Despite some signs the job market will be better for college graduates, the reality is that finding a good job upon graduation remains extremely difficult.

According to the results of the just released 2014 AfterCollege Career Insights Survey, 83 percent of the responding graduating seniors said they didn’t have a job lined up as of last month, despite 73 percent reporting they were actively looking for one. This is a slight increase in the number of graduating seniors who didn’t have a job lined up at the same time last year.

This lack of job offers applies even for graduates with the degrees most in demand, with 82 percent of engineering, technology, and math majors and 85 percent business students reporting they didn’t have jobs lined up.

Michael Price, author of “What Next? The Millennial’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the Real World,” believes the biggest problem for most graduates is that they are “lazy” when it comes to how they conduct their job search.”They simply post their résumé on job sites and sit by the phone hoping it rings.”

He suggests using job staffing agencies instead. These companies are paid to fill jobs, so they’re highly motivated. Typically, these jobs are temporary contract-to-hire.
“Because the vetting process is much less stringent, there is a strong likelihood that (a graduate) can get a job despite a lack of extensive job experience,” he said.

My experience with college students is not that they are “lazy,” but rather they simply don’t understand proper job-search techniques in a difficult employment environment and default to the tools that they are familiar with, like applying for jobs via the internet.

Richard Lewis, author of “Why Hire Jennifer? How to Use Branding and Uncommon Sense to Get Your First Job, Last Job and Every Job in Between,” puts it this way: “Job boards are like buying a lottery ticket, given the chances of success against hundreds or thousands of applicants.” The solution, he suggests, is to “select the companies you want to work for and contact them.” He adds, and “avoid the human resources department,” instead going directly to the department where you want to work.

With little to differentiate them, graduates need to connect with potential employers to set themselves apart. This can be done in many ways.

Ola Danilina, CEO of public relations firm PMBC Group, advises new graduates to “take whatever opportunity comes their way, even if it is an unpaid position.” She points out that most companies have a difficult time finding hardworking, diligent workers. Therefore they will eventually hire the intern they know has a superior work ethic, rather than risk hiring someone else who may not be willing to do what is necessary to be successful there.

Video producer David Burckhard, of PicturePoint On-line, suggests standing out from the mountain of résumés employers receive by creating a video résumé. A video, he notes, can enable a candidate who lacks substantial experience to “convey accomplishments, energy, motivation and the brightest parts of their personality in a way that no written résumé can.”

Gary Miller, CEO of GEM Strategy Management, reminds graduates that networking is the best way to get a job. “If done right,” he points out, “it opens the doors to job opportunities that are not published or opportunities that are created on the spot.”
He suggests researching which are the most active professional organizations in your field of interest and using them to network. Next, he suggests seeking out high growth organizations and offering to “to assist on research projects or other short-term assignments that can showcase your strengths.”

Alex Parker, an 18-year-old entrepreneur running his own internet marketing company, offers a different approach. “Graduates should not be searching for a job,” he advises, “but instead creating a job.” Parker notes that jobs remain scarce and there are not enough of them for every graduate, “but there are still many markets that are not satisfied and countless businesses that could be started to fulfill them.”

Whether starting your own company, networking your way into a job or demonstrating as an intern or volunteer that you are enthusiastic and hardworking, your personal qualities, not your résumé, are what likely will get you that first job. Employers tend to hire based on perceived potential. There is no better way to convince an employer that you have what it takes than to find a way to demonstrate that potential in person.

A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to