Education may eventually shift the trend in favor of women, who accounted for a record 52 percent of college graduates in 2012. They passed men in 2005 and have gradually increased the lead every year since.
After finishing a one-year residency in New York, Monica Delwadia, a 29-year-old dentist, started working three days a week at a clinic in Leesburg, Va. She was married in July and moved in with her husband in Germantown, Md. Since Delwadia is licensed to work as dentist in Virginia and not in Maryland, she commutes 50 minutes to make the 33-mile drive each way to Leesburg.
"It seems to me there might be a little bit of an economy effect," said Delwadia, who attended Emory University in Atlanta and went to the University of Tennessee's College of Dentistry in Memphis. In better times, patients are more willing to pay for preventive and cosmetic work, she said.
"Now it's more like, 'This one tooth is bothering me. Let's just take care of this, and I'll call you if I want to do the rest of the work,' " she said.
Delwadia likes the clinic and said she hopes to pick up more hours. She said she also may eventually look for a second job at another dental office.
Some students not yet in the workforce are bracing themselves for settling for jobs outside their area of study.
Alexandra Allmand, 22, said it might be difficult to find a position in human resources or recruiting when she graduates from George Washington University in December.
Allmand, who studies psychology, is a hostess at District Commons, a restaurant near the university's campus in Washington. She said she will look for internships in addition to jobs "because I can't be picky."
For many workers in their 20s, "it's catch-as-catch-can," said Stephen Bronars, senior economist at Welch Consulting in Washington, who specializes in employment and labor issues. "The economy hasn't really picked up enough to get all of them into full-time work."
At the Hamilton, two blocks from the White House, Honard often waits on lawmakers and government officials, giving her a glimpse of people she would like to work with someday. This summer she served a member of President Barack Obama's Cabinet, to whom she recommended a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
Though she doesn't want to stick with it long-term, waiting tables comes easily to Honard. As soon as she turned 18, the minimum age for working where alcohol is served, she started as a waitress at Calamari's Squid Row, the restaurant her parents own in Erie, Pennsylvania, where she grew up.
She decided to move to Washington because it's an obvious destination for those working in public policy and she enjoyed the city during an internship with a charter school organization two summers ago.
Honard said she frequently searches Syracuse's alumni program to scout for job openings and uses a network the university has on LinkedIn Corp.'s website.
"It's a gradual process, and I try to be systematic about it," she said. "I'm just lucky I have something to support myself in the meantime."