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Young job-seeker hopes freeway ramps lead to an entry-level position

Jonathan Knight, who once interned in D.C., puts on a shirt and tie and hopes passing motorists will grab one of his resumes.

July 26, 2013|By Bob Pool
  • Jonathan Knight, a 25-year-old graduate of Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, passes out resumes on Wilshire Boulevard near the 405 Freeway. The former Washington, D.C., intern has found it tough to launch his career in a tight job market.
Jonathan Knight, a 25-year-old graduate of Cal Lutheran University in… (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los…)

Jonathan Knight doesn't blame government cutbacks for forcing him to stand near a freeway ramp holding a "Please Take a Resume" sign.

The young man aiming for a career as a legislative analyst realizes it's the tight economy that is making it difficult for recent college graduates to launch their careers.

So Knight, who once interned with a U.S. senator in Washington, D.C., puts on a shirt and tie, grabs a sign that lists his qualifications and stands on street corners hoping passing motorists will slow down and grab one of his resumes.

The 25-year-old graduated in the spring from Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks with a master's degree in public policy and public administration. Since then he has applied to nearly every city in the region for an entry-level job that might lead to a life as a government analyst.

Knight calculates he has passed out 300 resumes in the last four months, both to prospective employers and random motorists.

"I haven't heard anything back from anybody," he acknowledges. "It's definitely taken its toll on my confidence about becoming a successful member of society."

The job search has been frustrating and, at this point, Knight said he'd be happy to find a smaller job, perhaps at a retail outlet.

Knight grew up in Yorba Linda and received a degree in political science from the University of Wyoming. It was during his senior year in 2011 that he wrangled a five-month internship at the Washington, D.C., office of Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

"It was really fascinating and high-pressure. It was the most eye-opening experience I've had in my life," he said.

As Barrasso's intern he assisted with public and media relations and helped update the senator's website with pictures. He also met about 25 other senators. "It opened my eyes to more of the real way that the world works," Knight said.

Barrasso took to the Senate floor toward the end of Knight's tour of duty to praise his intern's "strong work ethic that has made him an invaluable asset to our office.... I know he will have continued success with all of his future endeavors. I wish him all my best on his next journey," Barrasso told his colleagues.

"Jonathan was a hard-working intern and was always eager to help out," agreed Emily Lawrimore, Barrasso's communications director.

Officials with the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office in Sacramento said there are many organizations that employ people already doing what Knight aspires to do.

"We're fully staffed at this time, but we're always taking applications," said Sarah Kleinberg, training and outreach coordinator with the office.

"It's a pretty competitive process because the economy is still recovering and some positions have been eliminated because of the recession," she said. "It's not necessarily easy."

These days Knight is staying with his sister and brother in Orange County. His retired parents live in Wyoming.

So far, he's focused on distributing his resumes to passersby on Westwood's Wilshire Boulevard and those leaving the 110 Freeway at South Arroyo Parkway.

The Pasadena spot is much more promising for resume distribution, he said. "On Wilshire, most people didn't want to stop. They were in a hurry."

Of course, the Westwood Federal Building is nearby, a place jammed with government employees. And a job in Washington, D.C., is his ultimate goal, Knight admitted.

As a fallback, perhaps he can find an entry-level position on the fringes of government in the Capitol.

"D.C. is an expensive place, but it's worth it," he said. "I don't plan on living too large right now. I'm only 25."

bob.pool@latimes.com

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