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Grads' job searches bring mixed results

June 06, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Patrick Thomas and Lauren Smith graduated from North Hagerstown High School and Towson (Md.) University together -- and less than five weeks from today, they plan to be married.

There's just one hitch -- neither has a job yet.

But Thomas, 24, and Smith, 21, are hopeful.

Nothing, not even this economy, will force them to postpone their wedding, which is scheduled for July 11, they said.

"We've been planning for three years. We've been engaged for three years, dating for six," Smith said. "It's about time."

"We've had a lot of help from the family, plus there's the money that's been saved," Thomas said. "Plus, I have confidence in myself that I can find a job. There's no doubt in my mind."

Other recent area college graduates seem to be confident, too.

"There's always something open in the entertainment business, so I'll find something," said Scott Leverett, 22, of Hagerstown, who just graduated from Ithaca (N.Y.) College with a degree in film, photography and visual arts.

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"I feel the economy is a pattern, a circle," Leverett said. "I feel it will come back eventually."

All work, no pay

Graduates Caitlin Berry and Blinne Nolan have found jobs.

Berry, 22, of Hagerstown, who received a bachelor of fine arts degree with a concentration in graphic design in May from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., is working for a graphic arts company in Frederick, Md.

She's had to start as an unpaid intern, but Berry considers herself fortunate, given the economy.

"Only reason I got this job was because I knew somebody who worked there," she said.

Berry said she applied for probably 50 jobs shown online on Craigslist and CareerBuilder.

"As long as it was in driving distance, I didn't care where it was," she said.

But the few companies that answered only had unpaid internships.

"My teachers told me it was going to be tough," Berry said. "I knew the economy was bad. I just wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was."

Now though, Berry is doing what she loves. She hopes to become a company designer or to do freelance work someday.

And she plans to get married. Fiancé Brian Barnhart, 22, who didn't go to college, has a job driving a forklift to load and unload trucks in Maugansville.

A wedding date hasn't been set. First, Berry said, "We're trying to save money and pay college debts."

Blinne Nolan, 22, of Smithsburg, who earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology last December from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., also is working -- and very soon, getting married.

Nolan landed a job in January with a therapeutical company in Virginia, working primarily with children after school with homework, and anger management and conflict resolution.

Given the economy, Nolan said, she feels fortunate to be working in her field. Friends at school "have virtually all had to search outside their degree fields to get something," she said.

"And several of the guys, they have ended up working at like UPS or in a factory somewhere," she said. "Kind of frustrating that a college degree doesn't get you much anymore."

So Nolan's job is a start, but it's not all she'd wanted.

"As much as I love the organization, they really don't pay well," she said. "And normally, I work 35 hours (a week) and it's not guaranteed full time, and they offer no educational reimbursement."

That means she will have to get a loan to go to graduate school this fall, as she hopes. It also means she might have to juggle work and school from afar because she's planning to get married June 13 and her fiancé, Andrew "A.J." Serafini Jr., is in law school.

Both would like to finish their schooling as soon as possible.

But "if someone's has to be put on hold, it will be mine because I can do all of my course work through the Internet," she said. "He can't really do that."

An exercise in frustration

Patrick Thomas and Lauren Smith graduated from Towson on May 21.

He received a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in management, and she earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing.

The way they had it planned, Smith was going to get a job first.

After all, there was a shortage of hospital nurses a few years back when the economy was better and turnover was higher. Because of the shortage, Maryland had awarded Smith a scholarship, requiring her to work as a nurse in the state for two years after graduation.

So imagine her frustration now in this economy as nurses are staying put and there are few vacancies.

"I started looking all the way back in February, right when the semester started," Smith said.

But, she said, wherever she has looked throughout the state, there are hardly any nursing jobs open and most require at least a year or two of experience.

Some nursing students do that sort of work while in college, but Smith, who is certified by Maryland as a pharmacy technician, stayed with the part-time job she'd had since high school at a Hagerstown pharmacy.

But that isn't helping her now.

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