03/01/2012 10:08 pm ET Updated May 01, 2012

Delayed Gratification in the Career Search

Upon graduation in May, I will receive an all-access pass to the world beyond rural Pennsylvania and will venture out into the mean streets of Manhattan. I will finally apply the skills I have been honing for the past sixteen years in school and prove to myself that all those late nights I spent cramming for tests and writing papers have finally paid off. As a college senior, many aspects of my future are uncertain. Like many of my friends, I don't have definitive post-graduation plans. Amidst all this uncertainty, though, I am confident that if I stick to the fundamentals -- relentless positivity, dedication and persistence -- my years of hard work will be rewarded. While I can't claim to know the ins-and-outs of the job market, I can share some valuable insight that has helped me stay optimistic about the future.

First, your major doesn't matter all that much unless you want to be an engineer or work in finance. I attended a university that was not particularly career-driven; however, I learned important skills for any job, such as how to think analytically and present a well-developed argument. Many college students feel pressure to choose a "practical" major, such as business, but you should choose a major that you find interesting or one that pertains to your strengths. I ended up declaring a double major in English and Spanish because I always loved to write and I enjoyed being able to converse in a foreign language. Whenever people ask me about my majors, they often assume I want to be a teacher. With a Spanish degree, I had to go teach English to kids in Spain, right? Wrong. Degrees in English and Spanish are versatile -- every field needs good writers and Spanish fluency will definitely come in handy, especially in the business world.

Since your major is not the most crucial factor in getting hired, go out and explore other areas through internships while you're in college. In doing so, you can start to narrow down your interests and save yourself time when you have to look for a permanent job. Rather than worrying that you aren't qualified for a certain position, show potential employers why you would be a valuable asset to their company; perhaps you can bring polished writing skills and a creative perspective that your peers with different majors could not provide. Although you ultimately have no control over whether a company hires you, gaining experience in a real office setting will definitely improve your chances.

With a few years of internship experience under your belt and new contacts in your address book, it's easy to ignore opportunities to attend networking events. Why waste time handing out your resume to potential employers when it will never be reviewed? Rather than writing off networking events as a waste of time, remember that you have nothing to lose by getting your "professional flirt" on for an hour. Before attending a career fair, set a goal to have at least three meaningful conversations with potential employers. After the fair, send thank you letters to the employers you met and connect with them on LinkedIn. Leverage your contacts instead of sending dozens of applications into a black hole (i.e. the Internet) and never hearing a word back. Foster your personal relationships by constantly following up with employers and expressing your interest in their company. You might have the highest GPA or the most impressive job experience, but in the end it's not what you know but who you know that gets you a job.

As you dive into the job search, be prepared to fail. It's easy to get bogged down by the stress of applications, interviews and rejections. However, every hour you spend preparing for an interview is worth your time even if you don't get the job. Rejection is always better than regretting a missed opportunity. Finally, remember to be flexible. Many companies hire new graduates for temporary positions and eventually transition them to permanent positions when space becomes available. Ideally, we'd all rather have permanent jobs after graduation but in this economy perhaps we can't be too picky. Keep your head up and remember all the preparation you've done to get here.