Q: I am about to start my last semester of college, graduating with a degree in business. What should I be doing between now and graduation to get a great job lined up?

Share story

Q: I am about to start my last semester of college, graduating with a degree in business. What should I be doing between now and graduation to get a great job lined up? — Bryan, 22, soon-to-be college grad

A: Clarify your goals, make a plan and avail yourself of help from those around you.

Think about where you’d like to be. Right now, your options are pretty wide open, and even if you aspire to the executive suite someday, you need to start somewhere!

Consider the type of business: Are you interested in manufacturing, health care, financial services, tech, etc.? Weigh the area within the company you’re most interested in, whether it’s finance, marketing, operations or some other area. Finally, look at other aspects like company size or location so you know what appeals to you.

Then consider what “great job” means to you. As a new grad, you’ll be an entry level employee — and there’s nothing bad about that, as it gives you the chance to learn the basics of life in the business world. Yet not all roles are created equal, and some will be a better fit than others based on your temperament and interests.

Now get specific on steps that will get you to your new job: finding leads, preparing your résumé, nailing your interviews and negotiating your offer.

There are many ways to find opportunities, ranging from job fairs at your school to online postings and recruiters. Yet old-fashioned networking should be at the top of your list.

Start with family and family friends, asking them about opportunities and enlisting them to spread the word on your behalf. This isn’t “one and done;” look every week and set up alerts so that you get the word about new positions at firms of interest.

Get your résumé in order, preparing a master version that you can easily tailor to each opportunity. Especially with the prevalence of online applications, it’s essential to match your verbiage to the language used in the job description.

You’ll also want to emphasize different experiences and skills to best highlight your fit to each position. This will help you stand out among applicants who don’t take as much care. And no typos!

Practice interviewing even before you have any scheduled. There are lists of typical interview questions — think through your responses and role play them so that you’re ready.

When you do have an interview, research the firm, the role and the people you’ll meet so that they’ll be able to tell you’re truly interested. Keep your wardrobe refreshed and haircut maintained so you can go on the spur of the moment.

Also research salary expectations so that you’re prepared for that question. Especially in large firms, there may be less flexibility about some benefits, but at least you can make a strong effort to influence your compensation level.

Don’t try to do this on your own. For each of these steps, your school’s career office will be a great resource; other coaching organizations are also available if desired.

And friends and family are a good source of advice and mentoring as you move into the next phase of your life.

Submit questions to Liz Reyer at liz@deliverchange.com.