Graduating from college is an exciting and daunting, particularly for graduates with ambition. You have spent years studying to either achieve the degree you need for your dream job or if you have not yet settled on a career path yet, the degree which gives you the most options. Now that all that hard work is coming to fruition, it is time to start the search for a job. It is rarely essential that you have your ideal job straight out of college, and very few people do, but there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of success.

If you have recently graduated or will be graduating this year, these tips will help you to kickstart your career in the right way.

9 Career Tips for Ambitious Graduates

1. Audit your online presence

Whether we like it or not, we all leave a digital footprint behind, and when employers are looking for candidates to invite to interview, what they find about could play a big part in their decision. Hopefully, you have learned to post (or allow yourself to be tagged) in less than flattering photos from nights out. However, it is worth checking your personal social media accounts that are set to private or do not include posts or images you would rather a potential employer did not see.

Your next job is to Google your name. Ideally, a public social media profile such as LinkedIn will appear which lists your education, experience, skills, and qualities, as well as the fact you are currently looking for a graduate opportunity. Your Twitter and Instagram accounts could also be appropriate depending on the type of career you are looking to enter, e.g., marketing, creative arts, design. In addition, you could also create your own professional website.

2. Create a professional website

Creating a website where you can promote your education, skills, and talents is an effective way to stand out from the crowd in modern recruitment. It may seem like a big task at first, but there are several website-building services that guide you through the process step by step. You need to buy a domain name that is as close to your name or brand as soon as possible to prevent it from being snapped up by someone else.

Once you have created your website, it is worth looking into search engine optimization, i.e., increasing the likelihood that search engines like Google and Bing will display your website on the first page of results. To find out more about creating and promoting your website, click here.

3. Research potential career choices

It is highly likely that you have been repeatedly asked what you want to do with your career throughout your time at college. For most people, the answer changes several times, and often the career we start off with is not where we find ourselves five or ten years later. Try not to feel too much pressure to choose your only career now, as the chances of making the right call when you have had minimal experience in any industry are slim. Instead, take a step back, and think about what you would like to try first.

Your career will be a journey with lots of different twists, turns, and diversions along the way, so while you may have a long-term ambition, focus on where you want to be in 3-5 years. This starts with internet research about different careers and industries so you can get a sense of whether your education, experience, and personality would be a good fit. Consider the pros and cons of each, the opportunity for progression, and the impact it could have on your lifestyle. When you have identified an industry or career you are interested in pursuing, you can start to look for vacancies.

When companies advertise vacancies, they will include job descriptions that outline what they are looking for in a candidate, but this will not give you an accurate sense of what it is like to work for the company. You can often find anonymous reviews of companies from former and existing employees, and/or you can ask members of the interview panel to describe the company’s culture.

4. Improve your business acumen

You may be able to secure an interview based on your degree, but employers will be considering lots of graduates with similar levels of experience. What will set you apart is commercial awareness. Do you understand how a business is run? Do you have the necessary skills and knowledge to be an asset to a company? Graduates who bring value and not just a degree on a piece of paper will have a definite advantage over the competition.

If your business knowledge is lacking, it may be worth taking a course in business theory and management skills, or perhaps even a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). It is worth noting that you can complete an MBA online so that you can study around your professional and personal commitments. For more information on studying for an online MBA, click here.

5. Network as much as possible

Networking is essential at every stage of your career, and you can begin even before you graduate. Colleges and universities will organize events that allow students to meet with business owners and industry partners. These events give you a chance to quiz professionals about their industry and career opportunities and establish connections. If you make a good impression and exchange contact details, you have made a professional contact with who you may be able to approach in the future for advice. In some cases, you might find that the people you meet will be interviewing you later.

When you connect with someone, be sure to exchange business cards and follow up with a telephone call or email a few days later. Maybe they would be happy to meet for a coffee and let you pick their brain?

6. Find a mentor

There is a lot of general advice out there that will help you find employment (including this article), but sometimes, you need some guidance tailored to you. This is where a mentor can be invaluable.

Many colleges and universities organize mentoring programs that pair you up with someone who is experienced in your chosen industry. However, if this does not appeal or your college does not offer such a scheme, you could find your own mentor. If you meet someone who works in your chosen industry (for example, during a work experience placement), nurture the relationship. You do not need to formally ask them to be your mentor – especially if you have only just met them – but over time, you may be able to ask them for advice and guidance. They will know your strengths and weaknesses and your work ethic, so they will be able to give you much more bespoke advice.

7. Make job hunting part of your routine

You should be looking for jobs regularly to ensure you are not missing opportunities. However, looking for job opportunities can be draining, and the longer you are searching, the more pessimistic you become. This can lead to a drop in your confidence and a reluctance even to try. To avoid this kind of fatigue, set aside a regular timeslot in your schedule when you will search for a job. Whether you do this daily or weekly is up to you and your other commitments, but the point is that you treat the searching for a job just like a job.

8. Invest in your applications

Many graduates fall into the trap of thinking that the more applications they send, the higher their chances of securing an interview. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. You cannot fire off generic applications to hundreds of different employers and expect to be taken seriously as a candidate.

Instead, select vacancies you have a genuine interest in and believe you are well suited for. Keep a record of all your applications and any replies you have received, whether positive or negative. If you receive no response at all, it may be worth following up with a polite inquiry to check whether they have received the application and if they need any further information from you. Each application should be written, especially for that vacancy, referring to the job description and any provided specifications.

9. Prepare for your interviews

Graduates who understand how a business operates and industry-specific terminology, trends, and challenges will be more likely to impress employers. When you are preparing for an interview, you need to study like you would study for an exam. You can do this by reading relevant publications and finding out the meaning of any terms or words you do not recognize. Look into influential figures and follow them on social media to ensure you up to date with the latest trends and events.

This research will help you in your interview and help you find out more about the industry you are considering entering. Of course, as a graduate, you will not be expected to know everything. In fact, coming to the interview with questions about the industry and the role will show you are genuinely interested in their company.