It's graduation season for the Class of 2010, a cause for celebration and, for some, possible panic over finding a job.
Today's graduates are facing a slightly better job market than last year's grads, with employers making 5 percent more offers this season, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks recruitment data among entry-level hires.
NACE also found that 24 percent of 2010 college graduates who applied for a job have one waiting after graduation, up from 20 percent last year. That means their classmates have their work cut out for them.
Fortunately, there are tried and true steps every new grad can take right now to get hired. Since it's impossible to predict which tactics will prove the most successful, it's essential to use them all.
Maximize the benefits of social networking sites.
Become active and professionally engaged on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Most new grads use just one or two of the sites, and they're ignoring LinkedIn because it feels boring without the same instant feedback and fancy photos as Facebook. Big mistake -- LinkedIn usually has the best contacts. Use the free tutorials on the site to get started.
Attend the right networking events.
Be strategic about when and where you show up and what you do once you arrive. Very often young jobseekers wander aimlessly at such gatherings, unsure of who to chat with or what to say. They leave disappointed.
The first step is to determine which events to attend. Choose industry-specific functions over general pink-slip parties. This includes the likelihood of meeting employed professionals who may be in a position to introduce you to your next employer.
Call ahead to ask event organizers about the agenda, the scheduled speakers and the general make-up of the attendees. This helps you to feel more confident walking in the door.
Go alone and have your spiel ready. Bringing someone with you means you'll cling to each other instead of making new contacts. Unless your pal is an extrovert who knows how to work the room effectively, rely only on yourself to make new connections.
Depending on the event, it may seem awkward to bring your resume, which is why professional business cards are essential. More important than passing out your own card is collecting the contact information from any good leads.
If there's a cost, ask to get in free by volunteering to help the organizers.
Show up in person.
In some industries it may be acceptable or even encouraged to show up to apply in person. Think hospitals, restaurants, retail establishments, hotels, other hospitality-related venues, and more.
They key is to walk in ready to interview, not just to grab an application. Make small talk with a receptionist and other personnel in the HR office by asking directly about openings and seeking advice on how best to get noticed. This is a way to establish a connection, put a face to your resume and show off a winning personality.
One word of caution -- don't show up unannounced to private offices. It's a turn-off to employers when they're greeted by unexpected visitors seeking employment. Be sure that showing up is the norm in your line of work.
Pursue temporary to permanent.
Even though it's not the primary goal of any new graduate, getting your foot in the door as a temp can be a critical move. Temp hiring has shown growth for several months, which means there's opportunity. Work with agencies and go directly to employers. One searchable database is AmericanStaffing.net.
When looking at temp work, don't just target specific positions, but rather target the companies you want to work for.
Be prepared to accept a less-than-ideal short-term opportunity if it will land you inside an organization that interests you. Once inside, you can network internally to connect with the people in the department you're really eyeing, while impressing everyone with your work ethic.
Connect with alumni and college career services.
Many graduates don't use the services they've spent four years paying for. Make use of the alumni and career services offices at your alma mater by generating a list of 50 alums to reach out to. Assume that not everyone will respond to you. All you need is one to pay off.
When you make a successful connection, don't ask directly for a job. Instead ask for advice, contacts and suggestions of events to attend or organizations to join, and then follow those leads. In addition, ask the career service office to connect you with employers that are hiring and have hired in recent years. Nobody will volunteer this information to you, but if you're persistent it will be provided.
Consider an unpaid internship.
Nobody graduates from college wanting to work for free. But a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that more than 42 percent of seniors with internship experience received at least one job offer. And they get paid more when they land that job -- 31 percent more than those without internship experience. New grads can see similar results. Taking that unpaid internship is an opportunity to gain experience and make connections while you're searching for a fulltime paid job.
Job searching can be lonely if you go it alone. Partner with another recent grad to embark on your job search and agree to hold one another accountable for results. Don't select an enabler who'll easily let you off the hook for sleeping until noon or who will agree with you that there are absolutely no jobs out there.
Instead, pick someone who will encourage and empower you, someone who will be your cheerleader and root for your success. This person will also give you that gentle (or not so gentle) kick when you're slacking off. Do the same in return for your partner.
If you can't find a partner, join a job club. A club may offer routine meetings to keep everyone on track and the accountability of the group dynamic may be just what you need. MeetUp.com and churches are possible sources for job club meetings in your area.
Establish a formal daily routine.
Sleeping until noon -- no more, no way. Anyone who's looking for work must treat job searching as a full-time job, which means establishing a routine during normal business hours. Ideally, spend the majority of that time out of the house .
Ask your parents for help.
Some graduates are perfectly comfortable with this, while others insist on doing it on their own. There's no shame in asking mom or dad for help. In fact, everyone, no matter his or her career stage, needs a hand in getting hired. Don't be afraid to ask for it. It's a sign of strength, not weakness.
Keep track of your activities and contacts.
You'll likely meet many people who can't help you right now. Instead of tossing their numbers, keep track of all your contacts in one place. Use a specific notebook or start an Excel chart -- whatever works for you. Re-visit people over time to update them on your progress and to stay in their minds. While they may not have had a lead a month ago, something may change in time. By keeping track of your applications, you'll be more apt to follow up too.