You should prepare for a job search long before you'll need the job. Here, things you can do today to make it easier to land a job down the road.

Finding a new job always takes longer than you might think. Whether you’re a college student with a looming graduation or sense pending layoffs at your current employer, the sooner you an begin to prepare for a job search, the better.

Here are five ways to prepare for a job search, even if you don’t think you have to yet.

Clean up social media pages

It’s 2015. There’s no excuse for NSFW pictures on Facebook.

The reason is simple: Most prospective employers are checking your social media accounts.

They’re looking deeper into an applicant’s past than ever before, in an attempt to find the perfect candidate. Your social media activity can give an employer a glimpse into your beliefs, attitudes, and opinions. And if they feel that you’re not in sync with their organizational culture, it could end your candidacy.

To some extent, social media postings will be problematic. After all, when you’re in college you’re putting out content designed for other college students, not for future employers and work colleagues. But this is transition time.

It’s not possible to do a complete clean sweep of everything that you put on the social media since you started college, nor is it even absolutely necessary. But you should begin now to approach your social media activity as though it will be screened by someone who you might want to work for. And to the degree possible, clean up any obvious content that could become an issue.

If you really want to go for points, you could also consider adding some content that relates to the field you are entering. This can give potential employers a sense that you are one of the more serious candidates.

And if you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to create a LinkedIn profile: Some recruiters say they simply won’t consider candidates without one.

Study your desired industry

If you’ve chosen an industry that you want to work in, you should learn all that you can about it now. While college teaches you much about the nuts and bolts of certain careers, it doesn’t always provide the needed big picture view.

That view involves having a basic understanding of the industry, the challenge that it faces, pending future developments, who the major players are, and even any legal or regulatory developments.

An industry is in employers operating environment. The more that you know about the environment, the more comfortable an employer will be in extending you an offer. In addition, industry knowledge can also help you to formulate certain ideas that might enable you to stand out from other candidates during the interview process.

Choose target employers, then learn as much as you can

You should begin now to have a list of potential employers who you would like to work for. There may be a long list of more than 100 potential employers, but there may be a dozen or less that you most want to work for. You can increase the chance of gaining employment with one of them by learning all you can about each.

This doesn’t just mean going on Wikipedia and gathering general information about the employer. That’s a good starting point, but you want to go deeper.

Some of the information that will help your candidacy includes:

  • The specifics about what the company does, particularly if it has multiple segments
  • The leaders in the organization, and as much as possible about their business philosophies
  • Recent developments concerning the organization
  • Pending product offerings
  • Primary competitors

This is also a good time to zero in on who it is in the organization that you might be working for. You can find out a good deal by checking out their social media presence, particularly on sites such as LinkedIn. But you might also want to do a check on Facebook to find out what their specific interests might be outside of work.

The more that you know about a person who you’d like to work for, the better your chance of being hired will be. It’s all about building common ground.

Hone your interview skills

You may have on-target skills and a spotless resume, but more often than not, your interview will decide whether you land the job or not. Invest some time practicing your interview skills.

Interviewing for a job is a skill all by itself. It’s also a balancing act – you want to come across as confident, but never arrogant.

Don’t think of an interview as a rehashing of your resume. The interviewer already has that information, and will be looking to see what you can do to add to it.

There are two sides to an interview: knowledge and presentation. The knowledge portion should come from a combination of your schoolwork, any previous work experience that you have, and your understanding of the employer and its industry that you gained from studying about them beforehand.

Presentation is trickier. A job interview is something of an in-person advertisement, and you have to be ready for it.

Here are some of the ways that you can do that:

Read books and watch videos on interviewing. Read one of these books on job interviewing or check out a YouTube Channel like The Interview Guys.

Practice! Do a mock interview with another person, or videotape yourself. Either approach will help you to polish your presentation.

Consider the interview questions you’ll be asked. Then rehearse the best answers to those questions.

Create a list of questions for your interviewer. Intelligent questions indicate a strong candidate. They will also help you to avoid those awkward periods of silence that happen in most interviews.

Have a ‘Plan B’

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Not everyone lands the job of their dreams right out of college. In fact, not everyone lands a job at all. You have to be ready for either outcome. That could mean accepting a position that is less than what you had hoped. It may also mean continuing with a job that you held in college that’s completely unrelated to your new field. Or it could even mean taking a plunge into self-employment.

Your backup plan should include plenty of flexibility. If you don’t land a job that you want, you have to think of any alternate work experiences as being stair step’s to your ultimate goal. Success is often found in forward motion, which is what you’ll have to continue to generate no matter what happens.

And though it may not seem to be that much of a consolation, the skills that you learn in dealing with a compromised situation can help prepare for you for bigger challenges later, including the ones that you will face once you land that career position.

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About the author

Total Articles: 175
Kevin Mercadante is a freelance personal finance blogger and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. A recent transplant to New England, he has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

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1 comment
Jordan says:

This is a VERY important post! I wish I’d had a similar resource when in college – definitely going to let people I know about to graduate some of these tips.