Last Updated May 24, 2010 7:01 PM EDT
1. Edit your profile. Those drunken party photos might have impressed your Facebook friends, but now they could dissuade a prospective employer from hiring you, says Stephen Miles, vice chairman of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles and co-author of Your Career Game. Recruiters do extensive web searches on people they intend to hire, including checking social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. If you've posted compromising photos or a stupid status update (i.e. Nice day. I think I'll call in sick and go to the beach...) it could cost you a job. Get rid of it.
2. Do your homework. Don't just figure that you can post a resume on monster.com and find work, says Janice Bryant Howroyd, CEO of staffing company AppleOne. You ought to study all aspects of your chosen field and seek information about the companies doing business in that area. Go to the company web sites and see if they're posting open positions, too. If you send a resume, tailor it specifically to the job you're seeking, Howroyd suggests.
3. Prepare to relocate. Live in a city where the job prospects are bleak? You can vastly increase your chance of getting work by seeking employment in other zip codes. The folks at job search site Indeed.com recently came up with a list of the best and worst cities to find work.
4. Think small. Many graduates focus on big, brand-name companies, but it's the smaller and mid-sized companies that are doing most of the hiring now, Howroyd says. Taking jobs that "no one wants" is often an opportunity that no one else sees, adds Nathan Bennett, professor of management at Georgia Tech and the other co-author of Your Career Game. A first job is an opportunity to get experience. The smaller the company, the thinner the staff, the more likely you are to learn a wide array of skills.
5. Set targets. Set goals every day for either sending out a set number of resumes; filling out a set number of applications or finding a set number of new opportunities. Don't hit the beach until you've hit your goal. You can't change the job market, but you can determine how hard you try. Trying harder than your peers makes you the one most likely to get work.
6. Be persistent. If you go to an interview and don't hear from the employer, follow up with a phone call. If they gave the job to another person, don't be angry -- be interested. Politely ask the hiring manager if he or she can tell you whether there was something that the other person did that particularly impressed them or something that you did wrong. If your approach is respectful and aimed at learning (rather than second-guessing their actions), they're likely to help you better position yourself for the next interview. And if they tell you that you were fine, the other person was just more qualified, don't be shy about asking them to keep you in mind for the next opportunity. If you don't have a job in three or four months, call again and see if anything has opened up.
7. Work your network. Ask your friends, your parents, your parents' friends, if they know of anything that would suit you. Check in with your college career office and attend their alumni functions. When there are hundreds of people applying for a given job, a personal referral can make your application stand out.
8. Be a temp. Some companies may not be willing to hire permanent full-time staff, but need help. You can sign up with a temporary company, like AppleOne, that will send you out on a daily basis to these companies. The benefits: You earn money; you get to know employers and employers get to know you.
9. Don't despair. It's a rotten job market, so it could take time to get work. And when you do get work, it may not be the 'perfect job' that you envisioned. Keep a good attitude and don't let it get to you. Every job -- even a nightmare job -- is experience on your resume and a potential reference for a new employer. Do you best no matter where you end up working, and chances are good that you'll get a better job in no time.