Catherine Nixey offers some resolutions for final-year students heading into the world of work

When you embark on student life, the very idea of an existence beyond university seems ludicrous. Working nine to five, commuting and paying taxes are what other people - old people - do. You, you feel, are destined for higher things.

The next thing you know, your final year is drawing to a close, no book deal/ film role/record contract has yet proved forthcoming and you realise you should start looking for a job. Pronto. But how? Here, we give you the top five New Year's resolutions to help you find a job. Soon you'll be commuting with the best of them.

Pass your exams

"First and foremost I'd advise final-year students to focus on their exams," says Tom Hughes, managing director of Milkround Online (www.milkround.com), an online recruitment agency. "A lot of companies will simply discount people who have a 2.2 and below. A 2.1 is a huge help when you're applying for a job."

Visit a careers service

"Careers services are not just for those students who have known since first year what firm they want to work for," says Claire Rees, a careers adviser from the University of York. "They can also help you decide what job you want, by going through your strengths, weaknesses, interests and values."

Once you have decided on a job, you can look through their vacancy listings to see what is on offer. There are also several online careers websites, such as Graduate Prospects (www.prospects.ac.uk), so you can career hunt from the comfort of your bedroom.

Careers services can also help you to draught a CV and to fill in application forms. Many university careers services also offer practice literacy and numeracy tests, and some will even have videos to initiate you into what sort of cabalistic rituals go on at the dreaded "assessment centres".

Join a sports team

Businesses want people with social skills as well as academic brilliance. To this end they look at not only your grades, but also your hobbies and interests. So now is the time to join a sports team - if only for a term. "What sports you do definitely makes a difference," says Tom Hughes. "Team sport players know how to interact with people and to get on with their peers. Solo sports are good too as they show commitment, and a passion for something."

Read the papers

Owing to their quirky circadian rhythms, students often miss the main news bulletins (asleep for the morning ones; in the pub for the evening ones). As a result they are often a bit vague on current affairs - and if you are applying for a job, that is something you can't afford to be. "We often ask interviewees to describe a news event that has happened in the past two weeks that interests them," says Sara Reading, assistant graduate recruitment manager at KPMG.

Tom Hughes agrees. "You ought to have some knowledge of what's going on in the world - especially in the industry you are being interviewed for. If you don't, then you just look a bit of a wally."

Scrub up

"It doesn't matter at all what you wear to interview," says Sara Reading. So you can wear jeans? "On no, not jeans, no." Sportswear? "No, no sportswear. No sportswear, no jeans, no trainers."

So when companies say you can wear "anything", they tend to mean "anything as long as it's a suit". So if you haven't got a smart outfit, you should get one. It needn't be too expensive. Last year was a bad one for retailers - and a bad year for retailers means a good one for retailees. If you haven't already found something in the sales, you probably will.

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