Dear Ed,I finally graduated from college last month and that feels great. It has been a long uphill climb for me to achieve my undergrad degree. However, now I feel confronted with reality and confused about the next steps.On graduating I'll still have until the end of this year to continue working as an admin in the college literacy program. The three-year grant for this program, which pays my salary under a work-study program, will end in December and will not be renewed. It goes without saying that I'll begin going on interviews over the summer months, but I'd really appreciate a special message from you to keep my juices flowing as I begin this process.Thanks for your words of wisdom,The GraduateDear TG,Please allow me to share with you some advice that I'd like to write in your yearbook and in the yearbooks of all those other grads who find themselves in your cap and gown:Be contemplative. Reflect on your career horizons before you think about taking jobs (i.e., the macro versus the micro). Think about creating a career for yourself and living out your passions in life, not just taking a job. Volunteering at a not-for-profit agency, at a favorite charity, or serving on the board of your favorite organization can initiate such a thought process and be rewarding. Also, imagine what kinds of positions you'd want to take on within five years' time (and in five year multiples going out) and set about thinking and creating the experience you want to have.Be prepared. Keep your cover letter and resume up to date. Undergrads need no more than a well-written and concise cover letter along with a one-page resume. Emphasize your measurable achievements (i.e., your college work-study program, etcetera). Be ready to speak about how you brought added value to the bottom line and how you demonstrated your gifts and talents in the process. Provide interesting reasons why a prospective employer would want to work with you.Be networked. Always be on the lookout for new ways of meeting people whom you can partner with and network through to advance your career goals and objectives. Research suggests that many people who easily find new positions do so because they utilize an existing network of contacts. May I suggest that you get involved with your college alumni group now? Someday you too will have the opportunity to network with and assist another recent grad with their objectives. Look to give back through networking.Be proactive. Through your networks (establish different types of connections) let people know that you would be open to new opportunities. Seek out those who have recently changed their circumstances and ask them how they identified the opportunity and made the transition. Discover the most influential professional organizations in your field of interest and industry and ask to attend their meetings with the intent of becoming a member. There probably exists a professional organization for any given industry out there, and many are a lucrative source for work and industry-related advancement through meetings and education.Be patient. Your career is a lifelong journey, one that takes a necessary amount of energy and time. There is a learning curve in most careers, and you'll have to ride the roller coaster of ups and downs. Above all, remain centered in who you are at all times.Be professional. Every interaction with those you network with, potential employers, whether paid or voluntary, must reflect a level of quality and value that is consistent and reliable. This is where you begin to build your reputation, which at the end of the day is more important than any degree you can possess. Communicate your qualities and values, and you'll be demonstrating who you are as a consummate pro.Be realistic. Always apply for jobs you can perform well and obtain good references for. It is much easier to be placed on a short list for a position you are really qualified for than to be taken off a blacklist by a potential employer who thinks you are wasting their time.Be excited. You are standing at the threshold of self-actualization in your work and in your mission in life. What an empowering feeling! Always make your career horizons limitless and boundless.Happy graduation!Dear Ed,After being downsized last year from a job I hated (my boss was a psycho), I put my "Yankee ingenuity" to work and started house-sitting for a couple who do extensive business traveling. Out of sheer boredom (how much Oprah can you watch?) and the need to burn pent-up energy (I'm a high-energy type), I began cleaning the house for the home owners. Who wouldn't love to return home to a nearly picture-perfect house?My cleaning activities so impressed my employers that they began speaking about me and my services to their friends and neighbors. This has prompted calls from others looking for my cleaning services. Go figure! Now it seems as though I have an opportunity staring me in the face, and I need a little bit of your advice to proceed. First of all, what do you think about the housekeeping business? Second, do you think I stand a chance of making a living from it? Thanks for your feedback.Going to sneeze,DustyDear D,Get ready to clean up and make your way to the bank!Since the advent of the workaholic on the fast-track career scene, housekeepers and house cleaning services have become one of the fastest growing service industries in the United States. In fact, the industry has grown so large in such a short amount of time that it is splintering into differentiated segments. We now have companies that specialize in particular housekeeping services--carpets and draperies, laundry, windows, etcetera.My opinion on the future for such services is that it's a big winner. As the population grows wealthier, given more disposable income and more discretionary time, folks will want to perform less housework. The baby boomers are already hooked on this service, and as more of the population ages such services will be needed more. So in putting together your business plan (yes, you'll need a simple yet concise business plan to keep you on track), give thought to future expansion regarding employees and equipment. I suggest you at least have a five-year business plan on the drawing board as you proceed with the concept.You may also want to give some thought to the latest trend in housekeeping services, which is the use of nonchemical and nontoxic cleaning products. The use of natural cleaning products is becoming a highly sought-after service, especially among the allergy plagued, pet owners, parents of infants and children, homeopathic, and respiratory-aliment impaired demographic segment of customers. As more people discover the detrimental health effects of household cleaning products, the more this new industry will flourishGive 'em the spit and polish treatment!