There's no silver bullet way to get a job these days--or at any time--but what college grads should be optimizing for is a) making sure they're choosing something they're actually interested in, b) casting a wide enough net to find the best path possible in their field and c) making sure they have enough skills and connections to be the right candidate when they do find the job they want. This is a suggested path for the summer after graduation or really anyone who can put in a few months to get something that really fits them and that they're happy with.
1) Pick whatever industry you think you have the most interest in. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be totally sure you want to do it for the rest of your life… just go with whoever the lead dog is for now.
2) Draw a rough sketch of an industry map. Let’s say your interest was “fashion”. Who are all the players, in a general sense. Ok, let’s see.. there are designers, retail stores, ecommerce companies, fashion media, PR, investors and analysts, manufacturers, etc. Where do they all fit together on a map?
3) Try and identify at least 3-5 companies in each of those buckets in a place where you want to live. Google works well for “fashion PR nyc”, for example.
4) Go to Indeed.com and search for the jobs at those companies that require less than 3 years experience. What kinds of jobs seem to be available at each company? Do the same thing with LinkedIn (You might need to start actually using LinkedIn and getting your contacts on there first…teachers, alumni that you know, fellow students, etc). Who is working at which jobs at these types of firms?
5) Now actually start reaching out to people in these positions. There's no replacement for a significant amount of first person research--actual live conversations with real professionals. Reach out anyway you can--through LinkedIn, Twitter, even guessing at the firstname.lastname convention of their company. Warm intros are always good, but if you don't have that as an option, if you send out 100 notes to different professionals asking for informational interviews about their jobs, guarantee you get at least a 10% hit rate--probably even more with a good letter.
6) Document your search on a blog--one at a custom, professional domain. You wouldn't ever suggest a client get a mycompany.blogspot.com account, so why would you. Use a site that doesn't require a ton of customization to look good--Squarespace is what this blog runs on. Mix in interesting things you learn from the people you talk to (with their permission) and things you find compelling about your industry.
7) Identify, through your research, what would make the *best* possible candidate at the companies and positions you want. If a hot new fashion startup is hiring for a marketing associate, have them identify their dream candidate. Compare yourself--how far are you and what specific steps can you take and things can you do to be that candidate. There's really only one surefire way to get a job these days--be the best possible hire. There's no excuse for not knowing *exactly* what that is and how to get there--and putting the work in to do it.
8) I've said this before, but try and identify who the top "30 under 30" in your industry is--so you can figure out your medium term goals. If you wanted to be *the* top professional and an industry leader within a decade, what do you have to do? If you really liked this industry, why wouldn't you try? It's not about ambition--its about understand how far down the rabbit hole goes. If you love PR, just knowing that there are people who start their own successful PR firms in their 20's might be eye opening for you. It might help you realize that you don't just have to work for a big firm your whole life, waiting for someone else to promote you. You can go out on your own. Make sure you connect with those people and find out how they got there and what things they did would work for you. How do you create this list? Start asking around for nominations. Then ask those people for more. Before you know it, people start naming the same folks and you'll soon have a commonly accepted list.
9) Try and work on a consulting project of some kind--or something on your own--if you can't get work. If you want to do marketing, go find a startup that you like that has no money, and offer to do a marketing plan for them. Actually run it. Manage their street teams, do their PR outreach. Anything to get some real life experience and make connections. As you're doing this, get some mentors. Run your marketing plan by some experts who have a lot more experience than you do. Your goals are to improve and learn, not just to fill a resume.
10) Start organize or offer to help someone else organize an industry professional group of somekind--the Fashion PR Meetup, the Young Media Buyers Meetup, or the Up and Coming Traders Meetup. It will be a great chance to bond with your peer group, learn from them--and it will be a great platform to reach out to more experienced professionals from--not for a job, but to get them to come speak at events.