Resumé

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 resumé.

The trick to beefing up that meager resumé is to build it around the skills you’ve acquired at each position, says President 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, splay that across your resumé.

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