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Shrinking job market leaves little for grads

No matter if they're in science, social services, education or the legal profession, young people are having real difficulties finding employment.

June 21, 2009|Marjorie Miller

Graduates from the region's colleges and universities this spring face an uncertain future, with a shrinking economy and growing unemployment. Editorial writer Marjorie Miller talked to some of them about their ambitions and setbacks. These are edited transcripts of her interviews.

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JD, UCLA Law School

Jeremy Carr, 26

Last summer, I worked for a corporate law firm in Manhattan, and I was supposed to go to work for them when I graduated. But then the firm went bankrupt in December. There have been massive layoffs of junior and senior associates from law firms all over, and so many experienced people have been pushed into the pipeline looking for jobs. So I've decided to go to Tanzania to do an internship for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It's not paid, so I'll stay as long as I can afford to, about four to 12 months.

All through law school I was interested in becoming a prosecutor. I did a lot of course work to prepare for that, and a criminal international justice clinic at school. I did an internship at the L.A. district attorney's office, which I really enjoyed. But you know corporate and litigation firms come to interview, and when you're 25 and someone tells you they'll pay $3,000 a week in summer and $160,000 when you graduate, it's hard to say no to that. It wasn't ever a burning desire of mine to write memos on federal banking law, but I hoped I would be able to pay off my loans over a couple years and try to get back to something I really cared about.

Payments on my student loans are deferred until January, when they'll be $1,100 a month. But for now, I'll go to Africa and use my remaining savings to do one last super-fun and interesting thing. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in something special. I'm hopeful and excited.

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Rosny Daniel, 21

BS, biochemistry,

Occidental College

I was pre-med, and I hope to go to medical school in 2010. In the meantime, I'm looking for a job in the medical or science field, something that looks good on an application. It seems like research labs aren't hiring, and there are hardly any entry-level jobs anymore. Every job asks for two to three years' experience.

Research isn't like customer service, where you can just go to a store and fill out an application. My strategy was to go through CareerBuilder and Monster, and I've applied to around 20 places in the last three weeks. But my mom just sent me an e-mail with an economics story talking about how so many people apply for those jobs that it's hard to get noticed. Meanwhile, it turns out a lot of times the jobs are really already filled, but they're posted for technical or legal reasons.

So now I am taking a new approach and trying to go through people I know. My father is a physician, and I'm trying to talk to people he's worked with. I worked with a professor at USC, so I'll see who he knows. Now I really think it's not what you know, but who you know.

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Emily Kemper, 30

MS, building science, School of Architecture, USC

Iworked as an architect for several years before going back to school for a post-professional degree. I studied sustainability and green design and envisioned that this degree would help me launch an alternative career, either in green design consulting or working in a traditional architecture firm in a specialized position. I have gotten a lot of bites, and employers are excited when they see my previous seven years' experience, but unfortunately the building industry has taken a big hit in this economy and I haven't gotten a job. I knew things would be bad, and I managed to finish my thesis research early to start looking for a job in February, but I haven't found anything yet.

I have friends who live and work all over the country, and I can't tell you how many have lost jobs or reduced their hours, because I've lost count. They're in every major market, but especially here in Los Angeles.

While I'm looking for work, I have developed a website to teach homeowners how to save energy in their homes with renovation design strategies (greendesigncollective.com). There's a blog attached, so I've stayed busy blogging and talking about ways to save energy, recycle, save money. But none of that makes any money. I've got savings that I'm going to be able to live off of for a little while. My lease is up at the end of the month, though, and I'm not going to renew because I don't want to lock myself in. I'm going to start couch-surfing, living like an undergrad again.

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Brian Riley, 21

California State Polytechnic University, postponed graduation until fall semester

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