By Abigail Hess

CNBC, January 26, 2018 —

This time of year, college students are returning to school, buying books and selecting classes. It’s also when they should start to think seriously about how to get hired by May.

By starting the job search process now, students can make sure they land a role that can help jumpstart their careers and make their degrees pay off.

Here are five things that students should do now to make sure they have an exciting opportunity to embark on in May:

 1. Refresh your resume

When you start a new job search, your first step should always be to freshen up your resume. Monster career expert Vicki Salemi says that students should include the most recent relevant information including coursework and research projects.

“They should make sure their resume is up to date,” says Salemi. “And that doesn’t only mean to include their internships, it also means they should be incorporating relevant classwork and other projects or experiences that are happening this semester.”

Vicki Salemi. (Mark Bennington)

Salemi explains that experiences, like shadowing a professor or working a campus job, can be great talking points for demonstrating your strengths — especially if you don’t have years and years of professional experience to talk about.

2. Network

“Right now is the ideal time to network,” says Salemi. “Start reaching out to classmates who graduated last year or the year before that.”

New York University graduation ceremony at Yankee Stadium. (Andrew Burton | Getty Images)

Once you have reached out to your closest connections, be sure to take advantage of your school’s career services. Career centers often have extensive data about alumni, offer mock interviews and can help you polish off your resume.

“Ask them to run a list for you of alumni who work in the company and/or industry you want to pursue,” says Salemi. “While you’re at the career center, make an appointment to schedule a mock interview, because while you’re actively networking, you should also make sure your interview skills are sharp.”

3. Job alerts

One of the most underrated job search hacks is to set up alerts that inform you about opportunities that interest you. Monster, LinkedIn and Google all offer services that will send you emails or notifications indicating that a role you are interested has opened up.

Once you receive news about a job you are interested in, get your application in as soon as possible.

“When opportunities land in your inbox, apply immediately, don’t wait. If you see a job, you should apply that day,” says Salemi. “You should never assume it will be posted for a long time.”

4. Chase your dream company

If you have scanned the career page of your ideal company and do not see any open positions, do not be deterred says Salemi.

“If your dream employer doesn’t have any openings, you should still reach out to them because you never know when they will have an opening and you want to be top of mind,” she explains.

By contacting the company early on in the semester, you make sure that your name is the first one they think of when an opportunity opens up.

5. Sharpen your soft skills

One of the most fun things you can do now to prepare yourself for a job in May is to strengthen your soft skills.

Students can “polish their soft skills by going out of their comfort zone — go to a wrestling match or theater event — it’s all about small talk, introducing yourself with an elevator pitch,” says Salemi.

This is a fun way that young people can make sure they can have in-person conversations with people outside of their typical social circles. Salemi argues, “Since the graduating class is digital native, it’s even more important to be able to interact in real-time and be able to hold a good conversation.”

Meeting new people and trying new things is also a great way to spend your last few months as a student.