When I was a senior in college, I couldn’t wait to graduate so I could go out into the real world and start earning a real paycheck. At that time, the economy was still in recovery mode, and I knew that finding a job would be tough. Some of my friends who had graduated a year, or even two years, ahead of me were still waiting tables or making lattes, and I definitely didn’t want to end up like them.

So, I started early — sending out resumes, writing emails, making phone calls, doing anything and everything possible to ensure that my transition from college to real life would be as seamless as possible. I had no idea what I was in for.

By the time I filled in the bubbles on my final final exam, I still had no idea what I was doing next. The application pools for the jobs I was interested in — most of them entry-level positions — were dozens and dozens deep. Like many new graduates, I was being passed over for older, more experienced applicants who had been laid off by their previous employers. And like many new graduates, I resorted to moving in with my parents.

After several months of feeling defeated and frustrated, I finally got my foot in the door at a small company. What I went through after college has made me incredibly appreciative of every career opportunity I have since received, but I still wouldn’t wish my post-graduation experience on anyone else.

According to a new report, fewer new grads will feel the effects of the last decade’s economic collapse as they set out to land their first jobs. But, as college degrees become more and more common, experts say it’s still a good idea to start searching earlier rather than later (I’m talking to you, class of 2012).

Commencement day might seem like a long way off, but trust me — it will sneak up on you faster than you think. So unless you want to end up with roommates named “Mom” and “Dad,” you might want to set up a LinkedIn account and start sending out some resumes.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.