It wasn’t that long ago you were arriving on your college campus, equal parts nervous and excited.  You couldn’t wait to enjoy your first taste of freedom and march one step closer to the “real world.” Over the last four years, you’ve learned a lot of important lessons- some more easily than others.

You’ve been on the receiving end of a litany of career and job search advice. Some probably told you the odds of getting a job right out of college are slim to none. A few even tried to convince you to avoid the job market altogether by hiding out in school a few more years.

The experts, however, will tell you this: If you want to land a job when you graduate, you should’ve started working on it long before graduation day.

For those of you who’ve been working hard to build your resume, but still haven’t found the job you’re looking for, the following advice will be helpful to bolster your search. For those of you who put it off… You can’t afford to ignore it.

Get work experience to build your resume

Internships are best but if they’re already taken, find other ways to get industry experience.

Get some experience.

Your barista job won’t cut it. Start filling in the holes on your resume. If you have not had the opportunity to work in your field of interest, now is the time to fix that. Internships are your strongest experience; so secure one immediately. If they’re already filled, get your name on the short list for the next round. Completing school should make your schedule fairly flexible. Let them know you are ready as soon as they begin the next round of interns.

Take advantage of your school connections.

Graduation day may have come and gone, but the connections you’ve made have the potential to serve you for a lifetime. If you’ve been involved with an on-campus organizations, research what types of alumni leadership positions are available. Employers want to see your leadership abilities on your resume and they want to discuss them in your interviews. Additionally, serving as a mentor/leader with an organization that served you as an undergrad demonstrates initiative and loyalty- both of which will ramp up your reputation. Check this out to learn how to make networking the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Take advantage of your school's career services

Career services are available to recent grads. Take advantage of the services you paid for!

Use your Career Services Office.

Didn’t know your school had one? Most likely they do and it is available to recent grads, as well as undergrads. It’s nice when your dad’s golf buddy offers an introduction to the CEO of your dream job; but there’s no guarantee that’s going to come to happen. So learn what services your Career Office offers and start taking advantage of them immediately. You should be able to find resume-writing assistance, internship and job leads, workshops, interview tools, on-campus career fairs and interviews, and even networking opportunities with other alumni and other professionals. Take advantage of the services your tuition paid for.

Develop a Job Search Plan.

A job search plan maps out every step you need to land the job you want. Begin by researching what your ideal job looks like. What type of trajectory are you looking for? What skills are you hoping to acquire? Compensation, benefits, and schedules are important; but your focus should be on what you want to do, not what you want to GET. Next, identify target companies you would like to work for. However, be realistic. Friday beer carts and and an on-site masseuse do not a career make. Culture and fit are important, but you should be focusing on your long term career goals, not short term fun. Start making connections with the people who have the job you want and the decision makers within the organizations you want to join. Most of those connections will be via LinkedIn and other virtual meetings. However, push for in-person conversations whenever possible. Don’t get lost in the process. Set specific goals to hold yourself accountable and keep your search on track.

Book: How to create a LinkedIn Profile

A step-by-step look at how to create a dynamic and high performance LinkedIn profile.

Create your LinkedIn Profile.

Let’s be honest, this is something you should’ve done years ago. These days, even high school students have a profile and LinkedIn. But if you aren’t one of them, it’s not too late. Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for top talent (seasoned or green) on LinkedIn. Build a strong, comprehensive profile that includes your key skills and experiences, highlights all leadership roles and accomplishments, and a professional photo. This is your resume. Don’t forget to connect with your school’s faculty, former internship supervisors or employers, and any other professional contacts you know. Join LI groups within your industry of interest and connect with alumni. (Check out my book for detailed instructions and samples for creating a top notch LI Profile.)

Scrub your social media profiles.

If you wouldn’t want your mother (or future employer) to read it, don’t post it. What might be funny to your fraternity brothers or roommates is not funny to an employer. According to Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, here are the top social media turnoffs for recruiting and human resources professionals: drug (legal or not) references, sexual posts, spelling and grammar mistakes, profanity, guns, and alcohol references and images. Delete old posts and treat your social media account as a part of your resume going forward. Trust me, employers are looking and they will ask you about it if you make it to an interview.

We would all like to know there is a job waiting for us as soon as we cross the stage and shake hands with the university president. For most, there is no guarantee that will happen. But there are many things you can and should be doing to increase your chances of landing a job in your chosen profession. Take advantage of the numerous opportunities and resources available to you as an alum and be proactive in your job search.

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