The school year is ending, and after weeks of papers, tests, and impending deadlines—you don’t have obligations in your future beyond your bills. This sounds nice, but it may not be practical or what you want if you are looking for work. How do you conduct a search for work when the headlines are full of dire reports of a down employment market? How do you gain experience when many employers you speak with aren’t hiring?

I’ve worked with hundreds of students in this situation in the past, and I’ve found five fool-proof strategies that work more frequently than not:

  1. Find ways to use the skills you want to use in your work as you look. If you want to work in marketing, find ways to contribute your skills. Volunteer. Take on a leadership position in an organization or promote a cause. Looking active increases your visibility. Visibility increases the likelihood that you’ll be top of mind when hiring decisions are made.
  2. Identify employer wants and needs. Talk to people who make hiring decisions and get advice on what they look for…and how to stand out. A great place to start: Check out Fist Full of Talent (, a career advice blog run by HR professionals and recruiters.
  3. Join a professional association in your field…many have local membership chapters—and people who attend meetings are frequently interested in mentoring and hiring new talent. It’s a great way to stay current in your field and make friends who care about areas you care about.
  4.  Look for a project opportunity. I could tell you how to do this, but Charlie Hoehn explains perfectly how this works—and he’s got recent experience and results to share. Check out his free e-book.
  5. Apply for jobs, and keep going. As a CEO once told me, “If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you can’t win.” If you’ve done the work above, you’ll have more than a random chance at being picked for your next job!

These are my strategies for a "jump start in a jiffy." What are yours?