By Heather Cabot, for Yahoo! HotJobs
You've tossed your cap, bid farewell to your professors and partied with your classmates. Now the real work begins -- landing that first job.
If you still don't know what you'll be doing with your college degree, don't be discouraged by all of the dismal pronouncements about the economy. In fact, a survey of employers conducted by CollegeGrad.com, an online job-hunting resource, found that hiring for entry-level positions could be up as much as 12 percent this season.
Drawing on your cyber savvy is key to putting yourself in the running for those spots. Here are five ways to make the Web work for you:
1. Search Yourself
It's been said there's no such thing as bad publicity. That's not necessarily the case for job seekers hoping to nail that first impression. You've got to do some research on your cyber identity. And do it often, as many employers use search engines and social networking sites to research job candidates. Does a simple search of your name turn up offensive writing, less-than- professional photos or activities that could turn off a potential boss? If so, you need to clean up your image, fast.
2. Be Your Own Publicist
Use the Web to promote yourself as the best candidate for the job. First, take down anything on Facebook or MySpace or any other social networking sites and/or blog posts that could be construed as immature or unprofessional. Adjust your privacy settings so that you control what the world reads about you.
Heidi Hanisko, director of client services for CollegeGrad.com, says it's a good idea to reach out to friends who might have posted questionable photos, rants, etc. that could reflect poorly on you. If you run into trouble cleaning up your image, you may want to consult with identity scrubbing companies, including Naymz.com, ReputationDefender.com and DefendMyName.com. It can be expensive, but potentially worth it if there is something truly defamatory getting in the way of your job hunt.
Once your online identity is squeaky clean, showcase your portfolio or other samples of your work. Highlight your accomplishments and experience. Resist the temptation to embellish the truth.
3. Network It
Get yourself on LinkedIn or other professional networks. Robert Half International, a leading staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, advises job seekers to make the most of these sites by building contacts and asking mentors or former employers to recommend them.
A recent survey by the Robert Half found that 62 percent of executives believe networks, including LinkedIn, will prove useful in the search for job candidates in the next three years. One in three respondents said they plan to tap Facebook or MySpace for recruiting -- yet another reason to take a second look at your profiles.
4. Strategize Before You Hit Send
The Internet makes it easy to send out resumes en masse. But CollegeGrad.com's Hanisko says you've got to consider quality over quantity. She advises job hopefuls to research each opportunity and to tailor resumes and cover letters to each employer and position. Adding industry-specific keywords to your resume will show you are "in the know" and will also help employers find your resume more easily when they search for candidates on job sites.
5. Don't Forget to Say Thank You
Even when the Web helps you land the interview, remember to send an old-fashioned thank-you note after the interview as soon as possible. Handwritten notes make the best impression, according to both Robert Half International and CollegeGrad.com.
[Heather Cabot is the Yahoo! Web Life editor.]