Goodby Tank Tops; Hello Adulthood : Students: Our college seniors make some headway in the hunt for the inevitable--real jobs.


The climate for job-seekers was chilly in December when The Times profiled three college seniors searching for their first positions.

Now, two of the three have been hired.

Lance Ralls, a mechanical engineering student at UCLA with an interest in business, will join the management consulting arm of the certified public accounting giant Price Waterhouse.

Matthew Glasser, a public policy major at Occidental College, has landed a job with the nonprofit Public Interest Research Group, an environmental and consumer advocacy organization.

Adria Blakely, a public administration major at Cal State Dominguez Hills, is still seeking a position in the health education field.

We'll file a final report on our seniors later this spring when they graduate.


Name: Lance Ralls

Age: 22

School: UCLA

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Suddenly, Lance Ralls feels like an adult.

The senior in mechanical engineering has just accepted a job. Prior to the offer, his new employer, Price Waterhouse, wined and dined him in high style. And Ralls wore an off-the-rack suit he bought just for the occasion.

"It's a neat feeling for a college kid who's used to wearing his hat backward and walking to school with his Birkenstocks and a tank top," Ralls says.

"When you turn 18, you become an adult. But you're still kind of looked on as not knowing anything. And these guys are treating you like, 'Hey, I'm going to be working with this guy. He's almost an equal.' You're not this regular Joe Schmo college student."

After three months of training, Ralls will begin to help businesses use new information technology to solve problems. He chose the $37,000-a-year job over four other offers because it offered diversity. "It's using a lot of my analytical and technical skills," he says, "and I'll also be able to use some business skills."

Another bonus: Ralls will be based in San Francisco. That's relatively close to his hometown, Chowchilla, and it fulfills a dream.

"I was a big Bay Area sports fan as a boy," he says, "and when I went to watch games I enjoyed the city. I always had a dream to live there."

Ralls' 3.6 grade-point average attracted many company recruiters. And he helped his search by starting early. In his junior year, he talked to seniors about their career plans, attended career days and learned to use the campus placement center. He interned at a Pasadena engineering firm that summer.

Last fall, he arranged for campus placement counselors to critique his resume and to film him in a mock job interview. He wound up with 20 first- and eight second- or third-round interviews.

"Every little work experience, you build that up," he says. "You show your interpersonal skills, your communication skills, your analytical abilities. You have to bring in all those things because that's what they're looking for."


Name: Adria Blakely

Age: 22

School: Cal State Dominguez Hills

Major: Public Administration

Adria Blakely's grades are soaring. She earned three A's and a B last fall to complete her best academic semester. She boosted her grade-point average to 3.0 in public administration, her major.

But while her marks are up, her job prospects aren't.

She's had no offers in her field of health education, despite searching regularly for openings and filling out many applications.

"I intended to be working by March," Blakely says. "It doesn't look like that's going to happen. I'm not satisfied, but I haven't been discouraged. There's nothing I can do but keep looking."

While she looks for work, she's adding to her resume. She coordinated a health fair Saturday at the Los Angeles apartment complex where she lives with her mother and sister.

Blakely's goal is to teach hospital patients or schoolchildren how to stay healthy. She supplemented her academic study by working part-time in the Cal State Dominguez Hills health center and as a summer receptionist at the King/Drew Medical Center.

She wants to continue school while she works, and is waiting to hear whether she's been accepted to the public health graduate program at Cal State Long Beach.

Uncertainty about the future has forced her to delay plans to move out of her mother's apartment and into her own.

"It doesn't make much sense for me to move out if I don't have a job," she says.


Name: Matthew Glasser

Age: 22

School: Occidental College

Major: Public Policy

Matthew Glasser isn't looking to get rich. He wants to be with "the progressive left" as a political or community organizer.

The job he took--planning and implementing programs for the Public Interest Research Group--pays only $15,000 a year.

"I'm going to have to be very careful about my budget," he says. "But it's livable and sustainable and will allow me to do work I want to do.

"I'll probably have to have a roommate. Maybe I'll try to get some side consulting jobs.

"Or maybe find someone to endow me," he jokes.

Although he may need a second income, Glasser is happy to have his situation resolved.

"It's very reassuring to know that on graduation, I have something to look forward to that's stable," he says. "I'm very excited. And most important now is the chance to make a difference and to do something positive to make long-term change."

Glasser worked extensively with community organizations while earning a 3.65 grade-point average at Occidental.

A few weeks ago, employers in his field started to assess needs for the summer and to fill positions. Suddenly he had two job offers and several interviews. He chose the job with PIRG over the other offer, which was to recruit members for an environmental group.

Now that he's employed, Glasser plans to graduate in May and to travel. "I'm going to go somewhere I haven't been," he says. "You realize you've entered the real work world when you no longer get summer vacations."

He'll train for the new job in July and be sent to Los Angeles, Washington or his preference, Sacramento.

"I'd love to go to Sacramento," he says. "It's where a lot of policy decisions are taking place. It's large enough to get things done and not get bogged down in details. And it's not so huge as the federal bureaucracy, where you can't get anything done for sheer size."

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