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How to Land a Job by Graduation

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Oct. 15 2014, Published 5:32 a.m. ET

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I know you’re thinking that the real title should be ‘how to conquer this impossible task.’

Actually, with a little preparation, some confidence and a lot of hard work, it’s entirely possible. A few extra tips are helpful too, so here’s a list of twenty things you can do to increase your chances of achieving the impossible.

1. Think about the job you want

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Some of us take a lot of time picking a major, but once you’ve done that, pick your job ASAP. You don’t have to nail it down to specifics. Just select a field of interest. The sooner you know, the sooner you can start building your resume.

2. Intern more than once

Employers are more interested in professional experiences than anything else, so intern as much as possible. Be prepared to work without pay and remember that the experience itself is more valuable.

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3. Practice interview skills

I was a ball of nerves during my first interview, and that’s not what an employer wants to see. Find someone professional to practice with until it feels natural and not rehearsed.

4. Update your resume

Fill your resume with professional references, skills and accomplishments. Research proper formatting and style, and tailor your resume for each potential job because different companies look for different things.

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5. Work on your cover letters

Think of your cover letter as a companion to your resume. That means also tailoring it (no templates!) and fleshing out your experiences. They should only be a page long and finished with a signature. Don’t forget to sound enthusiastic!

6. Proofread!

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I’m talking about everything here. Proofread your cover letters, resumes, emails and even your text messages. Besides good practice for the future, it looks more professional than a sentence filled with typos.

7. Focus on schoolwork

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At this point you’re probably taking high-level, required classes, so you can’t afford to fail if you want to graduate on time. Plus think of how impressive a high GPA will look to potential employers.

8. Research your field

Learn everything you can about the field you’ve chosen. Stay on top of current trends and ideas. Follow industry leaders on social networks to understand how they think. The more you know, the more you understand what employers are looking for.

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9. Start looking early

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Don’t wait until the day after your ceremony to apply for jobs. Start looking now, or spend your winter break job hunting. That way you’ll walk right from the stage to an office.

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10. Get your name out there

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Once you start hunting, announce it to everyone you know. Create a LinkedIn profile, tell your advisor, professors, and employed friends, and have a personal business card ready. You never know when the right connections might come along.

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11. Professionalize yourself

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After making fancy business cards and resumes, adopt a professional attitude and perspective. Be mindful of your social media presence. (Which of course you were doing all this time, right?) Wear a suit to interviews and carry papers in a neat binder or briefcase. Show employers that you’re prepared to be a serious worker.

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12. Visit the career center

Most colleges offer career services, and they’re usually free! Even if you feel like you have the best resume around, ask the center to proofread it. Some will even offer mock interviews and assist you post-graduation. Take advantage of these great opportunities.

13. Show leadership

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Employers like when you can handle leadership roles, so run for an office position in that club you’ve attended the past three years. Become an editor for the campus newspaper, or organize a community service project. Don’t forget to put it on your resume!

14. Build technical skills

In today’s fast-paced world, technical skills are extremely valuable. Be familiar with any system your field often uses, increase your knowledge in social media, or learn a specific skill like web design.

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15. Learn a foreign language

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It’s not just impressive; it opens doors to international jobs. If you’ve thought about working overseas, study the spoken language in your area of interest for a more competitive advantage.

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16. Spend time abroad

Immersing yourself in the culture is another excellent way to compete for international positions. Before leaving, consider a credential evaluation so employers understand the education and qualifications you bring.

17. Stay in touch

Advisors, colleagues, professors, friends… keep in touch with these important people. They might be the reason you get hired.

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18. Ask for advice

For any other questions, ask employed friends or parents. My mom had years of job-hopping experiences to share.

19. Take time to relax

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I said it before: I was a ball of nerves, and I still would be if I didn’t learn to make time for myself once in a while.

20. Be open to change

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The real world is about to throw you a lot of curve balls. You might need to change location or jobs, and you never know how you personally might change after five years. Just go with the flow, be yourself, and brace yourself for what the future holds. The path may be rocky but be intentional and clear about where you’re heading and you will be just fine.

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