This post is by Sudy Bharadwaj, a co-founder and the CEO of Jackalope Jobs, a platform that helps job seekers find a job via their social networks. Learn how Bharadwaj and Jackalope Jobs obsess over job seekers by connecting with them on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the class of 2013 was expected to total 1,744,000 bachelor’s degree graduates. More than one million alums have embarked into the “real world.”

As an alum, you may think “now what?” How can you use your degree, experiences, and passion for your industry to start making real strides? And how can you do so in a difficult job market?

Alum Status

Check out these suggestions to optimize your new alum status:

Utilize your alumni network

Your alumni network can be a powerful resource if you use it properly. Not only do you have a common connection—your alma mater—but there’s also a willingness to help those who have a shared connection. In the same light, referrals are often linked as the number one source of hire. Pair the two together and the chance of landing the job of your dreams skyrockets.

Tip: Don’t use your network solely when you need something. Cultivate and maintain your relationships. Show what you can offer so they come to you. No one likes a leech; don’t become one just because you are starting your job search.

Create and maintain an online image

I know you’ve heard it before, but it begs repeating: Your online presence and your reputation are so important. Most employers use the internet as a screening method. In fact, one in 10 young job seekers were rejected because of their social media channels. If you have pictures from your party days or continuously post information that may offend certain audiences, you may be put in the “no” pile.

Tip: When you start looking for jobs, think about what an organization would like to see. Does the content you present align with their messaging? This may mean posting industry news or showcasing your knowledge for the space. You might also consider having a personal website—according to Forbes 56 percent of all hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool. This can help an organization to see why you’d be a great fit.

Look into postgraduate internship positions

An internship or an ambassador program may not be your ideal post-college job. After all, you may have thought those days were behind you. However, the fact is it may be your one shot to get into an organization. Studies have shown that candidates have a 70 percent chance of being hired by a company they’ve interned with.

In addition, campus ambassador programs, such as the ones created by 1 Degree Hire, allow new professionals to create content, build their own professional networks, develop their personal brands, and can give them the opportunity to earn commissions. While these jobs may be temporary, there’s no denying the power of an internship or an ambassador program for your future.

Tip: In addition to traditional job searching methods, one of the best ways to find an internship or an ambassador program is through your career center. Even though you’ve graduated, keep looking into it as a resource. Career centers are also typically willing to help those who want to stay connected with their colleges. Take advantage of it.

Go outside the box

Many alums use basic job searching tactics to find work. In today’s competitive market, you have to stand out and be bold. Think about the minimum you can do to land a job—now, triple it.

Although your resume already contains solid content that showcases your experience, adding interesting design elements or creating a video resume can make you a more attractive candidate. Going outside the box may require additional work, but the outcome is typically more rewarding.

Tip: You may be tempted to use a bunch of bells and whistles, but think strategically about the kind of image you want to portray. A cleanly designed resume or a video that addresses why you are a great candidate are both good options. Bribing an employer with boxes of donuts or calling incessantly are not. Be smart and understand what an employer would want to see out of candidate—that is, what will show your value.

Being a college alum in today’s market is tough. However, turning your “now what” question into real, marketable tactics is how you can get past that question and land the job of your dreams.

What do you think? What are some other ways alums can optimize their new grad status? Share with us in the comments!

Ask Levo Mentor Catherine Murphy, writer for Mercy Ships, how she maximized her job search post-graduation!