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Group Supports Job-Hunting Alumni…Partners Launch Annual Campaign To Aid Youth

Group Supports Job-Hunting Alumni

Patricia Kitchen

November 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 NEWSDAY. All rights reserved. 

Now and then Yanitza Ruiz fingers her key chain - the one she picked up a couple of years ago with the motto that says, "Accounting. The one degree with 360 degrees of opportunities."

She still believes that's true, even though, having received her bachelor's degree in June, she has yet to reap the one opportunity she really wants: a job in accounting. This despite 300 or so resumes she's sent out through 10 different Web sites and five career fairs she attended since returning the end of August from a visit with her dad in Puerto Rico.

Actually, accounting is one growth area in this dismal market, but Ruiz, 24, points to her grade-point average that is just shy of the 3.0 she says large public accounting firms want to see. She's a young woman I met in the spring when I was writing about job prospects for the class of 2002. I caught up with her the other day at a new job search support group for alumni run by her alma mater, Pace University.

"It's a hard time," she says, especially with December fast approaching -the month she has to start repaying her college loans - thanks to scholarships she owes just a little more than $4,000. Others may well know the feeling. While colleges don't usually start collecting hard core placement data until six months after graduation,, a recruiting Web site, called this market "the weakest in recent history" with those at graduation time reporting an average of 0.8 offers, down from 1.2 offers the year before.

Marianna Savoca, career center director at SUNY Stony Brook, doesn't have to wait for formal research to know the score. She says an equal number of spring 2002 grads and 2003 grads-to-be are in the "actively searching" category in her database. "It's really difficult," she says. "Not only are competing for jobs within their own cohort, but they are also dealing with people who have been downsized."

If there's a silver lining in this picture, it's that most career center doors remain open for all alumni. Which brings us back to Ruiz and a group of about 15 other alums who are meeting regularly at Pace to get both group and one-on-one coaching from Barry Miller. He's the alumni relations liaison counselor, the self-proclaimed "Dr. Phil of career services."

As of Sept. 30, about 20 percent of the 1,000 new jobless graduates who responded to the school's employment survey were still looking for work - these being grads not going on for further education.

Miller's group includes people of all ages and majors - even a member of the class of 2003 who is trying to get a jump-start on her job search.

At their first meeting, he told Ruiz she was on the right track, but that one track was not enough. Besides seeking posted openings through ads and job fairs, she also needed to start networking with professionals in her field. In a market like this especially, he says, jobs are found through digging in and making personal contacts. For those just shooting out resumes through the Web, he said, "You're wasting your time. You're mostly kidding yourself if you think you're doing a good job search. You're doing what's easy for you."

He also told the group to:

Look into the school's list of alumni who have volunteered to network with students and other alums. It's a good place to start, he says, because, "alums want to help other alums" and "the chance of rejection is very low."

Go into each informational interview with a plan for what you want to leave with. And at the top of the list should be names of more people you can call to ask for advice (never a job). You can even carry a list of your target employers and ask if the person you're meeting with knows anyone who works there. Ultimately what you're seeking, he says, is to "get your face in front of the person who can hire you if there is an opening."

Stay in touch with those whose help you've sought. He told one woman in accounting to drop him an e-mail to tell him how she's doing. She never did and now he's heard of someone interested in interviewing her. "Maintain contact and let [people] know you're still looking," he says. Otherwise, "it's out of sight, out of mind" when an opportunity arises.

When it was Ruiz's turn to report on her search, she was one of a few who had good news. At an earlier session, another group member suggested that because of her fluency in Spanish, she should check out smaller accounting firms with Spanish-sounding names. She found a list on the Web, called one based in Manhattan and just before she headed down to the Pace support group, met with a managing partner. He asked her to call him in a week's time.

Says Ruiz, "I was happy. It's an opportunity. A chance."

Partners Launch Annual Campaign To Aid Youth

By Noreen Marcus

November 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

Maritzabel Rivera is on the verge of realizing her dream of becoming the first in her family to attend college. She's in a whirl of application paperwork, juggling her commitments to school, family, community and church.

Next month, the 17-year-old senior at McArthur High School in Hollywood will join 44 other collegiate hopefuls on a field trip to the University of South Florida and Florida State University. The trip is organized and funded in part by ASPIRA, a national nonprofit with branches in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that promotes education and leadership among minority students."She has been able to balance things out in her life," said Syndia Nazario, executive director of ASPIRA's Broward division. Rivera, whose family is from Puerto Rico, remains a leader within the organization, serving for a second year as president of Broward ASPIRA Club Federation.

Asked how many such students the nonprofit has not been able to help, Nazario exclaimed, "Oh my God, thousands. Our program is only serving a small portion of the county."

That's where the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Children's Fund holiday campaign comes in. Now in its 15th year, the campaign that kicks off on Thanksgiving Day is a series of stories about people in need whose lives have been touched by agencies -- like ASPIRA -- that receive support from the McCormick Tribune Foundation. Last year Rivera was featured in one of the articles.

Continuing through Jan. 1, the stories also are broadcast on WIOD (AM 610) radio. Other media partners are AT&T Broadband/Comcast; WFOR-Ch. 4 and Neighbors for Neighbors; WPTV-Ch. 5; and the Clear Channel radio stations.

Last year, 4,500 readers and listeners responded by contributing a record $585,000. With a foundation match of 50 cents on the dollar, the total was $800,000. Adding other support such as that of JM Family Enterprises in Deerfield Beach and the Quantum Foundation in Palm Beach County, the sum of $2.3 million was awarded in grants to 115 agencies.

Before the checks go out, a committee of Sun-Sentinel volunteers scrutinizes the agencies and their needs.

This year those needs are great, said Mary Riedel, community affairs manager for the Sun-Sentinel.

"We began getting calls from people seeking help, both individuals and agencies, in September," she said. With the economic downtown that worsened after Sept. 11, 2001, she said, nonprofits are "seeing people coming through their doors that they're not able to help."

The Children's Fund, which is actually a year-round fund-raising effort, is an attempt to help address those widespread community needs. For the first time this year, the campaign has a goal: $600,000.

Meanwhile, nonprofit leaders such as Nazario watch and wait.

"We hope that we can continue expanding the services so we can reach other kids like Maritzabel," she said.

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