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Starting your first job search: A step-by-step guide

Use this step-by-step guide to break down some of the work that goes into your job search.

Starting your first job search: A step-by-step guide

It's true what they say: Looking for a job is a job itself. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay anything, and the health insurance plan (e.g. don't get sick) leaves a lot to be desired. And considering everything that goes into it – from creating a resume to preparing for the interview – it's not an easy one. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming – particularly if it's your first job search and you're starting from square one.

The secret is to take it one step at a time. Use this step-by-step guide to break down some of the work that goes into your job search.

1. Create a resume. Creating a resume is particularly difficult when you're just out of school and have little to no "real world" work experience; however, you may have more experience than you realise. In addition to internships, consider any volunteer work you've done or leadership positions you held as part of a campus organization. Try these tips for creating your first resume or get hands-on help building your resume with CareerBuilder's free resume-building tool.

2. Build your professional network. There's some truth to the cliché, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." After all, referrals are one of the top ways in which people find jobs, which is why building your professional network is both necessary and rewarding. While the idea of networking may sound forced and painful, it doesn't have to be. Try out some of these unconventional ways to build your professional network and remember these professionals. Informational are also a great way to make new connections and get inside information about the job of field in which you're interested.

3. Check the job boards. One of the fastest ways to learn about available jobs is by conducting a search on online job board like CareerBuilder.com. Not only can you search for jobs by job title, skills or company and location, but you can also upload your resume so that employers and recruiters who are searching the site for candidates can easily find you. Once you start applying, make sure you avoid these common job application mistakes.

4. Cover your bases with a cover letter. According to a 2015 CareerBuilder survey, 61 percent of hiring managers say they pay more attention to resumes that are accompanied by cover letters. Including a cover letter gives you a chance to introduce yourself personally to the hiring manager, and explain why you think you'd be a great fit for the company and position. Keep your letter short and sweet - no more than three paragraphs - and make sure you tailor it to the specific position for which you are applying. Hiring managers can smell a generic cover letter a mile away. Want to know more? Get cover letter-writing tips straight from employers or check out this helpful infographic.

5. Create job alerts. Almost any online job search site now allows you to create job alerts, which save you a ton of time by finding jobs that match your skills and interests FOR you. Simply type in your desired criteria (job title and/or company name) and specify how frequently you want to receive alerts to start receiving regular, recommended job postings. Feel free to create job alerts on multiple sites to widen your reach. (You can always unsubscribe later.)

6. Go straight to the source. Always thought it would be cool to work for Google? If you have a company in mind that you'd like to work for, go straight to their website to see if they're hiring. Almost every company has a dedicated "careers" section with information about available opportunities and benefits. With certain companies, you can even register with their talent networks, which will ensure your resume is kept on file for future opportunities.

7. Seek out a staffing firm. Job seekers tend to shy away from staffing or recruiting firms for fear that they will be charged for the firm's services, but that's simply not true. Not only will recruiters at these agencies be able to point you to jobs employers aren't advertising to the general public, they can also give you insider advice to make you stand out as a candidate. Learn more about the benefits of using a staffing firm.

8. Get social media-savvy. Social media can work for or against your job search. First, it's important to know that more than half of employers look up candidates on social media. Got anything on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page you wouldn't want employers to see? Take it down or change your privacy settings to ensure only those you want viewing your profile can do so. Second, a lot of companies use social media to advertise open positions and recruit new employees, so start following companies you want to work for on social media. Not only is it a fast, easy way to learn about job opportunities, but it's also a way to communicate, ask questions and learn more about working for the company.

9. Nail the interview. Got called in for an interview? Make sure you do your homework, dress appropriately, and know how to answer the toughest questions. And try to avoid these common interview faux pas.

Cut yourself some slack. Remember that finding a job takes time, patience and dedication. (And coffee. Lots of coffee.) It's only natural that you may start to feel defeated. If that happens, it's okay to take a break every once in a while to "recharge" – just don't give up. Try these tips to stay motivated throughout your job search.