Once upon a time, all you needed to do to get a good job after graduating from college was to show your diploma and have a strong handshake. Whether you were graduating from top tier law school or one of the best interior design schools in the country, finding that first job was almost automatic. But now in an increasingly competitive market—especially in our current economic state—employment opportunities are few and far between, even those at the entry-level. With the market saturated by people of all career levels competing for the few jobs that are available, new college graduates have to utilize every resource they have available to stand out from a sea of applicants, many of whom may have more work experience than they do.

While finding employment opportunities prior to or after graduation can be more of a challenge than before, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job by tapping into resources and opportunities available only to new graduates (or pre-graduates). Here are a few tips and outlets you should utilize in your job hunt:

Start Early

Ideally, you should have been applying for and participating in internships and externships throughout your college years. Even if you haven’t, don’t wait until you’ve graduated to start looking for jobs. All college campuses offer a wide variety of resources that are available only to their students.

Many well-known companies—and a few start-ups—often post internship and entry-level positions on college job boards. These positions are often not advertised to the general public, so you have more of an advantage of being hired once you apply for this position.

Your professors are another resource available to you that the general public have no access to. They are well-established and well-connected individuals in their fields of study that may be able to advise you on how to break into your industry of choice. If you have a particularly good relationship with one or more of your professors, you can also ask them to help keep an eye out for available opportunities that may be a perfect fit for you.

A third resource that is only available to college students is their campus employment office (a recent study found that only 29% of students use their college career office) designed to help the near and new graduates find their first full-time position. This office’s function is more than that of just being connected to recruiters and hiring managers from across the country, it can be used as a resource to help prepare you for your interviews and provide you with useful tips on enhancing your resume.

Network

Professional networking can help you discover opportunities as well as help you to make connections within your industry– they may even turn into a job lead. This tool is often underused by new graduates. Create a profile that focuses on your skills, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience yet. Connect to people within your industry and join professional groups that discuss topics pertaining to your chosen career path. If you’ve applied for a job through a company website, try to find someone in your LinkedIn network that has a direct connection to that company, or that can introduce you to someone within that company. A recommendation from someone within that company can really increase your chances of getting an interview scheduled.

Also, make it a point to attend conferences, industry events, and other networking events in your chosen field. Participating in the professional circles of your industry is a great way to meet people who can provide advice and possibly help advance your career.  College alumni associations are also great places to look for mentors and connections in your field of interest. Online alumni databases are filled with alums who have registered to share their work experience with other graduates. This valuable resource gives you an opportunity to see the day-to-day practices of your ideal job, as well as provide you with a connection that may be able to help you land a job in the future.

Create an online portfolio

Particularly important for those in a creative field—such as art, music, or writing—one of the best ways get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers in a sea of recent graduates is to create an online portfolio showcasing your work. Even if the design, presentation, or writing sample are for a class or a side project, at least the hiring manager will have a sense of your abilities—which can help mitigate a lack of experience.

If you don’t have work to showcase in an online portfolio, consider creating a WordPress blog that focuses on topics on your chosen career path, or on a personal interest that can be discussed professionally.

Post-graduation college loan payments and living costs can leave you scrambling and looking for assistance before long, so it’s best to get a head start on finding a job to avoid future financial hardships.

Take advantage of resources provided by your college and start marketing yourself before you graduate. With these tips, you will be able to enjoy your graduation instead of worrying about when you might receive your first pay check.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Southern California who covers everything from education to marketing. She knows how hard it can be for post-grads to find a steady job and hopes these tips will help them on the road to their dream career.

Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/RecruiterCori

Recommended Links:

Resume Writing EBook
Straight Talk from a Recruiter: Resume Writing Strategies and Easy To Follow Techniques
(Kindle Edition)

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