On LI, 2012 grads finding full-time work scarce

Kristina Cavallo looks over her resume as she

Kristina Cavallo looks over her resume as she gets ready for her job interview. The honor student, who lives with her parents, graduated two weeks ago with an education degree. (May 29, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile)

College commencement was weeks ago. But Adelphi University graduate Kristina Cavallo -- with a 4.0 grade-point average, work experience and volunteer time under her belt -- has been offered only one interview for a full-time job.

While she finds her situation disheartening at times, the former college softball player, like many in the Class of 2012, has cast her job-search net far and wide, so she's far from bumming on the beach.

Already enrolled in graduate school, she is substitute teaching and working a second job at a local summer camp. She's looking at nonteaching jobs that would make use of her bachelor's degree in physical education.

“It seems like there's no A-to-B path to a career once you graduate,” said Cavallo, 22, of Deer Park. “You've just got to ride it out and look for any and all opportunities.”

In the face of a tough job market, many new college graduates are busy showcasing their moxie as they forge jagged paths toward careers.

Service programs, grad schools, fellowships, internships, part-time jobs and certificate programs -- any experience that's mildly relevant -- are in the mix for these young people.

Many share Cavallo's sentiment: “At some point, I'll get there.”

Enter Jason Gandhi, 20, of Patchogue, a Stony Brook University graduate. He's taking a gap year before applying to medical school, but he is by no means “taking time off.”

He is in graduate classes at Stony Brook, student-teaching, working as a medical assistant and volunteering with the organization Global Medical Brigades.

That's his summer plan. In the fall he'll be studying for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT.

“You need to stay way ahead of the competition. It's not just about good grades anymore,” said Gandhi, who graduated at 20 because he skipped a grade in secondary school. “It's about standing out and getting noticed. Having something that someone else doesn't have.”

He said he knows of some success stories, but for the most part, graduates are having a tough time landing entry-level, full-time jobs. And the ones who have aren't making much money -- if any at all.

Despite this slower start to their careers, most young people are confident they will attain their goals and have secure financial futures, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

An overwhelming majority of respondents -- 89 percent working and 75 percent nonworking -- said that even though they are frustrated with their current incomes, they believe they will earn enough money to live the way they want to in the future, the study found.

Fred Burke, executive director of Hofstra University's Career Center, said he's seen “a real mixed bag” among college graduates, some of whom come into his office outright scared after hearing media reports about the scarcity of jobs.

Certainly, he said, most understand that the recession's effects mean it will probably take longer to launch their careers than they previously thought.

Those who started the process earlier, with completion of two or three internships over the course of their college years, are faring the best, he said. Other students were so focused on school that they didn't make time to look for a job. Those students are likely to move home and then start the job or internship search, he said.

Graduates are likely to stay in close contact with the career office long after graduation, he said. “This isn't a linear process,” Burke said. “Everyone tries to make it clean-cut, and that's just not the way it goes.”

For Caitlyn Shea graduation was an especially solid line of demarcation, between life here and life on the other side of the world. Shea, 21, of Port Jefferson Station, is leaving for the Peace Corps on July 9. The application process took about a year; she learned of her acceptance in April.

She plans to teach public health in Cambodia. She will spend her first three months in Phnom Penh, the capital, then find out the name of the village to which she will be assigned.

She'll be gone for 27 months. After that, she said, she'll probably apply to graduate school -- unless she decides to go in a different direction. “I know it will be an unforgettable experience,” Shea said. “And that's all that I'm after right now.”

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