business woman(Photo: Courtesy of Essence)

With more than 1.7 million collegians graduating in 2011, your biggest fear may not be how to get a job, but when it will happen. In today's tight market, finding a job that suits your skill set and earns you a comfortable wage will require more diligence than forwarding your résumé to a friend. Enter the 2012 ESSENCE Money & Careers Dream Team. We asked top careerists, financial experts and entrepreneurs, all who have been there and done that, for smart solutions to the money and career hurdles you're likely to face in your twenties. The consensus: With purposeful planning, you can move into the next decade at the pinnacle of your game.

THE CORPORATE EXEC SAYS:

CHERYL PEARSON-McNEIL, 50, Senior vice-president of public affairs and government relations, Nielsen

Network your way to a new job

"Often, getting the job comes down to building relationships. Seek informational interviews in which you talk to people who can share information about their company, line of work and career track. After each interview, ask for three other people to network with. Instead of asking for a job, you are gaining exposure. This keeps you top of mind for the next available job."

Customize your résumé

"A résumé is not meant to get you a job, it's meant to get your foot in the door. The interview gets you the job. Before sending résumés, download the company's annual report, Google your potential manager and tailor your résumé to fit the position."

Make yourself promotable

"Have an 'I've done good' file stored on your computer. I have a cap: Every four years I either move up or move out. In the first two years, make your mark. In the next two years evaluate where you want to go within the company. Even in a down economy, when you are really good at what you do, there will be a job for you."

Pearson-McNeil has a proven track record of building brand awareness, totally reshaping Nielsen's negative image among African-American consumers. She leads the company's multicultural advertising strategy and manages its African-American advisory council.