In Their Own Words

The Graduates


Cindy Trinh
2011 JD, Syracuse University College of Law
Seven months since graduation, Brooklyn resident Trinh, 28, has been unable to parlay her law degree into a full-time job.

 
I went to Syracuse in the fall of 2008. After my first year, I figured out what I wanted to practice. I took intellectual property and completely fell in love with the subject. I took entertainment law. I took media law. I took communi-cations law. I used to draw and design, and I’m very involved with the creative arts. I was never good enough to be a creative professional, but why not be the professional who protects those creative authors and their works?

I took the New York bar exam in July, and I passed. During those two months, I was studying 16, 18 hours a day. I’ve been searching for a job far and wide. On Craigslist. On Monster (MWW). On Simply Hired. Directly to law firms. I signed up with a placement agency.

I’ve been working for free at a law firm as a legal intern—at least I’m doing something in law. I’ve also been volunteering with the National Lawyers Guild, working on some cases for Occupy Wall Street.

I have about $125,000 of debt. I’m on a 30-year plan, but it could take well over 30 years to pay it off.

I’m stuck in this weird limbo phase, with a very highly regarded degree—and zero income. I’m overqualified to be a paralegal. I’m underqualified for jobs out there requiring three or four or 10 years of experience. How do you get that experience?
 
Rajive Keshup
MBA candidate, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell
Keshup, 27, a native of Dubai, says he would have no trouble finding work at home but wants to try his luck in the U.S. first.

 
Before coming here, I was the youngest director at AT&T’s (T) Dubai office, handling $100 million in revenue out of the Middle East and Africa. My mom and everybody around me thought I was crazy to quit my job and give up two years of income to go to business school. I came to business school knowing I could always go back to my old job, so that made the decision a lot easier.

I considered schools in the Middle East for a few seconds, but I felt Cornell and U.S. universities in general have more brand equity and cachet. Over the summer, I interned at a global consulting firm in Dubai and at a leading telecom company in the U.S. I’ve got job offers from both, plus one from a sovereign-wealth fund in Dubai, so I’ve got choices. I feel fortunate. I didn’t need to focus on recruiting this fall as much as some of my classmates.

Dubai is more like what my wife and I see as our final destination, not the immediate short-term plan. I’d love to put some U.S. experience onto my résumé. That’s what I am focused on. I’m looking to go into private equity and have interviewed with seven companies this fall. The job market has softened in the U.S., which has made it tough, especially for international students, because the whole H-1B visa process is an expensive proposition for companies. But if you’re the right person for the job, they will hire you.
 
Mary Robbins
2011 Master’s in International Affairs, The New School
Robbins, 27, hoped to land a gig in New York. Instead, she’s working as an unpaid temp for the United Nations in Brazil.
 
I came to New York after living in Ecuador in 2008, where I spent three months working with orphaned children for a nongovernmental organization. I decided to apply to grad school in international development. I figured, what better place to study international affairs than New York City?

After graduating, I wanted to work for an NGO that focused on education or health. I would have stayed in New York if I had gotten a good opportunity, but it was getting super expensive. I was getting odd jobs to make it work, like babysitting and being a research assistant at my grad school. I sent out 70 applications in New York and got three interviews. The UN in Brasilia was like, “When can you be here?” I might as well be keeping busy out of the country rather than sitting in my apartment writing cover letters every day.

I work five days a week, unpaid, at a think tank called the International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth. We work on socioeconomic issues in the developing world. Through a friend, I’ve been hooked up with the Ministry of Justice, and I’ve been doing translating for them on the weekends.

My contract ends in January, so I job-search every day in the States. I’m always sending out cover letters and making contacts. I’m looking to D.C., but I’m also open to opportunities down here.
 
—As told to Keenan Mayo and Alison Damast


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