Get a job by graduation with this plan

Start the new year with these strategies, and let the countdown to crushing your career begin.

Get a job by graduation with this plan

For four years, you’ve followed a basic routine: register for classes, study, pass your tests, hand in final papers, repeat. In the back of your mind, you’re starting to realize something. When you graduate in a few months, like it or not, you’re about to be plunged headfirst into the real world.

That anxious “OMG what happens next?” feeling is sinking in, and that’s why you’ve started getting a head start on your job search. You’ve begun to build your social media presence. You’ve created a list of awesome companies to apply to. Maybe you’ve even started posting your resume and contacting your college’s alumni network.

But still, you wonder: What else can I do to set myself up for success?

Monster asked career experts to create an action plan to make sure you have a job lined up by graduation. With these steps, you won’t feel like the undergrad hourglass is running out too fast.

Step 1: Schedule a focused conversation with a college career counselor

Although this step might seem optional, it’s the most important thing to do first. You don’t want to start your career in the wrong job or industry, so speaking with a professional about your skills and interests is a high priority. After all, that’s what college career counselors are there for—so use them!

“It's amazing what a focused conversation can reveal to you about desires, aptitudes, anxieties and obstacles,” says Clark University Career Services Director, Vickie Cox-Lanyon.

Before meeting with your college counselor, “take personal inventory by asking three questions,” recommends Thomas Ward, Jr., executive director of the Center for Career and Professional Development at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. “What am I good at? What do I like to do? What opportunities exist?” This information will help guide the conversation.

Step 2: Define your network before you network

You’ve probably heard how beneficial it is to tap into your alumni network, and it’s true. But before you start cold calling and emailing your list of contacts, it’s important to survey your existing connections, so you can determine which people might be most likely to help you land a job or offer a bridge to someone who can.

“Make a list of contacts you have, such as people you've worked with in the past, your friends and connections your friends have,” says Monica Mizzi, a career adviser at Resume Genius. “Reach out to these people and ask if they know of any job opportunities, or would be able to put you in touch with someone that does.”

By defining your current connections, you’ll know when you’ve exhausted them and if you need to expand your network in order to find the best opportunities.

Step 3: Mark your calendar with spring networking events to attend

Yes, you’re a senior, and that means you’re busy. You’ve got classes and finals and probably a job or internship—not to mention extremely important end-of-college socializing.

However, that “real world” we talked about earlier is quickly approaching, so now’s the time to burn the candle at both ends—you’ve got to get out and rub elbows with employers and influencers in your industry now.

How to find these golden opportunities? “College career centers host a wide range of programs and events, most co-presented with employers, in the spring semester that might result in a connection,” says Rob Liddell, director of career planning, student success at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida.

Ask your college counselor which event you think will make the most difference in your particular job search, and block off that time in your calendar to commit to going. For example, if you’re a culinary arts major, it’s going to be a lot more important to attend an event specific to the food service industry than a more general Fortune 500 job fair.

Before attending an event, invest some time learning about the companies that will be in attendance.

What should you know about a company? It’s impossible to research everything, but if you prepare yourself with a basic understanding of the company's products and/or services, who their customers are and their mission (if any), you’ll look like an appealing applicant.

The sharper and more informed you seem, the more likely they are to want to meet with you for a follow-up interview after the larger networking event—and maybe you’ll land that job before you don your cap and gown for the final march in May.

Already have a few companies in mind you’d like to work for? Check out our company reviews to see if it would be a good fit.