It’s that time of year again — graduation time. If you’re about to graduate in the Class of 2012, congratulations! You may be in the midst of a job search, and I’m here to walk you through each and every step.

Step 1: Finding Opportunities

This step involves a lot of research. Search company job sites, like Glassdoor, big online job boards (like Monster or Indeed), and your social networks like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Take advantage of your professional network, too; personal references are one of the best ways to find out about hidden job opportunities. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to a company you’re interested in – ask for an informational interview to discuss possible opportunities and where you could fit in at the company.

Step 2: Applying

So you found appropriate job openings – great! Now it’s time to apply. Keep a spreadsheet of what companies you’re applying for, what dates you applied, and what materials you submitted; organization is key in a job search.

You should also consider creating a portfolio of your work to bring with you to interviews, whether it’s a tangible portfolio, an online one, or both. Showcasing examples of your actual work speaks more to your abilities than a resume ever can.

Step 3: Interviewing

Congratulations – you made it to the interview phase. This is often the most important (and most nerve-racking) stage in the process. Follow the two “P’s” of interviewing: preparation and professionalism.

Come prepared by researching the company and interviewer, practicing potential interview questions, mapping out your route to the interview, and bringing the necessary materials (a copy of your resume and cover letter, your portfolio, etc). Be professional by dressing and speaking the part, being polite, and following interview etiquette. In the end, there’s only so much you can do for an interview – be yourself and display your skills and accomplishments, and you’ve done your best.

Step 4: Following Up

After the interview, it’s often a waiting game. Set yourself apart from the crowd by making sure to follow up on your interview. Send a handwritten “thank you” note to your interviewer(s), thanking them for their time and consideration. Also take this opportunity to reinforce your interest in and qualifications for the position, and anything else you forgot to say during your interview. Following up, let a company know you’re not only professional, but very interested in the position and willing to go the extra step.

Step 5: Offer vs. Rejection

The moment of truth: do you get an offer or a rejection letter? If it’s an offer letter, congratulations – you got the job. Now, you need to consider whether or not to take it; is it the right job for you? Is it the right fit, in terms of opportunity, salary, hours, and commute? How does it fit into your larger career goals? There are many factors to consider when considering a job offer.

If you’ve gotten a rejection, don’t worry – it’s not the end of the world. Thank the interviewer again for their time and consideration, and ask for constructive feedback. Asking for feedback after a rejection is a great way to start working on your skills and experiences to fit the needs of employers.

Step 6: Negotiating Salary

Salary negotiation is difficult, but necessary when accepting an offer. Research salaries in your industry (Glassdoor’s salary data is great for this) to determine what most companies pay people at your level. Then, instead of demanding a certain salary, let your employer know why you deserve a certain salary – think of your accomplishments, experiences, and anything else you contribute to the company. This should be a conversation, not an argument.

Step 7: Succeeding At The Job

You’ve researched, applied, interviewed, followed up, got an offer, and negotiated your salary; now, it’s time to succeed at the job. Remember the two “P’s” of interviewing – preparation and professionalism – and apply them to your job. Remember to always go above and beyond, ask for more responsibility, and most importantly, communicate with your co-workers and supervisors. You’re ready to start your career now, so start it on a great note!