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Given a choice, recent college graduates would prefer to land a job in their career choice right out of college, ideally exchanging their caps and gowns for professional work clothes, a nice desk, a good salary, and an upward career trajectory. Right?

But in a tough economy, getting hired right out of school isn’t easy, and you might have to settle for an “alternative” career path that gets you on the right track, sooner or later.

What are your options if you can’t get a job right out of school? Let’s take a look:

Meet Your Career Counselor

Most colleges and universities have career counseling departments where you can get one-on-one counseling on getting a job, internship or going to graduate school. They’ll also provide help with your resume, cover letter and offer tips on job interviews. It’s free and productive, and every college graduate looking for career guidance should take full advantage—including you.“Take advantage of career fairs and workshops that help build your job skills.”

Attend Career Fairs and Skill-Building Workshops

If you’re still on campus, take advantage of career fairs and workshops that help build your job skills. You’ll gain valuable face time with hiring managers and get you accustomed to the most important career exploring theme of them all—”selling yourself” to potential employers.

Get an Internship

Gain a “dress rehearsal” for your career by getting an internship in your chosen field. Internships may be paid or unpaid, but they do offer vital experience in your career sector, and sometimes lead to a job offer if you prove yourself in the workplace. Visit your college’s career center for internship leads, or visit specialty intern websites that can steer you to the best internship opportunities. And check out our article on How to Find—And Get—A Great Internship for more resources and tips on internships.

Work Part-Time

If you can’t find the optimal full-time career job right out of school, explore a “part-time” option where you approach favored employers and offer your skills on a part-time basis. Corporate budgets are tight, and if you can accommodate those budgets on a 15- or 20-hour per week basis, you just might get your foot in the door. There’s nothing worse on a resume than a big, blank chunk of time, so part-time work, even if it’s not in your chosen field, shows you have a good work ethic, and can lead to full-time work from employers. Check out part-time job placement specialists like (, which offers access to part-time work in your city or town.

Consider Graduate School

You may want to explore going to graduate school to further enhance your academic credentials. It’s expensive, but it can be highly useful in helping you stand out from the crowd in your field. Check out our article Should You Go to Grad School? to get a handle on some of the points to consider.

Visit your college’s graduate school department or career counseling office, for more details.