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When college graduation is quickly approaching and you find yourself without any job prospects, it can be hard not to have a defeated, “now what?” moment. Especially with the average student loan debt rising to a staggering $39,400 (for class of 2017 graduates). How can you start paying for your education or investing in your future if you don’t have the financial means to do so?

What’s important to remember is that you’ve accomplished a great deal just by graduating college. Give yourself a break – this was no small feat! Not to mention, taking a break in between graduation and your first job could be a great time to decide what career you want to pursue and what actions you can start now that will move your future career forward.

If you’re having a hard time getting job offers after you graduate college, here are a few ways you can start the job hunting process and get back on the career playing field.

Update Your Résumé

Are you submitting your résumé to hiring companies but not receiving a phone call for an interview? The problem could be that your résumé is not written for an applicant tracking system (ATS).

Applicant tracking systems filter résumés based on keywords and key phrases established by an employer. This means, if you’re not including specific words that would be picked up by an ATS, your résumé could be getting lost in the process. Currently, 98% of Fortune 500 companies are using ATS to filter and find potential hires.

However, there’s a simple fix. Just check the job posting or job description and use the words found in the title, skills and experience sections and implement them into your résumé. The best practice would be to use two – three keywords or key phrases in your résumé, as too many could raise a red flag in the ATS.

Make sure to include any clubs, organizations, extra curriculars or volunteer events you participated in during your time in college. If you had a job during college, be sure to call that out as well, using compatible keywords found in the job you’re applying for.

Clean Up Your Social Profiles

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – 77% of Americans have at least one of these social media platforms. It’s a great way to connect with friends and family, as well as a space to share your thoughts, memories and pictures, but did you know it’s also a way you can network with professionals and corporations in your desired job field?

Social platforms like LinkedIn allow you to add your skills and accomplishments to your profile as well as receive endorsements from other professionals. If you have a good relationship with a college professor or advisor, ask them to endorse one of your skills on LinkedIn to build credibility and stand out to potential employers.

Facebook and Twitter might not be perceived as professional social media sites, but by creating and sharing relevant industry content on your personal profiles, you can build rapport with other industry professionals as well as employers.

Remember to keep it professional as you’re posting and sharing content on your social platforms. Since 84% of employers are using social media as a recruitment tool, make sure that everything you post reflects and builds your personal brand.

Visit Your Campus Career Center

If graduation is drawing near and you’re still without any job offers or potential leads on a career, try visiting your campus career center. Most colleges and universities provide professionals to help guide you to a career. Advisors at career centers can help you write a résumé and cover letter and practice for an interview.

You can also ask your career center for a list of alumni, if your school has an alumni association, and then contact alumni to see if there are any hiring opportunities at their place of employment. You’ll find that sharing alma maters might help you get a connection to a job.

Lastly, attend career fairs hosted by your college or community in order to connect with local companies and potentially land a job. Be sure to do your research on the companies that most interest you ahead of time and come prepared with a current copy of your résumé.

Get a Temporary Job or Volunteer

Even if you’re not working at the job of your dreams, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a new, valuable skill from a current or temporary job. There’s nothing wrong with starting off part time somewhere similar to where you want to be full time.

In fact, it could be a stepping-stone on the path that leads you to your desired career. Take this time to build positive relationships with your coworkers and a hard-working, professional rapport with your team leader or boss. This could lead to a shining review or recommendation down the road in your professional career.

If you’d rather spend your time polishing another set of skills, try volunteering in your local community. Contributing to the non-profit organizations and communities around your neighborhood takes dedication and passion – attributes that employers will value.

You can even try your hand at a few side hustles, which are growing in popularity, especially among younger millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 26). Make sure you’re logging your activity on your résumé or cover letter. Any experience, whether professional or non-profit, will look great to a potential hire.

Interview, Interview, Interview

Just like the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” don’t let the first job rejection get you down. There are plenty of awkward interview moments that might occur, but remember that there’s always a chance to improve for the next one.

Take time after your interview to reach out to the person who conducted your interview and thank them for their time. If you didn’t get the job, you can ask for tips on how you can improve for your next interview. It might feel awkward to ask for feedback from a job rejection, but asking for and implementing feedback will go a long way during your next job interview.

If you’re still having trouble landing a job during the interview phase, ask a trusted professional to give you a mock interview to help you overcome any nerves and polish your interview skills so you can improve for your next interview.

The best thing for you to do is to start your job preparation before you graduate college. By being proactive by updating your résumé and networking with professionals from your desired industry, you’re on the right path to creating a solid professional presence that might help you land a job down the road.

It’s hard to enjoy the fruits of four or more years of labor when you’re trying to find the means to pay for your education, but hopefully we’ve given you tips that will put you back in the ring for an interview and a possible job offer.

Do you have any tips for recent college grads looking for a job? Share your thoughts below.

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