College students: Avoid these 6 career mistakes

(MoneyWatch) Although it's still tough in this economy to find employment after graduating from college, half of new grads end up finding jobs that they like.

That requires avoiding common career mistakes, according to David Delong, author of "Graduate to a Great Job: Make Your College Degree Pay Off in Today's Market." Delong, a former career-planning researcher at Harvard Business School, says recent college grads are often confused by the following job-search fallacies:

1. I can do my entire job search online. We've all heard the lament of job-seekers who complain that they have applied to hundreds of jobs without a nibble. Simply responding to job postings on the Internet is highly unlikely to get a job. Keep in mind that many jobs are never even advertised online. 

"The activities most likely to make you successful -- face-to-face networking, strong interviewing skills and challenging internships -- have little to do with the Internet," Delong says.

2. I've got to start out in the right field or I'm doomed. Nonsense. For one, odds are that college grads will change jobs within two years, and that job will likely be in a different industry. "The fluidity of today's economy makes assumptions about linear career development obsolete," Delong says. "Find an interesting opportunity where you will learn a lot and dive in."

3. Liberal arts majors don't get jobs. Employers aren't just looking for students with specialized degrees. Employers are interested in new hires who can think critically, are great communicators and have demonstrated leadership. Your major will be less important if you have shown these skills through extracurricular activities and internships and convey your abilities in an interview. 

An employer survey released this year by the Association of American Colleges and Universities suggests that employers want recent college graduates to be broadly educated. Ninety-three percent said that a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate's undergraduate degree.

4. I can get a job in a cool field. "A lot of students dream of working in 'cool' fields without understanding the dynamics of how careers evolve in that profession," Delong observes. For instance, there are plenty of journalism students at the University of Texas who think they can stay in Austin and get a journalism job. In journalism, however, students typically start in smaller markets and must work their way up while moving to different communities.

5. My college career services center is lame. Campus career centers vary in how helpful they are, but students shouldn't assume that they can only be counted on for reviewing resumes. College students should explore what their career center can do for them, and they shouldn't wait until their senior year.

Services that a good center should provide include: Career counseling, aptitude testing, resume writing, practice interviews, job postings, alumni networking and career fairs

6. It's going to be harder than you think. Too many students think they can find a job if they start looking after Christmas break in their senior year. Wrong. You need to lay the groundwork long before then. The search can be time-consuming, but it will be well worth it.