May signifies an exciting time for college seniors: graduation. It also signifies an exceedingly stressful time: finding that first post-college job. With the current unemployment rate at 5.5%, the lowest in a couple of years, the job market is buzzing with new opportunities. But the competition is fierce and standing out is more important than ever.

How does a new college graduate prepare for embarking on the job journey? It’s really simple: always be in job search mode. You never know where or how you will meet your next employer. Carry a professional business card with your contact information on it and be ready to hand it out.

Pro tip: make sure your email address looks professional before it goes on the business card.

Here are some other useful tips to get new graduates started on their first-time job search:

Professional Online Presence

Having a professional online presence is critical for landing that first job. Anything public on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts should be clean, professional, and career-minded. This is especially important for your profile pictures.

Start developing a persona within your area of interest. Begin by sharing news articles that relate to your field or industry. Join online professional groups that will enable you to meet others with more experience or starting out like you. Get involved in conversations with vocal executives and thinkers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This type of exposure will build a reputation, even at a small scale, that others will see when they look into your online presence.

If you do not have a LinkedIn profile, it’s time to create one that leverages your skills and accentuates your marketability. 95% of employers now research job applicants on LinkedIn prior to contacting them for an interview. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is current and relevant in terms of work experience and skill set -- and accurately matches your resume. Follow companies and groups of interest to keep updated on the latest in your space.


Professional In-Person Presence

Find online listings for career fairs and professional associations to attend happy hours, breakfast meetings, and even “lunch and learn” events. Use these arenas to meet peers, develop relationships and expose yourselves to companies of interest. You never know who you might impress in conversation.

Don’t underestimate local career fairs. Come prepared with your resume and ensure that you dress professionally, as first impressions matter. Ask about open positions and even internships if you don’t perfectly match with a required skillset.

You can also use Meetup and Eventbrite to find more great networking events in your area. Don’t forget non-profit organizations and other volunteer opportunities. These can be great resume boosters and can open a great number of doors as you are introduced to new people through formal and social events, fundraisers, and meetings. It will serve as a great icebreaker when you meet other professionals and can be a great part of your 30-second pitch.

Internships and Fellowships

While unpaid internships and fellowships may seem unappealing at first sight, consider the bigger picture. If something can be an exceptional resume boosters and offer exposure, it may open doors to something you can truly excited about long-term. Don’t forget, these opportunities can provide you ample opportunity to build additional connections in the workforce.

The best internships, though, are the paid ones -- if you can find them, latch on to these high-responsibility, high-quality, and high-reward openings.

Any internships and research gigs you held during college are instrumental to your resume. They are an indicator of valuable skills and experience gained during your college days, and should most certainly be spotlighted in your job applications. When you see a position that requires one to two years of experience, do not discredit the value of your internships.

Graduation is an awesome celebration and the beginning of a world of opportunity. Revel in it and appreciate the moment. Send yourself an email with your top three accomplishments, your top three skills, and three opportunities you want to pursue over the next ten years. Hold onto that list tightly reflect on it from time to time. Remember, life is about the journey and the destination.

Now go forth and conquer.

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