Young, educated, unemployed

Set yourself apart in a competitive job market

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According to statistics, 53 percent of recent U.S. college grads are jobless or underemployed. So what can you do to set yourself apart in this competitive job market?

Candice Coleman thought her resume had it all, but since graduating more than a year ago, she hasn't been able to find a job in her field of health sciences.

"You spent four years, with a major and two minors, and it hasn't helped you at all. Right now, it's just really frustrating," said Coleman.

She's sent out more than 30 resumes, but hasn't landed one interview. Without steady income, Coleman was forced to move back with her parents.

"Almost feeling like a failure because you have to come back and rely on them more," she said.

Recruiting specialist Yolanda Owens works with grads like Coleman every day. Her first tip: "The first one I tell students is to hang out with people who already have jobs," said Owens.

Many companies have employee referral programs, so there's a monetary incentive for recommending you. Networking is vital, but Owens says don't give someone your resume until you have three meaningful contacts with them.

"Someone who doesn't know you from a can of paint isn't going to trust you enough to be able to recommend you for a position," she warned.

Owens also says make your resume as specific as possible and quantify it. Don't just say you raised money, say how much you raised. Also, make it simple with bullet points, not paragraphs. Give the employer three weeks to process, and once you get an interview, "Make sure you prepare a couple of stories about yourself that really display your leadership, your confidence and what you've done to improve your role," said Owens.

Coleman hopes her big break will come soon, but she's considering grad school.

"It's almost like college is the new high school diploma, and you have to have your masters to be considered," Coleman said.

Another tip: Owens says, when networking, it's often better to e-mail your LinkedIn profile rather than handing someone a hard-copy of your resume. This is a little more subtle.

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