Landing Your First Job: Three Proven Strategies

College students share tips for standing out among job applicants.

April 29, 2011, 3:12 PM

May 1, 2011— -- For many college students getting a job in today's economy may seem like a difficult feat, especially for those with little to no professional experience. Everyone's heard the same advice: Network, use online search engines and go to the career center. But the way you utilize these tools is just as important as the resources themselves. spoke with several college students who landed interviews -- and jobs –- and asked them to share their strategies.

Here's what they did to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Network … With Everyone

Ashley Simakas, a senior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., majoring in mechanical engineering, landed her first job with Westinghouse in Pittsburgh after two internships with the company.

Simakas, who was one of more than 230 students interning with the company, said she believes she got the job offer with Westinghouse because she networked while she was there.

"When I would meet people in the company or work with different managers, I would make sure to establish a contact with them by getting a business card or an e-mail address," said Simikas.

Simakas contemplated using online jobs search engines and major corporation websites to apply for positions in her field, but she said she felt networking with contacts in a company she had experience in would be more lucrative.

"I can't imagine the number of resumes that file in daily," Simakas told "Corporations must get hundreds of online submissions a day. My resume would most likely have gotten lost in the mix, and that wasn't a chance I was going to take."

But using contacts from internships are not the only way graduating seniors are finding success in the job search.

Kyle Allison, a senior at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va., majoring in kinesiology, networked through Facebook to get in contact with a sister's friend who works in Charleston, S.C., where Allison is looking to start his career.

"The one thing I've learned in this awful job search mess is sometimes you can't do it all yourself. It's all about who you know, and all about networking with those people," he said.

Allison said he has opted to stay away from online job listings and applications.

"I trust a friend with my resume over some search engine. When I submit my resume to the search engine, I have no idea where it's going to spit it out and whether it will ever get looked at."

For Allison, who has based his job search solely on networking, connecting to people shows employers something different than applicants who submit their resumes online.

His approach seems to be working -- he has two phone interviews set up in the physical therapy industry.

"By networking, you're going out of your way to find a path into the business, you're not just relying on a computer or search engine to do all the work for you, and this shows employers you're tenacious and driven," he said.

Alison Doyle, a job search expert with many years of experience in human resources, career development and job searching, said she believes it is important to use networking as a job search strategy.

"Join LinkedIn and search for your university's alumni networks. Connecting with alumni in your area of interest can present you with more job opportunities than you may have had before."

Doyle also said she encourages graduates in the job search to use Facebook to connect with friends who work in your field of interest.

According to Doyle, internships not only provide you with a great way of networking but they help you understand what the job description really entails.

Use Search Engines to Look Beyond Job Postings

Lisa Jablon, a senior at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, N.Y., who's majoring in public relations, has found a number of job opportunities using online search engines.

But for Jablon, search engines do more than just streamline job postings.

"Search engines have provided me with direct e-mail addresses to contact people at companies via search engine postings, contact information that I otherwise I would have had difficulty finding," said Jablon.

"Using that information to contact a real person was much more effective than dropping my resume into the hundreds of other online applications," added Jablon.

It was through this method that Jablon has scheduled more than five interviews with public relations firms in the New York City area.

Paul Forster, the co-founder and CEO of, said, "Using a specialized search engine allows job seekers to not only find a job, but in the case of it provides a person with the ability to narrow their search based on salary refinement, location, companies and job titles." has more than 24 million visitors in the U.S. each year and according to Forster there is "no real skew," with the website seeing all kinds of visitors looking for entry level positions to very specialized senior positions.

Forster recommends when using a search engine, "Don't be too broad, narrow your searches down to match your skills and experience, and you will find success."

Don't Write Off the Career Center

Although looking through the classifieds in your local newspaper or utilizing the career center services at your university may seem archaic to some, Doyle said she stresses that young job seekers utilize the "old-fashioned" ways.

"It is very important to use the career services at your university, it may help you with job leads that may not be listed anywhere," said Doyle.

Melanie Rosner, a senior majoring in finance and entrepreneurship at Hofstra, found her job with Capital One's commercial banking training program through the university's career center website's job listings.

"It was the old-fashioned way of getting involved with campus career resources that led me to this position, resources that I don't think people use enough," said Rosner.

Setting up appointments with career counselors to better her resume, searching through the career center's job posting website and attending career center job fairs were among the job search strategies that Melanie said she believes help her enter the work force.

But using the resources of Hofstra's career center was not the only means Rosner used in her job search and application process.

"If I was interested in a company, I sent them my cover letter and resume, in the mail, trying to set myself apart from other applicants," Rosner told

With the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 8.8 percent, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Doyle says it is important for job seekers to be as "proactive as possible," using every method available.

And here's the good news: The National Association of Colleges and Employer's reported that employers expect to hire 21 percent more new college graduates this year than in 2010, according to NACE's preliminary results of the job outlook spring update survey.

"So job seekers, don't give up," said Doyle. "It may feel like your resume fell into a black hole when you don't hear back, but don't give up on your search because there are jobs out there." contributor Brianna Gays is a member of the ABC News on Campus bureau in New York, N.Y.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events