The tassel is turned and the diploma is in hand. Now go get a job.
If only it was that simple. But it doesn't have to be that hard, either.
The dour economy and advent of technology has made it both easier and more difficult to get your foot in the door and put your education to good use, but nothing beats networking, a quality résumé and solid interviewing skills.
-- Liz Lierman, director of career services at Bard College at Simon's Rock.
"I think there are jobs out there, but the challenge these days is how to find them," said John Noble, the director of the Career Center at Williams College in Williamstown. At Williams, Noble said he works with students in the liberal arts, an area of study where career fields may not be as concrete as others, such as nursing and education.
"I think it's critical to employ two things: Look at databases, and don't spend all your time doing that," Noble said. "Spend at least as much time networking with people to learn more about opportunities."
When Liz Lierman, the director of Career Services at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, gives advice to students, she takes into account that they are all different.
"There's not one specific path. There's a wide variety of things after graduation," said Lierman.
Simon's Rock offers something called the Moderation Process to help students. It's a plan for juniors and seniors during which they go through a series of meetings with advisers and fill out paperwork to help them register for appropriate courses and find internships, summer jobs or chances to study abroad that will benefit the student and their goals.
The best approach, Lierman said, is for each graduating college senior to look for the job opportunities that match their backgrounds and skills.
But "starting early is helpful," she said.
"That doesn't mean you have to have the magic answer as soon as you enter college," Lierman added. "It takes time to do that."
Noble said online job search tools, like the website Monster.com, can help recent grads find a job in their field, but technology can also make the job search difficult.
"I think it's harder now in many ways because there's too much information out there," Noble said. "You can spend all your time going through any job database with very little result. You can apply to 100 jobs, hear back from 10, and get an interview from two."
Even with all the digital information out there, a well-written cover letter and résumé is still needed, according to Kate Heekin, assistant director of Center for Student Success and Engagement at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.
"As an English major, I get worried that the up-and-coming generations don't see the value of writing. Résumés and cover letters are not some old-school tool. They're incredibly important. They need to be current and error-free," Heekin said.
Lierman suggested adapting a résumé according to the employer.
The properly written cover letters and résumés could land a candidate one step further in the job-finding process: The interview.
"A practice interview with yourself is worth doing," Noble said. "Most college career centers have a lot of advice and mock interview training."
But the talking shouldn't end at the interview.
"Talk with as many people as possible in the type of job you're interested in," Lierman said. "Hear different stories and options. In doing that, you develop networks of people in those roles."
HOW TO PAY FOR COLLEGE
College might be one of the smartest investments ever -- that's why it will also be one of the most expensive. With debts piling up and the economy, here are some of the top financial aid and repayment plans out there.
Grants, waivers and scholarships
What better repayment plan is there than not having to pay back at all? Grants, waivers and scholarships provide free money that doesn't have to be paid back. There are plenty of websites online to search for the right scholarship, including scholarships.com, which has been in operation since 1999, according to the website.
Massachusetts residents get lucky with MASSGrant or the Mass Part-Time Grant. Awarded by the Mass achusetts Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) to students who filed their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). MASSGrants are available for four semesters. The Mass Part-Time Grant is given to students who were not able to enroll full-time, but were eligible for the MASSGrant. Tuition wai vers are also awarded to state residents and can be used to cover tuition charges for state-supported classes.
Though you'll be faced with the prospect of having to pay them off, loans can help make it easier to get into, and survive, college. Federal Direct Plus Loans are available with a fixed rate of 7.9 percent, and the interest rate can be reduced to 0.25 percent if the borrower enrolls in the Automatic Monthly Payment service, according to the Wil liams College website. Williams College also features a 10-month payment plan through Tuition Management Systems. Students, current or prospective, can estimate their family's contribution using the website's Williams Net Price Calculator.