The search for employment is not something that you do during the second semester of your senior year. Preparation for your senior year job search begins when you enter college and does not stop. Warning: When you are unprepared, the bumps in the road are bigger and more surprising.

Because employers look at the following areas, students must look for ways to smooth the bumps:

Clear Career Direction – An early but thorough analysis of your likes, dislikes, positive and negative experiences, interests, skills, abilities and motivators will usually give you the information you will need to select a general direction. As you learn, grow and experience, you can zero in on those career options that best fit your personal goals. However, a clear direction is critical to success in college.

Interest In Your Major – When students select or are forced into a college major for which they have no strong interest or natural ability, the chances that they will perform at a high level are slim to none. Wise students select a major that speaks to them and is important to them.

Demand For Your Major – Not every college major is in demand by employers. Therefore, every college student should do some research early on to determine where their major will take them. It can be a rude awakening to discover that someone has spent four years with a major that holds few chances for employment. Savvy students conduct that research in their freshman year and make the necessary adjustments and changes in direction.

Selection Of A Minor – Your minor should strongly support your major, your interests and your direction. Keep in mind that there is a business side to every field. When in doubt, a business minor can be a good choice. Also, some students have double majors and/or double minors.

Motivation – The belief that you can make a difference is a great motivator. Since unmotivated students seldom perform well, it is important for you to find something that will keep your performance at a high level.

Employment Plan – From the beginning of your freshman year, you should have a step-by-step that will lead to your goal. The plan should include academic performance goals as well as goals for campus, work and community activities. Furthermore, your plan must ensure that your are fully prepared to conduct and effective search for employment.

Employment Coach – Every student needs an experienced employment coach who is concerned about their goal achievement, information gathering, job identification, job search preparation and ability to compete for good jobs. The coach you select should begin working with you at the beginning of the freshman year and stay with you throughout your entire college experience. It is important to realize that there are things to be done each semester.

Weak Resume – A strong resume is built on the accomplishments and successes that you achieve during the first three and a half years of college, not on the words you put on the page. The best employers want a clear picture of your performance in every area, so they can judge how well you will perform for them in the initial job and in future assignments.

Poor Grades – You must take full responsibility for your academic performance. You are the one attending class, participating in discussions, making presentations, doing research, writing papers, studying and taking exams. The amount of time and the quality of your effort will greatly influence the results that you achieve. It is up to you to take advantage of your college experience. Do not let that opportunity slip away. Employers are interested in results, not excuses.

Few Accomplishments – Employers want to learn about your accomplishments and successes in the classroom, campus activities, part-time and summer work, community activities and within your leisure activities. Students who have few accomplishments during the college years are not likely to impress employers. The best solution is to find something that you love and excel in that area.

Interview Strategy – Wise students think about the interview strategy they will carry out. What are the strong and positive points you will make? How will you handle questions about your areas of weakness? What stories and examples you will you use? Will you bring a sample or a prop? Should you have business cards printed? What questions will you ask? What will you wear? Are you willing to relocate or travel? How will you stand out from other candidates? Why should they hire you?

Work Experience – In many cases, students with work experience have an advantage over those who do not. Even if those jobs are not related to your field of study, they give you opportunities to learn, build relationships, solve problems and demonstrate your work ethic, reliability and performance. You will also accumulate stories, examples and successes that can be used on your resumé and during interviews.

College Activities – If it is possible for you to participate in or lead a group or activity, you may impress an employer and have something to talk about. However, when your words, actions and leadership skills result in positive and significant outcomes, you will be in a position to impress many employers. Employers look for students who can get things done in a variety of settings.

Job Search Preparation – Preparation for the senior year job search is an important and ongoing process that takes place throughout the college years. There are things that should be done during each semester of college, in order to get ready. Students who fail to prepare cannot effectively compete for the best jobs. That is because the battle for good jobs is won or lost during the first three and a half years of college through your participation, accomplishments and successes.

Weak or No References – Strong and enthusiastic references from well-known and highly respected Professors, Business Leaders and Technical Professionals in your field are highly beneficial to every job seeker. However, relationships with those references are built slowly, over time, during your college experience. Great references will not attach their names to students who are unknown to them or have underperformed in college.

If students intend to avoid the bumps in the road to employment success, freshmen should do their homework to discover exactly what their target employers will require and expect of them. Then, during the remainder of their college experience, students can carry out the activities, gain the experiences and perform at the level that will attract and impress the employers with the best jobs.