If you're beginning your final semester of college, the existential panic may be setting in. It can be difficult to imagine a future, wide open and wrought with possibilities when you're so accustomed to knowing your schedule and living arrangements months in advance.

But you shouldn't push off planning what you'd like to do after May.

You might decide to take time off or travel after graduation, and that's great. Those opportunities will help you to grow as a person. And let's be real, you probably need a break from the constant influx of papers and exams.

But if you are planning on kick-starting your career right after getting your degree, you need to take the necessary steps to prepare for this. Finding a job in this economy is no easy feat, especially if you're looking for something specific.

And while starting your search in May or June won't necessarily ruin your chances at landing a position in your field, it could prolong the process for you. After all, everyone else who just received their diploma will be looking around that time. So how do you make yourself stand out?

You can start by applying early, getting yourself ahead of the game.

I understand that the last thing any student approaching graduation wants is another assignment to complete. Theses, final exams and term papers make for a long enough to do list.

Yet if you're serious about jumping into the workforce and making a name for yourself in your field, applying early is the way to show it. It will show potential employers that you're forward thinking and capable of handling multiple projects at once.

The Balance even suggests preparing for your job search as early as the summer before senior year. While you can't start interviewing for jobs an entire year in advance, you can begin networking and revamping your resume. You can get accustomed to sites that advertise jobs in your given field, and maybe even practice interviewing.

As for actually applying, the final semester seems the best time to do this. Exactly how many months in advance you should start sending out applications depends on the field you're going into.

Generally speaking, applying three to four months is acceptable for most career paths. If an office really wants you, they'll extend their hiring process by a month or two for you. Most companies can function with one staff member less than usual.

For fields with a greater amount of openings, such as nursing or accounting, you can probably lower the bar and apply two to three months in advance. The same goes for positions that employers are looking to fill quickly.

Whatever you decide, don't sleep on your career. Doing so will put you in the fast lane to a revolving door of entry level jobs you may not enjoy. Learn the ropes of applying and interviewing, and try to get as many applications in as possible.

That's how you build yourself a future.