a young man shake's a job interviewer's handStudents graduating in 2011 should start updating their resumes and practicing for interviews, if a recent report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers is to be believed. The report states that the employment outlook for the class of 2011 is more positive than the outlook was for the class of 2010.

Mike Caldwell, the acting director of career development at Grinnell College in Iowa, said employers are more optimistic about hiring employees this year than last.

"Last year employers were very uncertain about their hiring needs going into the upcoming year," Caldwell said.

He said that employers are looking to fill some positions quickly. "What we're seeing is employers are hiring and they're turning over positions quickly," he said.

Caldwell recommends that students should do a couple things to prepare themselves for finding a job after graduation. First, he said, students should set up RSS feeds or e-mail alerts on job posting websites. "That way they can get job postings sent directly to them," he said. Some colleges like Grinnell have databases that their students can use to find job postings.

Caldwell also recommended that students use their winter and summer breaks to connect with alumni and professionals in their chosen industry.

"We find that most alumni, most professionals, are willing to talk to students who are trying to figure things out for themselves," he said.

Caldwell said the best way to do that is to let professionals and alumni know who you are and that you'd be very interested in speaking to them about their career path.

Once that's complete, he said students should specialize their resumes and cover letters for each employer. "Make sure when the employer reads the application it makes sense to the employer and they can say 'I can understand why this person is applying to my company or my organization,'" he said.

Once the resume is complete he said students should initiate contact with an employer and let them know that they are interested in a position. Caldwell said students should focus on one or two employers at first to develop a relationship with them rather than blanketing their resumes over dozens of employers

He also advises that students, when looking for letters of recommendation, should work with the writer of the letter in its creation. He said once the writer creates the basic letter the student can ask to specialize it based on the employer and industry he or she wants to work in.

Practicing interviewing skills is also important. When employers ask "What can you bring to this company," Caldwell said students should relate their past experiences to the job they are applying for and what those experiences enable them to bring to the company.

Finally, Caldwell said getting an early start on the process is important. "Definitely, starting early is one of the primary points I'm talking with students about right now," he said.

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