College graduates in the class of 2014 are entering a job market with the lowest unemployment rate since most were in high school.
But that doesn’t mean they have their pick of jobs. Graduating seniors have found they must work hard to find meaningful employment, calling dozens of employers, attending every job fair on the calendar and networking as much as possible. A recent national study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York determined that 44 percent of college graduates, age 22 to 27, were working in positions that did not require a bachelor’s degree.
Thousands received diplomas from local colleges in the past month, including students at the University of California, Davis, which held its last commencement ceremonies Sunday and issued about 8,710 undergraduate and graduate degrees for the 2013-14 year.
Some UC Davis graduates have triumphed. Ashley Coates, recipient of the school’s University Medal, landed a summer internship at NASA’s Johnson Space Center before she heads to a graduate program at Stanford University in the fall.
Others are forgoing graduate school and breaking into the professional workforce for the first time. Dozens of graduating UC Davis seniors described an arduous path to employment, some finding work after an intense job hunt, others still making calls and sending out résumés. A voluntary survey by the campus Internship and Career Center last year showed that 43 percent of seniors in the class of 2013 said they were graduating without a job in hand and without immediate plans for graduate school.
Here are a few stories about the successes and trials of some 2014 graduating UCD seniors have faced:
Raymond Huang, 22, history major
Huang graduated Saturday with a bachelor’s degree and has something to look forward to – a job as a file clerk for a small San Francisco law firm. He considers himself lucky, though he will have to move back home with his parents to make ends meet. Huang said the position pays about $30,000 annually.
“No one is going to admit a file clerk is a long-term position, but you have to start somewhere,” said Huang, who applied to dozens of companies two months earlier. He found the file clerk position on a campus jobs board.
Even an entry-level position like his is difficult to secure, he said, adding that an internship in the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office gave him a leg up. Asked about his future plans, Huang said, “We’ll see where the wind takes me.”
Ashley Coates, 22, aerospace science and engineering, mechanical engineering
Coates aspires to work at NASA, and she is on the right path. For the next 10 weeks, the Hollister native expects to run computer simulations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
She had a cumulative 4.0 grade-point average and was honored Sunday for her excellence in undergraduate studies. Her mentor and professor, former astronaut Stephen Robinson, suggested she apply for the NASA internship.
“He spent a lot of time at Johnson Space Center and knew some people who worked in the lab,” Coates said. “He told me about the internship and put me in contact with the right people.”
She had to go through a competitive application process before she was offered the internship in March. After summer, Coates will head to Stanford as a graduate fellow, where she received a three-year award valued at $240,000.
Corey Long, 22, biomedical engineering
Long sent 100 letters to different employers requesting informational interviews and applied to more than 70 companies.
“Most didn’t respond,” said Long as he picked up his commencement regalia last week.
But the effort eventually earned Long a three-month internship as a researcher for a Palo Alto pharmaceutical company. He, too, will move back with his parents to save money.
“If it works out, there’s a possibility they could give me a job,” Long said.
Sam Delbecchio, 22, political science, psychology
Delbecchio spent the past six months working as a security officer at the campus police department.
“I always wanted to be a police officer,” he said.
He also volunteered in the Yolo County Neighborhood Court, a justice program sponsored by the District Attorney’s Office, along with the Davis and UC Davis police departments.
A few months before graduation, Delbecchio applied to multiple agencies, including the Sacramento, San Francisco and UCD police departments. He heard back from UC Davis, which offered him a full-time position as a police officer. Delbecchio starts the police academy in July.
Deepika Dokuru, 21, genetics, psychology
Dokuru hasn’t yet found a job but said she isn’t worried because her parents have agreed to support her for the time being. Dokuru will move back home to Ventura and take a long vacation in India before she starts the next chapter of her life.
“My parents are excited that I’m coming back,” she said.
Dokuru said the biotechnology field is already inundated with unemployed holders of graduate degrees, a direct result of the slow economy.
“It’s discouraging,” she said. “Having a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough.”
Katelyn Snider, 21, managerial economics
Snider once dreamed of becoming a financial analyst at a big bank. But she said the tough job market discouraged her from that path.
Thirty job applications and six interviews later, Snider secured a sales representative position at Innotas, a San Francisco software startup. She also moved back to her parents’ Moraga home and now commutes into the city.
Snider attributed her success to graduating a quarter early, which gave her time to interview and apply for jobs. On Friday, she returned to Davis to participate in commencement.
“I’m happy that I have a job,” said Snider, smiling.
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.