Job hunting for the recent or soon-to-be college grad can seem formidable. Most students know about crafting superb resumes and cover letters and often take workshops at their colleges to make these even better. The problem is, however, that many students don’t even know where to begin or where to even look for that entry-level position they want. The good news is that even in this less-than-stellar economy, students are not left up-creek without a paddle. There are definitive ways to increase your chances of landing that job after graduation.

1.  Have Ambition

No, you don’t have to aspire to become the new Steve Jobs. You just need a vision for yourself before you set out on your journey. It’s also perfectly normal to not be sure what you want to do. There are many people in their 40s who change careers or still haven’t decided just yet what they want to be when they grow up. An ambition can be that you want to find an entry-level position that can leave you enough money to live on. If you want something directly related to your major, then set out on acquiring internships in those areas to increase your marketability. It’s also prudent to find a professional mentor who can give you sound career advice. The basic idea is to set a vision for yourself and go after it.

2.  Your Major is Relevant

Humanities majors unite! If your major was anything other than basket-weaving, your major can help you to build a successful career. For example, if you were a theatre major, your oratory or performance skills could help you be an effective teacher. It could also help you to nail that interview or to knock out an effective meeting that leaves everyone raving. People skills are always important. Or let’s say you were a history major. The ability to write effectively, to conduct meaningful research, and to give critical analysis is valuable in marketing, news organizations, and many other industries. The bottom line is that whatever you learned in college can help you in your professional career. Don’t knock your French major to anyone, especially to the person who is interviewing you. Explain to your interviewer how the skills you learned in college can be applied to the job opening at hand.

3.  Internships are Your One Foot in the Door

Don’t underestimate the importance of college internships. They can often lead to job opportunities that you didn’t even imagine. If you were a good intern before graduation and you come back for employment, they just might hire you for the job. Even if you aren’t hired at the company you interned at, it still serves as valuable job experience. It is certainly more impressive on a resume than that gig you had in high school flipping burgers. Go to your college career development center and see what internships they have or what alumnae connections they have.

4.  Networking is Key

As Chris Rock once said to his audience, “80% of people in here got a job because a friend recommended them.” That is still absolutely true today. I got my current job because a Polish friend from my graduate program in Budapest knew about a job opening at my company in Kyiv. That’s one crazy line of connections from Poland, to Hungary, to Ukraine. But it still stands as a testament to the fact that connections are what help you to get noticed. Not sure if you have an adequate network? Build one! The way to do that is to always be kind and courteous to everyone, even if they aren’t your best buddies. Also, try to go to career fairs sponsored by your college to meet representatives from different companies. See if your college has an alumnae database of former students who are connected in certain companies or industries that you are interested in. Just telling a person that you went to their college can sometimes make them want to help you. Why? College often makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. At this same graduate program in Budapest, I met Natalie Zemon Davis who is one of the preeminent historians of her generation. I went up to her and told her I went to her alma mater, Smith College. She immediately hugged me, which she certainly didn’t do with all the people who went up to her. The point is to use your college connections to build yourself up professionally.

5.  Every Meeting is Important

 Going to job interviews is very important, even if you’re not that interested in the open position. Show up looking crisp, clean, wide-eyed, and bushy-tailed. You never know who your interviewer knows. Prepare for each job interview or meeting with a professional by reading about them or their company and by having important and relevant questions to ask. This shows that you have initiative and drive, which are both important traits for any career field.     

6.  Old School Social Graces are Still Classy

Remember how your mom always made you write thank-you cards after your birthday to the relatives who sent you presents? That is still good habit to keep up as an adult. Always send a hard-copy thank-you note to your interviewer or to any professional you hold a meeting with. It shows that you have manners and are grateful for their time. Maybe if they don’t hire you, they will keep you in mind for a later position or they can refer you to someone else they know who is hiring.

7.  Censor Your Facebook Profile

If you have any compromising pictures or wall posts of any kind, REMOVE THEM PRONTO. If you have friends that leave you messages on your wall about getting wasted, partying, etc., delete them. You don’t want a prospective boss reading about all the blunts you smoked at the party or how trashed you were. Keep it professional, even on your Facebook page. You never know who’s looking.

8.  Use Social Networking Sites

 More job recruiters are taking advantage of Facebook and LinkedIn to find potential employees. Learn where your friends are working or whatever connections they might have. This can be hard right out of college but it becomes easier once more people get hired over time. Create a snazzy profile on both websites that markets yourself for whatever career you are interested in. LinkedIn’s Events application allows users to peruse events highlighted by the professionals in their network. It also includes information about conferences, speaking gigs, or programs that people are attending. Both sites offer the opportunity to engage with people in a way that increases your professional network.

9.  Find a Hobby and Meet People

You may be a mighty World of Warcraft player but that will never give you the edge of actually meeting real human beings and engaging with them. If you have musical talents, try to put together a band and organize shows in your community. If art is your passion, try volunteering at a local gallery so that you can make inroads with the local artistic community. If you love the outdoors, try and find an outdoorsy group that goes on weekend outings. Or if you’re sporty, try to join a recreational adult sports league. The point is to try to meet new people, which isn’t always easy after you finish college. These people may know all sorts of people who could be looking for someone with your skills and talents. It certainly doesn’t hurt your odds of finding a good job. 

10.  Create Your Own Online Brand

Last but not least, build up your own brand. Sell yourself to potential employers out there before they even know you. YouTube personalities like Ray William Johnson and Jenna Marbles are famous because they successfully built their reputations as entertainers based on their original show ideas. Namely, Ray William Johnson created a popular show called “=3” that showcases three of the most popular viral internet videos twice a week. And Jenna Marbles discusses her observations on life as an attractive twenty-something woman. You don’t even have to become internet famous. A good place to start would be to create your own website.  It can showcase your ideas, accomplishments, or creative output. You could also start a blog about a topic that is of interest to you that might attract potential employers. Therefore, don’t create a blog about your love of Beanie Babies! Try to make it about a topic that interests you and might be interesting to kindred connoisseurs. For example, if you’re interested in film making, make it about that. What does this have to do with employers, you ask? If they Google your name and your interesting website or blog comes up, it can show you have initiative and/or talent.

These are all just some preliminary ideas and suggestions to help you to get a job after college. Remember that many people have to try for years before they get that dream job or even an adequate one. Don’t despair and keep up the good fight! If you’ve got education and ambition on your side, you’re sure to make it eventually. It just may not be right after graduation.