June 9, 2014 12:40 PM EDT

The labor market appears to be inching back to recovery, with an unemployment rate of 6.3% announced last week. But there’s one group that’s being left out of this return to stability: millennials.

An analysis by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. finds that the number of jobs held by workers between the ages of 55 and 64 grew by almost 10% — an increase of nearly two million — between 2007, the year the recession began, and last year.

Their kids haven’t fared nearly as well, though. Since 2007, there’s been a net increase of only 110,000 jobs held by workers between the ages of 22 and 34, making millennial employment nearly flat for the past six years.

“Different dynamics came into play during and post-recession,” says CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson. Millennials faced a double-whammy, he says. “There were fewer entry-level jobs… [and] they were also competing with more experienced workers who had lost their jobs and had to take on entry-level roles.”

Ferguson says there’s evidence that the tide is finally turning: The number of entry-level job listings on CareerBuilder is inching up and more employers have indicated they plan to hire recent college grads.

Career experts say the following advice will help millennials boost their chances of landing a job.

Learn the skills employers want. The demand for people with STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is projected to grow considerably over the next decade and beyond. “Based on the data, I think the obvious answer is to gain technical skills,” says Ben Peterson, co-founder and CEO of software company BambooHR. Today’s young adults, by and large, don’t have these skills, Peterson says. This effectively locks them out of the growth taking place in today’s jobs market. “There are so many opportunities available that require skills that millennials don’t have.”

Use networking to help fill an experience gap. Young adults are in a catch-22: They need to get a job to get experience, but employers want to see that they have at least some experience. Stéphane Le Viet, CEO of social recruiting company Work4, says millennials can mitigate this gap by being active on social networks. “Millennials must learn to use social media to professionally connect and build relationships with people and organizations in their desired industry,” he says. Since young adults grew up in the era of social media, they’re at an advantage when it comes to exploiting this avenue, Le Viet says.

Take advantage of a reputation for learning quickly. Today’s employers want workers who can get up to speed quickly and who can jump into projects with little or no training. “Millennials should focus on their capacity to quickly learn new skills and adapt to new situations, showing that they can quickly move from project to project or function to function,” John Salveson, co-founder and principal of executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group.

Cultivate relationships with mentors. “Young adults need to focus on building their networks and developing strong relationships with more seasoned professionals who would be willing to mentor them,” says Sally Stetson, co-founder and principal of Saveson Stetson Group.

Specifically, young adults should seek out baby boomers as mentors, Salveson says. “Younger professionals can receive important mentoring from these seasoned professionals who can help them develop and advance their careers,” he says. Also, boomers are the demographic closest to retirement, so young adults have the opportunity to move up the ladder when these mentors depart.

Don’t hold out for your dream job. “Don’t worry about finding your ideal job right away,” Ferguson says. “Look for opportunities that will provide you with a good learning experience and serve as a stepping stone in your career.”


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