5 Steps to Starting Your Post-College Job Search

The arduous process of applying to jobs after graduation can be overwhelming, filled with false starts and missteps. Instead of blindly jumping into the employment search armed with merely a degree and a résumé, apply for jobs the smart way-by following these steps before even browsing the want ads. A little preparation now will streamline the job-search process and better set you up for success.

1. Create a Professional E-mail Account

If you've been using the e-mail service provided by your school, it is important to create a personal account before you start sending out résumés. In many cases alumni are not allowed access to the school's e-mail upon the end of the summer, rendering your .edu account useless. You don't want to risk missing an important response from a potential employer because you didn't get the correspondence. Plus, a designated account for your professional endeavors will help you keep your applications organized. Also, make sure your screen name is professional and something that can identify you (firstname.lastname, for instance), not a nickname from middle school. Potential employers are not your AIM buddies-yet!

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2. Visit Your School's Career Services Center

A career adviser can put you in contact with alumni in your desired field, point you in the direction of job boards, and even help you with your résumé and cover letter. While browsing CraigsList.org or LinkedIn.com is essential, a chat with your career counselor can help narrow your search.

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3. Create a Robust LinkedIn Profile
This online social networking site is the one-stop-shop for recruiters who are literally combing the site everyday for people-possibly including you-with specific qualifications. It is now common practice for recruiters and companies to research possible job candidates on LinkedIn, which means your profile here should be perfectly polished and treated as your actual résumé-because it is! Don't wait for someone to ask for a link to your profile. Instead, include it in the first e-mail you send.

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4. Put Out the Word that You're Looking for a Job

One of the recent grads in our office sent an e-mail to her extended family and friends around graduation time filling them in on the highlights of her time at a school. She wrote about her plans for the future and mentioned her job search. The response from friends and family eager to help by providing contacts and advice was overwhelming. Her network instantly grew and reconnected her with people she doesn't talk to on a regular basis. It also got her an inside connection here. Do not discount anyone as a potential addition to your job-search network.

5. Reach Out to Past Employers and Professional Contacts

While a mass e-mail as sort of a virtual Christmas card is appropriate and welcomed from friends and family, you should reach out individually to any professional contacts. A personalized e-mail that provides information on what you're looking for works well. Even better, try to connect with them in person or over the phone so you can get advice, leads, or both right away!

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.