As you look at your classmates, you likely see a group of friends–trusted allies on a mission riddled with exams to cram for, boring lectures to sit through, and tedious assignments to prepare.

Despite your fond feelings towards them, your fellow students are also your biggest competition for jobs. And, in order to land your dream position, you had better start your job search before they do.

It may sound cliche, but when it comes to securing a coveted position, the early bird really does get the worm. Here are a few steps that you can take right away to make your social media job search less daunting.

Capitalize on Your Social Media Savvy

Turning social media into a career can offer many opportunities. You want a career in social media, so why not strut your stuff by using your know-how to sell yourself?

  • LinkedIn. Begin by creating an impressive LinkedIn profile that is up-to-date and complete. This means including recommendations from professors, internship supervisors, former employers, coaches, and other esteemed professionals.
  • Facebook. Sure, Facebook is the place where you can chat with friends and be yourself–but you need to be aware that prospective employers will check out your wall. Make sure that your privacy settings are set as high as possible to keep your private stuff private. And remove tags from any pictures that may present you in an unflattering light.
  • Twitter. This platform is the perfect tool for networking. Follow people that are the superstars in your field, engage in conversations, and establish yourself as an authority in social media marketing.

Perfect the Basics

There are some skills and tools that all job seekers need to develop–and, by starting early, you will have the opportunity to perfect these before the competition does.

  • Interview skills. The thought of having to sell yourself to an important employer can be quite daunting–particularly if you have little or no experience with job interviews. Practice, however, can give you more confidence. Your school’s Career Center will likely be able to help you by conducting mock interviews. You can also ask family and friends to run through these with you. It is particularly helpful if you can videotape yourself as this will make you more aware of your non-verbal communication cues as well.
  • Resume and Cover Letters. It is important to learn how to create a polished professional resume and cover letter. Again, your college’s Career Center should be able to assist you. By developing your resume early, you will be able to make continual tweaks and updates–resulting in an impressive finished product.

Trade Your Time for Experience

Many job seekers have found themselves unable to get a job without experience, but unable to get experience without a job. The perfect solution is to volunteer as an unpaid intern. According to the article, How to Position Yourself for the Best Paying Careers Before You’ve Graduated, “volunteer work, unpaid internships, and other non-paying experience can strengthen your resume and improve your chances of entering into the best paying careers.” You will also benefit from a wider network of contacts, being able to offer proof of your abilities, and, most importantly, a foot in the door with a potential employer.

Collect Marketable Skills

It is also important to ensure that you have all of the skills required for a career in social media and take this time to fill in all the gaps in your knowledge. While you will, obviously, require a thorough understanding of social media tools, you will also need a background in marketing, writing, SEO content, relationship building, online reputation management, and measuring results.

Also, ensure that you are adept at working with Word, WordPress, and PowerPoint. And remember to keep abreast of new trends and developments within the field.

So get out there and volunteer, practise your interview techniques, and learn as much as you can about your future career. The sooner you start preparing yourself for life after school, the better that life will be.

This article was contributed by Kimberley Laws. Kimberly is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and Certified Career Counselor. You can follower her at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.