10/13/2011 03:03 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2011

Parents Guide to the Senior Year in College: Five Steps to Success

Your investment of time, hope, and money is about to pay off -- even in a still terrible economy, when your kid may prefer heading to graduate school over facing a still-tight job market. Take heart: employment is up a bit, according the latest National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey. In the Midwest, hiring is predicted to be up about 18.5 percent and in the West, 15 percent. Up is certainly better than down.

There's so much to do in the nine months leading up to college graduation. Since nine months is what it takes to make a baby, know that it can also be the time required to make a career, or at least the first step toward it. You've done that once; you can encourage your child to be bold now.

Here are five actions that you must encourage your son or daughter to do:

  1. Go to the Career Center on campus to take advantage of their free advice about how to get a job. Sign up for individual counseling and for their workshops on getting ready for a job interview, resume writing and recommendation review, as well as access to potential employers.
  2. Attend the Career Fairs on campus with several dozen resumes in hand. Be sure to research the participating employers in advance so that you know who they are and what they might be offering. Remember how important first impressions are to this process: dressing like the employers, a handshake with a smile, the one-minute elevator pitch about your major and leadership roles, and your interest in their company. Don't confuse this with brown-nosing. You have only a small amount of time to stand out from the others who are standing behind you in line. Get their cards and be sure to follow-up.
  3. Get an internship or two before graduation. Internships are access to the working world, and are sometimes the only way in. Whether working for pay or not, an internship is essential. But let me stress that just showing up during your internship won't lead to a job offer. Attitude and connecting are essential; so don't complain about seemingly mindless tasks or doing go-fer work. Instead, seize this opportunity to prove that you will go the extra mile to deliver work or coffee cheerfully, and observe what's going on around you to learn more about the business. In the process, you will be building relationships that could lead to your goal -- a new job.
  4. Take a class or workshop in Inventing Your Job since that is much of the future. You can learn to create a job for yourself in a non-traditional work environment. These days, for many, a phone and computer serves as the only connection to an employer. With the development of the internet and social networking, many companies exist online only hiring freelancers. This is particularly relevant to writers, artists and graphic designers, web developers, sales people, and fundraisers. For the budding entrepreneurs out there, take a look at ABC's riveting Shark Tank, which provides real case studies.
  5. Networking your way in is still the way many people are hired. It's always been that way, even though we'd all like to think that our fine work alone will get us in. The cost of being acculturated in the school model of doing your work, getting a grade, and automatic promotion leads only to system dependence. Life is not like that. A solid GPA is no guarantee. Knowing someone is key, so you must spend time and energy developing these relationships now so that you can build on them for the rest of your life.

Make Your Luck Happen!