Last Updated Sep 19, 2011 10:06 AM EDT
At the celebratory dinner on Saturday night, my daughter Caitlin turned to me and said, "It was a perfect day."
The graduation was even more special because Caitlin has beaten the odds. Unlike many of the nation's 2011 college graduates, Caitlin is heading back home to San Diego with a job.
She's been hired to do social media and graphic design, as well as other marketing responsibilities, for Rokenbok, an educational toy company located just a block or two from the beach.
Getting a Job After CollegeHow did Caitlin, who was a Spanish and entrepreneurship major, get a job? I think Caitlin's experiences could prove helpful for others who are just starting college. She began setting the groundwork years ago. Here's what Caitlin did:
1. Follow your passion.Caitlin has always loved to draw, paint and create. After her freshman year in college, she started painting picture frames that screamed Southern California, where she was born and raised. She sought help from a professor and staff at the college, who assisted her with her business plan. She ultimately received a loan from the state of Pennsylvania and the college's incubator and launched her own business - Something Sunny.
2. Get involved.When Caitlin was spending a year abroad at the University of Barcelona, she began blogging about her experience in Spain. Her entertaining posts from Catalan were helpful in landing her a job and internship at Juniata developing an international peer adviser program.
3. Find internships.Caitlin made the most of her summers by finding internships that dovetailed with her love of Spanish. Thanks to a Juniata scholarship, Caitlin studied in southern Mexico one summer that included an internship with a Mexican social service agency. She spent another summer at the University of California, San Diego's Institute of the Americas. Among her jobs at the institute was translating workshop material into Spanish for Latin American visitors.
4. Volunteer.The college marketing department included Caitlin in a prospective student guide and she was asked to write some copy for it. She was happy to do so and the quality of the copy she produced prompted the college marketing department to offer her a job during her senior year. At the marketing department she learned how to use high-end graphics software, which prompted her to begin creating her own art prints for her expanding small business.
5. Think outside the box.Caitlin finagled a San Diego coffee house, which is a hangout for surfers, to display her art during Christmas, and it was during her "art opening" that the CEO of Rokenbok saw her work and ultimately offered her a long-distance, part-time job doing social media during her last semester. More than a month ago, he offered her a full-time marketing job with health benefits.
Bottom Line:When employers are looking for new college graduates, they aren't just interested in their grades. They want to know what students have done outside the classroom for four years. Students can't wait until the spring of their senior year to become attractive to employers. Just ask my daughter.
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.