Finding your first job out of high school or college is rarely easy. In today's tough economy, your kids may find it even tougher to land that first gig than you did. However, when it comes to job hunting, tried-and-true strategies work best. Help guide your graduate through these steps to cut down on time spent pounding the pavement or lying around the house.

1. Start early.
Preparing to find a job right out of school should begin long before graduation day. The decisions your child makes while still in school will play a large role in their transition to the working world. That's because for many people, one of the toughest parts of getting a first job is having no work history to showcase. If your child works on building a valuable skill set--such as demonstrating leadership and initiative--while still in school, they'll be ahead of the game. Some ways to gain skills that will be valuable in the real world include:

  • Working on the school newspaper or yearbook
  • Joining academic clubs or committees, such as the debate team or an event-planning committee
  • Running for school office
  • Taking on a summer job
  • Seeking leadership roles in classes or on sports teams

2. Find an internship.
In a tight job market, it may be difficult to find paid work straight out of school. One stop-gap measure that can help build a resume is to take on an internship. Your child may even be able to find an internship while still in school and receive academic credit. If not, many companies offer internships to recent graduates to help them get their feet wet in an industry. Some companies offer a small stipend to interns in addition to on-the-job training. Best yet, internships often turn into job offers.

3. Volunteer.
When money is tight and your graduate is anxious to embark on their career, the idea of volunteering may seem difficult. However, like internships, volunteer positions often serve as great springboards for full-time work. Encourage your child to research companies and organizations in areas they're interested in. If there are no immediate job openings for entry-level work, suggest that they contact the human resources department and offer to serve as a volunteer in some capacity. For example, volunteering at an animal shelter will give your child something meaningful to do with their time while helping them gain work experience. It may even ignite a passion that directs their career path!

4. Use job boards.
While your first job search may have relied on newspaper classified ads, most openings today are posted online. Your graduate can use job boards posted on major career sites such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, LinkedIn.com, and Craigslist.org to find entry-level positions. Most job boards also allow for employment seekers to post their resumes for potential employers to see. Your child can sign up for daily or weekly job listing email alerts based on their interests.

5. Network.
In scoring that first job offer, the old adage that it's not what you know but who you know can certainly be true. Remind your graduate not to rely on job sites alone to seek positions. Many times, a teacher, friend, or colleague of a parent or other family member can open the door to an opportunity. To expand the network beyond current connections, encourage your child to attend business networking events, which are often hosted by the Chamber of Commerce in many cities. LinkedIn and other online professional and social networking sites can also be good resources for building contacts in specific industries.

6. Be persistent.
It's tough finding a first job, no matter how smart your kid is and how well they did in school. As a parent, remember that this may be the first time in your graduate's life when no schedule is provided and the next step isn't clear. Encourage your child to push through the discouragement that comes from inevitable rejections. If they become overwhelmed, help them create a more reliable schedule using some of the ideas above as a guide--for example, committing a certain number of hours per week to checking job boards and networking. Persistence pays and with a little encouragement, your graduate will soon be calling you from their new office.