Graduating from college is a hugely significant milestone for all students. For many it can be difficult to work out what direction to take after leaving school in terms of careers. Even for those who have a reasonable idea of which career path they wish to follow, actually securing a good graduate job can be difficult. The fact is that the graduate labor market is highly competitive, so a hard-working, persistent, and focused approach is paramount. If you’re coming to the end of your degree, or want to stay ahead of the game (always a good idea), here are some essential considerations for your graduate job hunt.

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Use career services

The careers office at your college is an invaluable resource that’s usually only available to you for a limited time, so don’t neglect it. Remember that, although they won’t do the job hunting for you, it’s in your university’s interest to find employment for you since it reflects well on them as an institution. The earlier you pay them a visit, the better. They can help you to figure out which direction to take based on your skills and interests, to construct the perfect resume, and teach you interview techniques. This is not to mention the wealth of connections with employers and industry the careers office will likely have, which can open doors that wouldn’t be open to you otherwise.

Boost your online presence

The importance of a strong resume is clear, but don’t forget the role that the online sphere can play in displaying your skills and getting noticed. These days, recruiters are actively searching for the graduates online using specialist HR tools, like this software, to create talent pools of the brightest candidates. Therefore your professional online presence needs to be both visible enough to make it onto these databases, and enticing enough to stand out within them.

Online networking is good strategy to achieve this, particularly using LinkedIn. Even if you have a profile already, it’s not enough to expect the offers to come to you; actively engage with individuals and groups in the fields you’re interested in. So long as your profile is well-presented, you stand a much better chance of piquing the interest of recruiters this way, and encourage them to add you to their talent pool. In addition, try uploading your resume to job seeking websites such as Monster – it can’t hurt to put yourself in the shop window while you’re actively searching for work.

Be proactive with your time

This applies to job hunting and applications, of course, but also to developing your skills and experience while you search for a longer-term occupation. A major challenge for graduates is offering tangible experience to employers as well as academic achievement; volunteering and doing internships are great ways to spend your summer or post-graduation period to develop this experience. In addition, if applicable to your target occupation, seek out courses and certifications that you can work towards in your spare time. For example, you could take part in a coding bootcamp, or you can study for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam over the summer if you have ambitions in accounting. Working or studying over the summer may not be that glamorous, but it’s more than worth it to make you stand out from the crowd and improve your career prospects.

Also see: How To Write A Perfect Cover Letter For Any Job Opening

Focus on soft skills

For graduates, there’s a perception that employers are demanding solid experience in order to get the job, but in order to get that experience they need a job – a sort of chicken and egg situation. This is only partially true. As discussed in the previous paragraph, there are several options for students and recent graduates to gain valuable experience, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that most employers aren’t expecting graduates to be the finished product. Rather, good employers are looking for graduates with high potential who can demonstrate soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and a proactive attitude, as well as a well-rounded personality. Focus on the elements of your experience that clearly demonstrate these sorts of skills and explain how they make you a good fit for the role.