There are at least a few success stories among the masses of unemployed 20-somethings. But those successes are taking a long time to achieve.

Among employed recent college graduates, just 69% landed their job within six months of graduation, according to a May report by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey. For those without a college degree, the lead time can be even longer, experts say, as college graduates snap up the few opportunities that their non-college-educated counterparts might otherwise have had.

Two recent college graduates and one recent high-school grad describe their job hunts, and explain how they finally landed that first big job:

Taylor Hertsenberg, 23 years old, Austin, Texas. Regional marketing coordinator at technology company National Instruments.

[GENJOBLESS_logo] Robert Pizzo

About Generation Jobless

Americans 25 and under face one of the toughest job markets in modern history. This week, The Wall Street Journal explores their stories.

I transferred to [University of Texas] my sophomore year and declared myself a radio, TV and film major. I realized that it would be very difficult to get a job after college, so I did a lot of internships.

I started looking for jobs in March or April [of senior year]. I probably filled out 20 to 25 [applications] senior year. In total, [I submitted] at least 100. I stayed in Austin [after graduation]. I was an independent contractor at Ivy Worldwide Inc., a social-media marketing company, and was paid $10 an hour, about 15 hours a week.

I saw Facebook was doing a recruiting event on campus. I ended up getting a callback. I kept thinking I was getting closer and closer, so I put a hold on applying for other jobs. I was foolish. After I found out that I didn’t get that job, I went through a period when I was losing sleep.

I wasn’t making enough to support myself, so I was trying to find part-time positions with absolutely anything. I had a friend who had worked at a Starbucks on campus, and she helped me get a position [there]. That [on-campus location] just made it 10 times worse because I was seeing these familiar faces.

In October of 2010, I handed my résumé in [to National Instruments]. At the beginning of 2011, I got an email from a woman at National Instruments asking if I was looking for a full-time position. About a week or two later, we had a phone interview. [Then] I came in for an interview. I started at the end of February.

Elizabeth Kushel, 23, New York. Assistant for national publicity at entertainment public-relations company Strategy PR/Consulting.

The Faces of Generation Jobless

Daymon Gardner for The Wall Street JournalJohn Dodge is an insurance salesman with Aflac in Baton Rouge, La.

Young Men Feel Job-Market Pain

Cody Preston, 25, searches online for jobs at his parents’ home in Milwaukie, Ore.

Leah Nash for The Wall Street Journal

I graduated in 2010 from the University of Pennsylvania, double-majoring in communications and cinema studies.

I waited [to look for a job] until the spring [of senior year]. I interviewed at entertainment companies, but maybe in a sales division, advertising—things like that. I was trying to be open to everything.

After graduation, I spent some time with my mom and dad at home in Great Neck, N.Y. I was looking for a job, but I also was kind of taking a break from doing work, from school.

Then, my friend forwarded me an email for an internship at [film public-relations company] Peggy Siegal Co. She thought it would be perfect for me, so I applied. It started out nonpaid, but they paid me starting in November. Then, I got another internship at the Tribeca Film Festival, working as an assistant for the VP of communications.

I had met someone doing an event at Peggy Siegal, and then again at the Tribeca Film Festival. We had exchanged contact info. She [said], “We have this job opening, I think you’d be a great fit.”

I started in May. I worked at 42West (another P.R. firm) for a few months, and then started a job at Strategy PR/Consulting in September. I’m definitely happy this is where I ended up.

Isiah Vinters, age 21, Hartford, Conn. Works in the produce department at Shop Rite supermarket.

I worked at Burlington Coat Factory in East Hartford last year when I started with OPP (Our Piece of the Pie, a Hartford organization that helps urban youth advance their career and education goals). I was there for about four months.

From College Major to Career

Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.


When I first got there I was doing receiving, putting tags on clothes, and after that, I was in the shoe department, doing sales. That was a seasonal job.

After that, I went to Shop Rite. I started off as a cashier, then a bagger, and then I got promoted to the produce department. It’ll be better pay. I’m making $8.25 an hour now, but I’m supposed to get a raise when I have my review, to around $9.35.

I have my high-school diploma, but I had to do an extra year. I wasn’t focused, not going to class. When I have a steady schedule at work, I’ll try to get my barber’s license. I was looking up how much a barber can earn. Everyone needs a haircut. Then, I want to study business management at community college and own my own barber shop.

My current job is all right. I work about 28 hours a week. I’ve been there for about eight months. I get along real well with my boss, my co-workers. I feel real comfortable there.