As college seniors approach the end of the semester, they have a lot more to think about besides final exams and graduation parties. What they’re planning to do after college life is still a question left unanswered for many.

For those soon-to-be graduates seeking employment, Beyond.com conducted a poll through February and March, asking college seniors how many jobs they have applied to so far. Faced with continued reports on the tough job market, the class of 2011 is clearly taking some initiative. Here’s what the results showed:

  • More than 33 percent reported they have already applied for over 40 jobs.
  • Just about 21 percent of respondents have applied for somewhere between 10 and 20 jobs.
  • Almost 20 percent have applied for 21 to 40 jobs.
  • 17 percent have applied for less than 10 jobs.
  • The smallest percentage, 8.5 percent, have applied for no jobs at all.

While the economy is looking much brighter for recent college graduates than it has the past couple years, it still takes that extra something to help young job seekers stand out among the other applicants. Here are some tips to help college graduates be at the top of their games and score entry-level jobs in their fields.

1. Clean up your online image

jobs-college-graduatesYes, employers do Google applicants. Make sure there’s nothing out there you wouldn’t want an employer to see. This includes ensuring your Facebook and Twitter privacy settings are intact and/or change your accounts to be employer-friendly to ensure you’re only viewed as a professional.

2. Start applying now…if you haven’t already

The earlier the better. Many employers start looking for candidates months before graduation, so they are ready to fill the positions in May or June. Try to get ahead of the flood of Spring resumes by applying early and often.

3. Don’t be afraid to network – in person and online

Every opportunity is an opportunity to network! Whether it’s chatting with a professor, staying in touch with an internship coordinator or creating a LinkedIn profile – don’t be afraid to put yourself out there professionally. The worst thing that can happen is nothing. Many people say landing a job is “all about who you know.” Well, the more people you are connected with virtually and in-person, the more chances you have of hearing about an employment opportunity.

4. Target your job search

While not every opportunity is going to be your dream job, you can target what you want if you find job postings in a niche job board or LinkedIn group. For example, if you’re looking for finance jobs, find a place where these types of jobs are posted specifically. Niche job boards offer more targeted job search results and a greater variety of relevant job opportunities.

5. Download mobile job search apps

Everyone is attached to their Smartphone these days, so why not receive job alerts and do some job-searching on the go?

Check out the 20 Best Career-Enhancing iPhone Apps for more ideas.

6. Utilize your school’s career services

It’s likely that your college or university has a career services office. Some schools also offer further training like a project management certificate or other classes to deepen your education. While you’re still a student, make use of these services by making an appointment to have your resume critiqued or do a mock interview. Also, join a professional student organization or participate in groups/activities on campus that are good resume builders. For example, if you’re an advertising major, you could join American Advertising Federation (AAF).

7. Prepare for interviews – homework & “thank you’s”

If you’ve received a call back after applying for a job, you need to be prepared and on top of your game. To stand out from the other interviewees, research the company beforehand. Have questions to ask – this will show you are interested. Also, send a hand-written thank you note or an email thank you at the very least.

Check out How To Prepare for Your Job Interview for more tips.

8. Gain experience while job-searching

If you have some spare time while applying for jobs, take on an internship in your desired field. This will give you extra experience to put on your resume and show that you took the initiative to advance your skill-set instead of waiting around or taking an irrelevant job.

9. Attend career fairs

Career fairs are a great way to get in front of multiple employers looking to hire and network face-to-face. It provides the opportunity to showcase your communication skills and personality while participating in mini-interviews. It can help move your resume to the top of the pile.

10. Create an online career portfolio

Distinguish yourself from other candidates and create a powerful web page that will display your skills and experiences to show employers that you’re willing to go the extra mile and are committed to your job search.

Author: Rich Milgram is the Founder and CEO of Beyond.com, Inc. Since January 1998, Rich has developed and grown the company as a highly niche-specific web community, consisting of more than 15,000 sites providing services to business professionals and corporations to promote growth in career, business and life.

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