I’ve heard the reports about college graduates having to move back home with relatives because they can’t find employment. I’ve seen the headlines that read “Is a College Degree Worth It?” and of course, the answer is a resounding YES! Having work experience is an asset, but having an education is priceless. I waited many years to attend school because online classes weren’t an option many years ago. I had the choice of Monday / Wednesday / Friday classes or Tuesday / Thursday classes-period. Nowadays, students have college options and according to a recent survey, they will have employment options, too. Michigan State University’s Collegiate Research Institute conducted a survey and found that large firms, those with 4,000+ employees, will increase graduate hiring by 6%. The question is, will the college student be prepared to compete in this tough job market when their window of opportunity opens?

Over the years, I have learned that sometimes the way you start isn’t as important as how you finish. Planning takes place in my life more often than not due to unexpected obstacles that I’ve learned to anticipate. In the moments when I don’t have a plan, I find myself wasting time and potentially missing awesome opportunities. Dear college student, please learn from my mistakes and start preparing immediately because procrastination can be the enemy of success!

Step 1: Your resume and cover letter need to be tailored to the job you are applying for. You can start with a resume “model”, but remember to edit the document as needed. For example, my leadership resume doesn’t look like my columnist resume. If I were to combine my experiences from those roles into one document, it would have a ton of information, which hiring managers simply don’t have time for.

Step 2: Use social media outlets to your advantage. If you have a Twitter account, follow large companies that you are interested in working for. If you aren’t on Twitter, perhaps now is the time to join. The same concept can be used for Facebook and you can like the pages of those companies that you dream of working for.

Step 3: One A Day is a vitamin and should not be your application goal. If you were thinking of submitting your information to one employer each day, you could eliminate yourself as a potential candidate unintentionally. Full-time employment is approximately 40 hours/week, so you should spend no less than 3 hours/day applying for employment-especially since most employers have an online process.

These 3 steps can make the difference between employment and unemployment for the college student. As the headlines read “Hiring of College Students Now on the Rise”, you have an opportunity to start preparing, which could possibly open the door to your dream job sooner than later.

Ericka Spradley is the President and Founder of My Next Level. She has many years of leadership experience and her understanding of the multi-faceted leadership realm has provided a level of expertise in human resource management and career growth. Among her significant accomplishments, Ericka has served as Vice President of Professional Development with The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Strayer University Chapter, she was a columnist for Classroom to Cubicle, an online magazine for college students, and she is currently a Yahoo! Contributor columnist. In addition, her works have been found in Today’s Charlotte Woman and she has also been quoted by The Charlotte Observer.