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Haven't scored the good life yet? Hire a coach!

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The job market for this year's crop of 1.4 million college graduates is the brightest in four years. US firms expect to increase their college hiring by 14 percent this year, according to one survey.

So why did Evan Diamond, a recent University of Georgia graduate, fork over $100 to attend a life-skills conference here last week?

"Things haven't worked out how I planned, which has been somewhat eye-opening to me," says Mr. Diamond, after attending a session called "Life 101 - The Big Picture." He quit his first job, in radio marketing, because he didn't advance as fast as he had expected.

That desire to score the good life right away is a defining trait of Diamond's generation, observers say. To confront the anxiety stemming from this unrealistic expectation, many of them are turning to life consultants.

Life coaches are the upbeat advice-givers known for helping harried CEOs acquire work-life balance. But today, more of them are playing Dr. Phil for 20-somethings.

In some ways, it's a natural tactic for a generation that grew up watching their parents pay people to solve their problems. But critics wonder whether such shortcuts undermine the value of real, sometimes bitter, experiences in building character.

"They're saying, 'I'm trying to do it better than before, I want to get it right, and I'm used to people helping me do that' - thus creating a whole new industry of post-college mentors," says Trudy Sopp, founder of the Centre for Organization Effectiveness (COE) in San Diego.

It's a growing industry, featuring numerous book titles, Internet discussion boards, life coaches, and workshops. Television networks are getting hip, too. "How To Get The Guy," a new ABC reality show that premieres June 12, employs life coaches to help young women score the perfect mate.

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