What I wish I knew going into my senior year of college
Starting senior year can be both exciting and scary. You've spent the last three years developing a level of expertise in your major, interning to gain experience, and forming life long connections with your peers. However, for many incoming seniors the stress to figure out what you're doing after college becomes maddening. After I graduated, it took me 6 months to find a job. I was nervous because loans were due soon and I felt ashamed for not having a job yet. In retrospect, I was fine and didn't need to worry so much. There are a few things I wish someone had told me going into my senior year that would have saved me time and anguish over what my post-graduation plans were.
What are you doing after graduation?
Suddenly, it seems like everyone has a job lined up after college. When did that happen?!
Some large business, consulting, and tech firms do have a process to hire new grads after their internships or during fall semester, this doesn't mean that you missed the boat completely. If this is something that interests you, reach out to your career center or the company career page to see what the hiring process may be for someone who didn't intern. However, most companies don't work like this. Other industries and smaller companies have a less formal hiring process and usually want you to wait until after you graduate before applying. Don't freak out and don't get too attached to big name companies. There are plenty of amazing careers to be found in lesser known organizations.
Cold network, but with tact
I get cold emails all the time asking if my company is hiring and if I can get them in the door. While this might work for some people, I often find these emails to be ineffective for a few reasons. Job seekers are often advised to find a person directly at the company rather than going through the standard process but 1) If I don't know you, how can I recommend you? 2) It makes it seem like you didn't do your research. If my company is hiring, there would be a posting and you could probably figure out whether or not I am the hiring manager for that position.
A better way is to work on building a relationship before making an ask. I've used LinkedIn to reach out to alum and strangers in my industry to find out more about the work they do and how they got to where they are, without asking for a job. People will get a feel for your interests and keep you in mind for other opportunities. If you've applied to a job and want to reach out to the person you might be working on, another approach would be to let them know that you applied for the job, express your enthusiasm for the position, and ask them to describe their experience with the company/position so far. This way you're making a good impression without starting your relationship in the asking position.
You don't need to befriend the CEO of a company in order to get your foot in the door. Sometimes your "in" is one of your peers. Reach out to recent grads from your school in careers you find interesting and ask them about your experience so far and for advice. They can help guide you through the job hunt process and give you more candid feedback about what it's like to work for some of these "dream" jobs.
Take advantage of your free time senior year and after graduation
My biggest regret is not taking my GRE during my senior year. I was coasting my entire last semester with a 5 day weekend schedule and streaming this new show called Scandal and pretty much everything on Netflix. In hindsight, I wish I used that time to study for my exam. Once you start working, finding the time and mental energy to study becomes more difficult. Most graduate exam scores last for 5 years so getting the exam done earlier would have kept me on track to go back to school quicker.
Connect with Professional Associations in your intended field
These associations LOVE students and often have so many opportunities to network. Often events and membership rates are heavily discounted for students and the resources are invaluable. Showing interest in an professional association as a student always impresses people and can help you find someone willing to mentor your and recommend you for an opportunity. Plus, you'll learn tons about your field that you may not be getting from your classes.
Apply for jobs you think you'd actually enjoy
I applied for countless jobs before I received an offer, many of which didn't even make sense for me. Job seeking can make you feel desperate and you'll find yourself making far reaches to sound like the perfect candidate for a job you don't even want. Before I read qualifications, I read the job description to see if the job is something I would actually enjoy doing. If my qualifications match up at least 50% and I think I would actually like doing the work, I speak more on that in my cover letter and interview. In the long run, applying to jobs you would enjoy rather than applying to jobs just to say you have a job will get you farther.
Don't take it personally
There are jobs I've applied to that I was sure I had in the bag. My experience matched perfectly and I had my heart set on it. I crushed the interview but in the end, I wasn't offered the position. Nothing is more demoralizing than a rejection letter for something you thought had your name on it. It sucks and can discourage a lot of people. Over time, I've had to learn to not take it personally, figure out if there was something I could learn from the experience, and move on. Sometimes, you might have done everything right but the position already informally belonged to someone already there. You might never know, or in some cases you can ask for feedback. The most important part is to keep going.