If you're a college student preparing to graduate, you may find that the job market for new graduates is not exactly hot. There are plenty of jobs out there, but finding the perfect job might take more effort than it has in recent years.

Those with real-world work experience in their field will have a significant edge over those without such experience. If you don't have experience in your field in the real-work world, even unpaid internships and volunteer experience will help. Look for these opportunities while you're still in college and be sure to highlight them on your resume.

You shouldn't necessarily turn your nose up at a job you think is below your potential and desired income level, but neither should you settle too quickly for the first opportunity that comes along. Getting an early start will put you in the position of being able to turn down jobs without the potential you're looking for and holding out for a job with more promise. Look for a company that promotes from within and has the structure to provide opportunities for career advances to talented and hard-working employees.

How will you know if a job is right for you? Before you start looking for jobs, think through all the things that are important to you and make a checklist. Some things to consider:

Is pay more important or less important than flexible hours?

Are good benefits more important than higher pay?

Would you give up some perks in order to work in the city or are the suburbs more appealing even at a lower salary?

In order to evaluate job opportunities, you need to have a concrete idea of what your priorities are.

Once you've determined exactly what you're looking for in a job, tweak your resume accordingly. Then begin your research of companies that you might like to work for.

Networking is one of the most powerful methods of finding a great job. Make a list of your contacts and how they might be able to help you. Talk to people who are working in the field you're interested in and in the companies you'd like to work for. Don't limit yourself to newspaper help wanted ads or online job postings.

The best jobs usually go to those who start looking a little earlier and look a little longer. Take advantage of any contacts you have in the field you're hoping to work in.

Additional tips:

•Take advantage of your college's career center.

•Attend job fairs on campus.

•Participate in on-campus interviews set up by local companies looking for staff. 

•Before going to an interview, research the company as thoroughly as possible so you can speak intelligently about the company's business and its goals and how your skills and experience can help advance the company's agenda.

•Use all the job-hunting strategies available to you. Don't limit yourself to one or two methods of job hunting.

•Remember that your resume is your ambassador. A messy, unprofessional resume or one with typos in it will give a bad impression to your potential employer. Take the time and effort to prepare a professional-looking resume that succinctly highlights your strengths and experiences and will make a good impression on those who read it.

•Once you've landed the interview, be sure to follow up afterwards with a brief, neatly written note expressing your interest in the job and demonstrating your understanding of what the company is looking for in the ideal candidate.

•Once you have the job, give it your best efforts, even if it's not your ideal job. Your work ethic and work habits will follow you around from one job to the next. Make sure the news is all good.