Students struggle to find summer jobs

By VIKRAM RANADE, UPI Correspondent  |  Aug. 8, 2003 at 3:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- University of Maryland undergraduate Tyler Paterson is the epitome of the sterling college student. He holds a 3.8 grade point average as a communications major and is a member of numerous national honor societies, and carries the strong recommendation from the dean of Maryland's communication department.

One would think Paterson would be at the top of the list of any summer internship positions.

However, Paterson is spending his second summer in a row with nothing more to add to his resume than another part-time table waiting gig from a small local café in his hometown. Even there, the only hours he can get are on the weekends leaving the bulk of his workweek to hopelessly look for odd jobs around town.

With a job growth stagnant in this summer's sluggish economy, many students are finding it more difficult than usual to find summer employment and internships.

In addition to the money question, what's really at issue is each student's desire to gain more experience in the work world. Having practical experience before graduation not only makes a student's later applications more appealing to prospective employers, but also helps them decide on future career paths.

Occasionally, Paterson will take a job house sitting and once this summer he was hired to paint one of his neighbor's fences.

"How am I ever going to get a job in the real world if I don't have any real job experience?" Paterson said.

The competition for summer employment has risen over the past two years, as many recent graduates, unable to find work, have also been applying to the type of temporary positions often staffed by college students.

Camille Luckenbaugh, the Employment Information Manager at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) -- an organization that provides research and information on the job market to approximately 1,800 colleges around the country -- said, "there has been a substantial increase in the number of [recently graduated] students willing to look for internships and temporary summer jobs."

With this large unaccommodated mass of recent graduates adding to the pressure on internships and temporary summer positions, many undergraduates are being forced to consider other options.

Margareth Del Cid, a psychology major at Brandeis University, started out the summer with the intention of working somewhere that would give her practical experience in her chosen field. Her first choice this summer was a position at a New York correction facility for troubled teens.

Del Cid told UPI, "I actually applied for a lot of jobs. I needed to make sure, number one, that I got at least one, and number two, that I would have options." Like many students this year, she spent most of her time looking for internships on the Internet.

However, when rejected from her top choices, she was left with an internship at the Guatemalan consulate in New York City. But after just two weeks, she decided that she was not gaining enough from the experience. "I wasn't learning anything that I could use in the future... I was too busy doing the work that no one else wanted to do," she said Thursday. She eventually settled on taking summer courses at Brandeis University, where she will be a sophomore this fall.

Yet, as the summer draws to an end, there are still those who find themselves where they intended to be. Justin Kuczynski, who will graduate from Stanford University next year, had an easier time than most this summer. A physics major, Kuczynski is now working at a lab in the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. He said he thought of applying to the NIH because, "most of the grants that you get at universities come from the NIH, so it was a name I was very familiar with."

Kuczynski, who began searching for internships three days after Stanford's spring session ended in early June, applied to only two programs this summer: one at the CERN (European Nuclear Research Center) in Switzerland, and the large internship program at the NIH.

While CERN did not accept his application because it arrived after the deadline, his application to the NIH - a thick envelope containing an essay, resume, and letters of recommendation -- was accepted.

Kuczynski says, "It (finding an internship) was pretty easy for me," adding that had he not been accepted at either of the two programs to which he applied, he would have spent his summer doing research at Stanford, an option he says is easily available to Stanford students.

(Reported with Michael Hoffman, UPI Correspondent)

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