We all know that it’s difficult, especially in this economy, to find a career that suits you. I’ve gained insight into what really works, and whether you’re starting or changing your career, these are some things to keep in mind as you take your journey.

1. College: Should I go back? Should I go in the first place?
This is a major option to consider seeing as the price of college is only increasing. According to the U.S. Department of Education, it is estimated that in the past decade, the cost of undergraduate tuition, room and board at public institutions nearly doubled and at private colleges and universities cost increased by a quarter. Employers don’t weigh the name of the college you went to or whether or not it was Ivy League in their decision-making process anymore. Unless you went to their alma mater, the name of your college means next to nothing. The fact that you are educated in your field is the only thing that matters. Bottom line…don’t waste your money on pricey institutions. That will create excessive debt after college. Go to places with an average price tag, and work towards grants, scholarships, or anything possible to lower the cost. If possible, live at home if you can’t afford room and board. You can even attend a two-year college first to make the experience more affordable, and continue on to a four-year institution.

Make the most of college while you are there. Work in your field during college. Inform potential employers that you’re earning your degree and would appreciate the opportunity to work at their company while doing so. Take advantage of internships and apprenticeships. If it’s not required, do it anyway. Try to earn college credit or even make a little money. Hands-on experience is optimal. Training and observation can really add to what you learn in the classroom. These positions could turn into a career after college. Regardless, experience will always trump anything else on your resume. Unpaid, paid, internships, apprenticeships or volunteer work…anything is good experience to add to your education.

2. Networking: What’s to it?
An employer nowadays will almost always hire who they know. At that point, you simply have to ace the interview. If you need help with interviewing skills or you need your résumé reviewed, contact college career centers or job placement services to point you in the right direction. However, how do you get to know people in your field? Well, there are a few ways. Whether you have one in college or after, you could be lucky enough to meet people through your internship experience. (Or, you could make a lasting impression and be hired if there’s an open position!) However, the key way to network is to talk to EVERYONE you meet. Make sure to ask what field they are in, how they like it, and if this is a potential connection to your field, get their contact information. By doing this, you take a vested interest in this new contact, possibly form a relationship, and down the line, they could think of you when they hear of an opening in their own or another company. You should always write a follow-up letter or email, and in less formal situations, it might appropriate to send a text. Tell them you really enjoyed meeting them, and tell them if they happen to see any opportunities, to send them your way. It will keep you fresh in their mind. Think of any gathering as a chance to network, whether social, formal or anywhere in between.

3. Target Your Search.
General job boards sometimes fall short in return. Many people are posting to them, and your resume gets lost in the shuffle. However, if you apply directly off of the website for the business you’re interested in working for, you have a better chance of your information getting to the right place. You can also get any needed contact information for the business, and give them a call to follow-up once you have applied. Find businesses targeted towards your search on Chamber of Commerce sites in the area you want to work. These are sites businesses use to connect with each other, but you can use them to look up companies separated into different fields. Calling or emailing businesses you’d be interested in working for is a great way to both network and inquire about any opportunities or openings they may have for you. Sell yourself, touch on your experience, expertise and skills in these emails, but don’t get too detailed.

4. Don’t Say “No.”
That sounds like scary advice, right? However, if you think of it in the following terms, it won’t be. Tina Fey once said, when asked how she got so far in the entertainment industry, it was because she “never said ‘no’ to anything.” If you say “yes” to any new opportunity, even if it’s not exactly what you want, (less pay, not the right title, etc.) it could push you further in the direction of your goals. That’s what happened in Fey’s case. What’s that saying? You won’t regret what you did, only what you didn’t do.

5. Finally, and Most Important…You Must Have Ambition.
This is the easiest one of all, and it’s the final takeaway. Sitting back and waiting for the “perfect” career fit to land in your lap is rarely going to get you where you want to go. If you want something specific, it will take drive. You have to let the passion you have for your field and industry fuel that drive. I’ll use myself as an example. I knew I wanted to create, and I have always been outgoing. I used these tools to get me into the position I have today. I sold myself as a prized possession, a worker who will always do what it takes to get the job done, and went after the job I wanted. Am I still learning? Yes. Do I have room to better hone my skills? Of course. But, no one is going to believe in you unless you believe in yourself and make your dreams happen.

Keep these tips in mind and always have the confidence in your abilities to deliver in a position you love.