[See our list of the 50 Best Careers.]
1. Own your degree. Don't focus on the degree as a means to an end. Immerse yourself in your field, which can include becoming involved in organizations related to the field of study, reading industry-related publications or posts, and joining professional groups on LinkedIn once you've built your online profile. Get involved on multiple levels to show employers your dedication. Being engaged also allows you to "talk the talk" and demonstrate competency. It's great to be able to immerse yourself at your convenience. And bonus: You don't need to get dressed up for a meeting to share information via LinkedIn or Twitter.
2. Showcase your experience. Highlight any experience you have—including volunteer work, internships, and even your own entrepreneurial ventures, if they're relevant. Plan how to describe what you have to offer. For example, "I'm a new graduate with a bachelor's degree in nursing, looking for a position as a nurse case manager. My degree, coupled with my many internships in X and Y hospitals working in clinical and administrative areas, gives me a first-hand look at the latest trends in nursing case management."
You should also highlight your newly acquired skills in a portfolio that you can share with employers. You may want to create an online portfolio—or a social resume—to share with targeted employers. Your portfolio should include samples of class projects, awards, and industry experience, such as part-time field-related work, internships, or externships.
3. Use social media. Employers are using social media sites to search for talent. Highlight your new certifications or degrees in your profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. Remember to keep your profiles professional. Google your name frequently to make sure that what comes up is what you want people to see. If you have questionable photos or posts, un-tag yourself now and remind your contacts to refrain from posting anything about you that might be questionable to a potential employer.
4. Train your network. While many of us are inclined to start with our friends and family, what about the other people you interact with on a regular basis? Go out of your way to let people know about your plans, and don't assume that they understand how they can help. Give them the words they need to talk about you, and tell them about your target industries and organizations so they can help you. Don't be afraid to ask for something if you need help from someone in your network, but be sure to ask respectfully, and offer to help them in return.
5. Stand out from the competition. Think of new and different ways to stand out from the crowd in a positive way. For example, if you are in sales or marketing, consider creating a QR code for your resume that would link to your LinkedIn profile and other online sites about you, to show employers that you are up on the latest trends.
Another way to stand out? Be sure to say thank you! (You may be surprised by how many people forget this step.) If you recently attended a career fair or industry-specific presentation, send the employer a thank you note referencing a piece of information from the event, and ask to interview for an open position that matches your skill set and experience.
It's a good practice to always send a personalized thank you note after an interview. Be sure to reference what you discussed—and feel free to add information you may have forgotten to mention in the interview. This small step will highlight your respect for the role.
In today's job market, it's up to you to differentiate and help make yourself stand out. Use these steps to stand out from other job seekers and really go after the job you've always wanted.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.