Cropped view of woman wearing mismatched shoes with women in high heels sitting besideAccording to The Atlantic, more than 50 percent of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. This means that if you want a job – especially as a new graduate – you will probably run into some competition. The most important way to stand out from other candidates is to understand where you may be falling short, and to remedy the situation.

Here are some ways that a new graduate’s job search may be faltering:

Loss of focus. The job market is extremely competitive, which means that you will not likely be hired, or even interviewed, for the first job you apply for. Every “no” from an employer stings just a bit more than the last one, but make it a point to stay focused on the job search – and not on your feelings of frustration. Sending out two application letters for every one rejection letter you receive may help you to jumpstart the process.

Neglecting your network. Having a broad network is the key to a job applicant’s success. In a recent Monster survey, more than 75 percent of applicants claimed that at least some credit for their new job is due to their network. Friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and the coffee shop barista are all part of your network. You never know who they may know, or if that person knows someone at your dream job.

Creating a catch-all resume. Even if your job is as specific as accounts payable, each employer is different. Tailor your resume and cover letter to fit the job description of the position for which you are applying – and format it in a way that will appeal to your target company. Look carefully at each skill listed in the job description. List each that you possess on your resume or in your cover letter.

Setting your sights too high. There is nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, but launching into space requires some preparation, planning, and hard work. Very few college graduates land their dream job right out of college. Most have to endure a series of jobs that were not quite right before they found what they were looking for. In the meantime, concentrate on applying for jobs with fascinating people and challenging tasks that teach you new skills. You’ll eventually hit the management position; it may just take some time to get there.

Being unprofessional. Professionalism covers a broad spectrum: It means removing those spring break pictures from your Facebook profile; replacing that Top 40 song on your cell phone’s voicemail; knowing more than the company’s name and address before an interview; and more. When you are looking for a job, prepare for each step of the process as if your life depends on it. Your bank account, your career trajectory, and your happiness sure does.

Communication errors. Typos, run-on sentences, and confusing formatting on your cover letter and resume will prevent you from getting called in for an interview – no matter how perfect you are for an open position. Our company conducted an audit of 50 active resumes on, and we learned that the average job seeker makes six grammar mistakes on their resume. Six!

Dedicate an extra 10 minutes (longer for more substantial applications) to proofreading your work before you send to potential employers to ensure that it is flawless. Professionalism is often judged by your ability to communicate clearly, so if you lack the skills to check your work seek out an eagle-eyed friend or employ the skills of proofreading software program like Grammarly.

Not sticking to a plan. Without a plan, you will aimlessly drift through the Craigslist classifieds applying for any and every job that you can find. One day you might apply for an entry-level position at a Fortune 500 company, and the next at the local McDonald’s drive-thru. Before you embark on your job search, pinpoint a few key job titles that would suit you. Think critically about what skills you developed in school, and how they can be used in an employment setting.

Forgetting the thank you note. Always send a handwritten thank you card via snail mail to interviewers and individuals that have aided in your job search. A handwritten thank you card leaves a lasting impact – and it shows that you have a sense of humility and a strong attention to detail.

With the market already tight, careless job search practices can leave you unemployed for a lengthy period of time. If you can avoid some of the common pitfalls above, you may be that much closer to joining the 47 percent of gainfully employed college graduates.

Good luck out there!

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