For a local college graduate under 30 years old, looking for a career job in a dismal economy can be extremely disheartening.
Just ask Katie Kerr, who sought out jobs in higher education when she graduated from Vermont's Castleton State College in 2008. Her goal was to work in the admissions department at a university.
“I had one major prospect for which I went on three interviews for,” she said.
After a month and a half of interviews, phone calls and reference checks for a gig as admissions assistant, Kerr actually passed on the offer when it came because she was bringing in more money at a bar.
“I was making double the money they were offering me for a starting salary,” she said and declined the job “for financial reasons.”
For Sarah Cooper, however, a pay cut was her best option.
Cooper, who originally went to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology and graduated with an associate degree, sought out work on Long Island but found nothing available in her field.
“I was unable to find design work so I comfortably slipped into receptionist work,” she said. “I was making $14 per hour with benefits.”
Unhappy with her job prospects, Cooper did what many young graduates do: She went back to school.
“I thought it would be the best thing for me,” she said. “So in September 2008 I started attending Parsons School for Design in the city and took out several large loans just as the economy was failing.”
Another local twentysomething, Nick Arnemann, said capturing a temp job was a lucky break.
“It's definitely a tough market, even for non-career, summer jobs,” said Arnemann, who said he thinks of himself as fortunate to even be working.
“I basically lucked out at my current job because my employer was in a tight spot and needed a temp immediately,” he said.
Arnemann applied within an hour of the job posting going live, beating out other potential candidates.
He said he knows that it’s not a career job, just one that he sees as something to pay the bills while he looks for other work.
“It’s not really the means to any end of starting a career,” he said.
Pete Shelly, another underemployed young local, went in a different direction when facing the bleak economy: He .
When Shelly got his master’s degree from Syracuse University in 2008 he headed out to Los Angeles looking to break into the film industry. But he couldn’t find a job. After a mentorship with a screenwriter that he considered extremely valuable there was still no work so he moved back to Long Island.
“I've spoken to a few people at a few companies but I can't call them interviews,” he said. “Just meetings where the outcome was ‘we'd love to hire you but we don't have the budget for it right now.’"
In most of these cases, though, these young professionals say they aren't working in their chosen fields.
“Since graduating, I have not had a job where I used my specific degree,” said Kerr.
Though she decided that going back to school could give her an edge.
“I feel that having a master's degree in this economy gives you the upper hand,” Kerr said.
With so many websites, job boards and strategies out there, job seekers have loads of options in finding work but it seems there is little return for the effort.
“I applied for about a month before landing my current part-time temp job and I spent a good three to five hours a day searching and refining searches and expanding searches,” said Arnemann.
A counselor at his alma mater said that the job search should “feel like a part-time job itself if you hope to get anywhere.”
He’s even tried sending out resumes cold to companies he wanted to work for even if they weren’t advertising. He only heard back from one company and that was to tell him that they weren’t hiring.
When Shelly got into meetings with potential employers he found that the doors were open because of his social media efforts, even if the job wasn’t there.
In one meeting he said he walked in and everyone already knew him. In another they even referenced him as “the guy from Twitter.”
Even if you land a job in your field of study, that doesn’t guarantee financial success. Cooper went back to school to get her bachelor’s degree from Parsons and wound up in a job at an art gallery in Tribeca.
“Although I am happy to say that I do have a job in my field, I’m severely underpaid,” she said.
Today with a bachelor's degree she says she’s making $13 per hour without benefits.
“Less than I was making as a receptionist."
Arnemann said the jobs that are out there will help starting professionals pay the bills, but not advance their careers.
“Fresh out of school, you have to build up the experience necessary to land a good job,” he said.
He thinks that the real irony of it is that you can only build that experience with a job.
“It would be funny if it didn't infuriate us grads,” he said.