Last December, three college seniors agreed to share their progress with Times readers as they searched for their first professional jobs. In a year when the economy has not been welcoming, they have succeeded. Two have found jobs in their chosen fields and the third has a clerical job to pay her way toward the graduate degree she needs to enter her profession. We first profiled them in December and caught up with them in March. Here's a final report on the three as they graduate and look ahead to starting work:
Name: Matthew Glasser
School: Occidental College
Major: Public Policy
Matthew Glasser, who graduated in May with a job waiting for him, wants to give college students a word of advice: internships. Work experience, he says, is essential to getting a good job. "I can't stress that enough, especially to students beginning college.
"I don't know a single organization that doesn't need an intern. No matter what your major or interest, there is usually a real-life application for it in an organization."
Glasser combined several internships with a 3.65 grade-point average at Occidental College to earn a job in his chosen field. It was his ambition to become a political organizer for the "progressive left." His career with the Public Interest Research Group, an environmental and consumer advocacy agency, will begin at a training session Aug. 9-20 in Boston. After that, he'll begin work in Los Angeles or Sacramento. "I feel very fortunate," Glasser says. "Many of my classmates have had to settle for something not related to their field or their interests because they all want to have apartments and get out of their parents' homes."
The trade-off for doing what he wants is that Glasser will earn only $15,000 a year. He'll have to watch his budget and may need a roommate and a second income.
But money isn't that important to Glasser now, and he can't wait to get to work.
"One of the things I've been doing is reading several newspapers every day," he says. "That constantly reminds me of the urgency of the work I'd be doing and motivates me to get started as soon as possible." He says he is thinking "primarily of some of the deregulation going on in Congress and in state legislatures. They've been stripping away years of regulatory progress protecting people."
While he waits to begin working, Glasser is living with his parents in Calabasas and working with an Occidental professor on a study of the corporate power structure of Los Angeles.
Name: Lance Ralls
Major: Mechanical Engineering
He completed his course work in March and just returned from a six-week vacation in Europe, but Lance Ralls isn't ready to enter the real world.
So after he graduated Saturday from UCLA as a mechanical engineer, Ralls started a job supervising counselors at a Westside sports camp for the summer.
In September he will go to San Francisco to start his $37,000-a-year job with the accounting giant Price Waterhouse.
Ralls will receive three months of training. Then he'll begin his work, helping businesses learn to solve problems through information technology.
Ralls was offered the position after a well-conceived search. He received four job offers and about 30 first-, second- or third-round interviews.
A 3.6 grade-point average in his major helped attract recruiters, but Ralls also started early.
In his junior year he talked to seniors about their career plans, attended career days and learned to use the campus placement center. He interned at a Pasadena engineering firm that summer.
Although his methods were successful, Ralls says his search could have been improved.
"I would have maybe found out even more about different jobs than I knew and asked more questions," he says. "The cliche could never be more true: The only dumb question is the one not asked."
He would also do more internships.
"A lot of the questions on job interviews are about work experience," he says. "If you don't have that to draw on, you have to draw on something else, and it can be a bit difficult."
Ralls is the first in his family to graduate from college. Attending the ceremony in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion were about 20 friends and family members, most from his hometown of Chowchilla.
"Everyone's excited," Ralls says. "My dad and my mother have taken pride in it and see it as an accomplishment for them too."
Name: Adria Blakely
School: Cal State Dominguez Hills
Major: Public Administration
Months of searching paid off for Adria Blakely when she landed a full-time job at her alma mater, Cal State Dominguez Hills.
A clerical job in the payroll department isn't her first choice, but it offers a regular check. She will earn $22,400 a year.
"I'm OK with it," she says. "It's something I need to do to get through graduate school, but it's not in my in career field."
Blakely wants to be a community health educator. To reach that goal she plans to volunteer at clinics and hopes to be admitted to the master's program in public administration at Dominguez Hills.