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Helping your college senior develop a game plan, Part 1

Posted by BJ Roche  January 5, 2012 10:23 AM

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It's a bittersweet time if your offspring are entering their final semester of college. Sweet, because the end of tuition checks is in sight. Bitter, because your daughter's entering a sketchy employment situation and you have turned her bedroom into your yoga studio and now you may have to give it back. This spring I teach my Launchpad Workshop for graduating seniors in my program at UMass, and here are a few tips I'll be sharing.

1. Head-in-sand is not an option. Some seniors try to avoid this transition process by partying like crazy during their final semester, on "last hurrah" grounds. That's a mistake. It doesn't have to be either/or. Oddly enough, the best de-stresser is action. Once students actually start taking action, they become more positive, and they're in a better position to sell themselves to an employer.

2. Get your senior to take advantage of the college career services, both on the ground and online. You've paid for these services for four years now. Use them! At the UMass Career Services site, for example, students can set up and save job or internship searches, and new listings arrive in their mailboxes as they come in.

Most people find their jobs through their networks, and college offers the first network. Seniors can join the college's alumni association and start tapping into the organization's mentoring and networking functions. At UMass, Maroon Central offers lots of ways to connect with alumni in their fields.

3. Seniors can use technology and social media to go beyond the resume. Make sure your senior is on LinkedIn. (You should be, too.) Then make the most of it with these tips. Get past employers to provide recommendations.

I also tell students go to Vistaprint and get business cards, and carry them everywhere. Spend a little more and get a two-sided card. On the front, include a photo, contact info (including their LinkedIn address), on the back, feature a mini-resume with their major, skills set and what they're looking for. (One enterprising student put a Q Code on her card that linked to her online portfolio.) It's a great ice-breaker when networking.

Most experts are saying that the big job sites are not as effective as they used to be--it's the face-to-face that matters; but they're still worth a look to see what skills employers are looking for. I have students search on indeed, and idealist for non-profit jobs, as well as smaller, niche sites depending on the field; for example, sports jobs What Color Is Your Parachute author Richard Bolles recommends Job-Hunt, a fantastic resource for anyone looking for a job.

Get your senior to set up an account on to track her finances. American Student Assistance offers lots of resources for what they call "financial wellness" for young people; my next post features an interview with their experts on managing student loan debt.

4: Read books. I get students started by reading The Success Principles, by Jack Canfield. This is the mother of all self-help books, and it's the one book that, year after year, students thank me for putting into their hands. Suze Orman's The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke is a great roundup book on money management for young people, and, from my experience, boy, do they need it.

The classic What Color Is Your Parachute is still the best out there. Author Richard Bolles points out that jobhunting is a skill that can be learned, and you need to understand how the hiring process works to be successful. You'd be surprised to see the difference between jobseekers perceptions of how people get hired and the reality.

5. Don't count on any of the above things alone to get a job. It's likely to take awhile, and everyone's expectations will probably need adjustments along the way. But you may be surprised at what happens when your senior commits three or four hours per week to the work of finding a job, starting now. I have seen students make connections through informational interviews that later led to jobs. And even now, a year later, I'm in touch with last year's seniors with job opportunities I come across.

So get that network going and keep working it. Tell everyone you know that your son or daughter is looking for work; ask those people to tell everyone they know. You may be surprised at what this leads to.

If all else fails, adjust yourself to the fact that your senior may have to do a post-graduate internship. (Yes, working for free. Yes, this does stink. Hey, Massachusetts employers, how about hiring our young people so they don't move to Charlotte?) On the positive side, I've seen several students get permanent jobs this way.

In my next post, I've got information on the student loan repayment process.

Find more links and join the conversation on the Fiftyshift Facebook page.
I've set up a new forum on the topic to post comments and tips. Let's see if this thing works.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

BJ Roche is a writer and teacher who lives in Western Massachusetts. She’s a senior lecturer in the Journalism Program at UMass Amherst, where she teaches writing, new media and More »

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