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Great gifts for today's college grads

With so many new college grads struggling to find work, this should be the year for practical gifts.

Obviously, money is always appreciated, but other great gift ideas are better for new grads wrestling with what to do with the rest of their lives. Here are six suggestions:

Job growth could mean more opportunity for college grads

Spring for career advice

Too many students are leaving their colleges behind without knowing how to find a good job. That's not surprising because career services at many schools don't offer much beyond resumé advice and arranging employer visits.

Parents or grandparents should consider purchasing some face time for a graduate with a career coach. "As parents are discovering the hard way, many have focused too much on getting their children into the right college and not enough on transitioning into the professional workplace," says Jane Horowitz, career-launch coach and founder of More Than A Resumé, which works exclusively with college students and recent grads.

With ongoing economic pressures dimming employment prospects, parents and college students need to adopt a more businesslike approach to moving through and out of college.

A college graduate’s challenging journey to success
Give a career book

If you can't spend the bucks for career counseling, consider buying your graduate a book on how to navigate the job market. Here are two suggestions:

"Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World" by Lindsey Pollak and "Graduate to a Great Job: Make Your College Degree Pay Off in Today's Market" by David DeLong.

Improve a wardrobe

Spring for a new outfit that the grad can wear on interviews, at networking events or to make a good impression in the workplace. You can arrange a personal stylist session at Nordstrom's that offers many options, including a 30-minute or two-hour wardrobe update, a special-occasion consultation (including getting dressed for an interview), a fashion trend consultation and one focused specifically on guys. All these sessions are free.

Buy a plane ticket

It can be hard for graduates when their college friends scatter after graduation. Promise to buy your grad a plane ticket to visit friends or to pursue job leads sometime in the future.

Open a Roth IRA

Provide the initial contribution to get them started with a Roth IRA, which is usually the best IRA for young people.

Vanguard has a huge selection of index mutual funds and is an excellent place to create a Roth account, but its starting minimum is $3,000, which is too pricey for most new grads. Plenty of discount brokerage firms, however, don't set such a high hurdle.

Among those brokerages are TD Ameritrade, Scottrade and Charles Schwab. At Schwab, for instance, the normal $1,000 beginning contribution is waived if the investor sets up an automatic contribution of $100 a month.

Buy a briefcase

Backpacks won't always cut it in the working world. Graduates usually don't have the money to spring for a quality briefcase. Here are some new andstylish briefcases from Coach. At a lower price point, consider this popular Samsonite leather briefcase ($99.99) that originally sold for $280. And finally for the budget shopper, this is Amazon's No. 1 laptop and tablet case, which sells for just $14.99.

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