Today’s guest post is by Stephanie Larson, a student at the University of Arizona in Tucson. 

Graduating from college no longer puts you on the fast-track to getting a job. In fact, many recent college graduates are finding it difficult to get work in the current economic state. According to the New York Times, only 56 percent of the 2010 graduating class had managed to find a job by this past spring. As more and more unemployed people join the hunt for new jobs, prospects become slimmer, and the chances of being hired diminish.

Rather than give up hope, you need to take action. The best way to land a job is to set yourself apart from other candidates. When the hiring manager looks over the dozens—possibly hundreds—of resumes that come in for just one position, if yours looks exactly like everyone else’s, there’s little incentive to interview you, let alone hire you. But you can change all that with just a little more effort. Here’s how.

Learn a Language

Yes, really. You may take a language in college, but do you practice speaking and becoming fluent on a regular basis? Put the classes you’re taking to good use and supplement them with an at-home program. This can be especially helpful to your job search if you live in an area that is home to large groups of people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Is there a large Hispanic community in your city? The ability to speak Spanish will set you apart from job applicants who don’t understand a word of it.

Companies want to ensure they’re reaching as wide an audience as possible, and that they can offer quality service to all their customers, regardless of what language they speak. Add Spanish or another language to your resume, and you increase your chances of being called in for a second interview.

Use Social Media – Wisely

Chances are you network with your fellow college students on Facebook and Twitter all the time. It’s great to establish connections with your peers and keep in contact with everyone, but have you ever thought about conversing with professionals too?

Twitter is a great opportunity to get involved in the conversations companies and professionals in the industry you’re studying are already having. It gives you the chance to put yourself on their radar, and get in touch with what they’re talking about. Check out Twitter directory sites like Twellow and WeFollow to find people tweeting about specific topics.

LinkedIn is a networking tool some college students may not take advantage of because it’s geared toward professionals. LinkedIn offers great opportunities, even to college students. For one, there’s a high probability your professors and TAs are on LinkedIn, and they can give you recommendations directly on your profile. You can also join groups for specific industries, which will put you in touch with professionals in your area, and notify you of networking events. Seeing what companies these people work for also shows you what companies to reach out to when you graduate and are looking for a full-time job.

Volunteer

Let’s be honest. Even if you’re taking classes or it’s summer vacation, you have some time on your hands. Yes, you’ll spend much of that time going to class, doing homework or hanging out with friends. But chances are you’re not doing that for eight hours a day, five days a week. Volunteerism looks good on any resume. It shows you care about the community you live in, and is an indication of a generous nature.

Generosity in the workplace is important, especially when you have people relying on you to provide them with information to complete tasks, or if you manage anyone who may need guidance with their work. Just choose wisely when looking for a cause. Try to find an activity that somehow relates to your major or profession of interest. Are you studying to be an accountant? Offer to help the local animal shelter balance their books. Not only will it make you more attractive to employers, you’ll gain a sense of personal satisfaction from helping a good cause.

Apply for an Internship

Why would accepting an unpaid internship help you find a paying job? Because an internship can give you job experience, allow you to test the skills you’re studying, and put you in the right place at the right time. A surveydone by The National Association of Colleges and Employers showed that about six out of ten internships turned into full-time positions. The key is finding the right one.

To find an internship, go to your school’s career center and speak to a counselor, or look at their job boards. Get your parents involved by having them ask their friends to look into any internships at the companies they work for. There are also many websites to help you search. Rutgers has a great list of internship search websites to start with.

Few things are tougher than job-hunting, especially during difficult economic times. Taking charge of your situation, being proactive, and doing some things that may be a little unconventional can help you get that steady paycheck right after graduation.

[Photo by Gangplank HQ licensed under CC BY 2.0]