Returning to university for the final year brings with it some mixed pressures - trying to retain some kind of social life amid final year project panics, all the while knowing at the end of it all you still have to get a job. Seven out of ten new graduates admitted to being very stressed when it comes to job-hunting, according to a study of 150 graduates by Just IT.

If you are not one of the 'sorted' ones who have spent their summers at an IT company securing that all-important first foot on the ladder, now's the time to really start thinking about what sort of work you want to do, and the kind of company you think you would fit into.

The traditional time for job-hunting tends to be in the New Year, however, with the competition for jobs, it might be better to use the autumn term to give you a head start over your peers. By the time they are just starting to think about it, you will already have secured a number of interviews.

Now is also the time to take a look at what your ambitions and aspirations are in the medium to long term and see if that gives you any clue as to where you might need to be heading after graduation.

Start your job search by undertaking some background research into potential employers and their business sector.  At this point it might also be worthwhile trying to keep up-to-date with what is going on across the wider business world by reading the financial/business press. The easiest way to do this is to sign up to regular email updates from many of the web based business titles.

Those who are set on getting into a particular sector may also want to consider setting up files on relevant sectors and keeping press articles, so that you are up to speed with the latest developments in a particular area when an interview arises.

Then, in the Christmas break, you will have amassed a good deal of information about your industry sector, and will have a bit of time to get your head round what some of the big issues are - again standing you in good stead for interviews and portraying you as a 'rounded' professional.

A good way to get a feel for the many different companies out there is to attend a recruitment fair. In February next year, BCS and is holding a free recruit event in London for women wanting to get into IT.

The event, which is also open to male students, will have around 30 of the hottest IT employers, plus a series of seminars and workshops on everything from polishing your CV to sharpening up your presentation skills. 

Another idea is to network with the people in your life who you think might like you enough to help you in your job search. Just IT's survey found that eight out of ten students turn to friends, family or even Facebook when seeking help for careers or employer applications.

So contact friends, family, current and past employers, fellow survivors of old schools or universities, members of sports teams you play or have played for... the list is only restricted by your imagination. Everyone on this list is connected to you in some way, no matter how tenuously, and they might know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who has exactly the right job for you, so start talking to them.

Of course, networking comes more easily to some people than others. 'Some cultures seem naturally better than others at networking', says Satnam Brar, managing director of specialist ERP recruiter Maximus IT. 'Americans seem to be able to do it in their sleep. The British regard it as vaguely 'un-British' and in some Far Eastern countries it can be perceived as downright rude. But whatever your background, whether you like it or not, you are already a member of a club where networking is not just a nice idea, it's an essential part of your development, so abandon your prejudices and get going.'

Effective networking isn't just based on boring everyone you meet with how wonderful you are; it's a question of fitting in with their needs and interests and communicating quickly and cleanly exactly what you are about. Start by developing an 'elevator pitch'.

This is a term invented in Hollywood and derived from the idea that you should be able to sell a concept for a film in the time it takes an elevator to travel a few floors. In your terms it means a fifteen second summation of who you are, what you do and how it can help the person you are talking to. Elevator pitches are jargon free and simple enough that your grandmother would understand them immediately. If they fail this crucial test you are wasting your time - granny knows best.

Look for opportunities to bring up your job search with everyone that you meet and create new opportunities by proactively making contact with old school friends, etc. 'Remember other people like to talk too rather than listen to your pre-prepared monologue with a glazed expression,' Satnam advises.

Of course, don't forget your university's careers department and the website for a detailed list of the potential jobs out there, and the companies looking to fill them.

The bigger companies often travel to universities for the regular 'milk round' so find out when these are being held and put it in your diary. It might help you get some idea of the type of person they are looking for, and also a possible career you might not have thought about.

This article is based on a variety of BCS published material, plus a BCS article by Richard Platts and information provided by Blue Sky PR.