American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
May 26th, 2009
10:07 AM ET

Jobseeker wears sign in D.C. Metro

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Recent grad Michael Volpe wears a sign to advertise to potential employers."]

A harsh reality is facing the class of 2009 as they begin life after graduation. Many employers are cutting the number of college graduates they hire. Recent graduates are now hard-pressed to find work, but some grads are taking their search for work in a whole new direction.

One of those is Michael Volpe. He has brought his job search to the Metro of Washington, D.C. where he wears a sign around his neck that reads: “Entry Level Job Seeker.” He spoke to T.J. Holmes on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday from outside the Judiciary Square Metro stop in D.C.

T.J. Holmes: You have a degree in Physics. You're a former Peace Corps volunteer. You're a pretty impressive guy. Explain to us what you have resorted to doing?

Michael Volpe: Well, I was frustrated with the internet job search and just writing cover letter after cover letter and sending off resumes. I’ve attended career fairs; I’ve used networking; pretty much any means I could try to get work here in D.C. And I was tired of it all, so I just came up with the idea and hung a sign around my neck.

Holmes: Why this idea? I’m sure there are other directions you could have tried first. But this is one that really put you out there.

Volpe: Yeah, I chose this way because this way I can see people. They can see me. They can see I'm a clean-cut guy. I’m ambitious, creative, obviously, by the sign. And I just wanted to get that interpersonal relations working for me. And so far it has been.

Holmes: Are people taking you seriously? Is it yielding any good job leads yet?

Volpe: I've gotten a lot of interest. I'm starting to get a lot of e-mails and people are generally supportive. Probably the most impressive lead I'm working on right now is with the State Department in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. So we'll see how that pans out.

Holmes: What have you been doing in the meantime? You've been looking for a job since the end of last year. What have you been doing to get by?

Volpe: Well, I moved down to D.C. in November, and ever since then I started job searching full-time, but when that wasn't yielding any results, I took up a part time job so I'm waiting tables to pay the bills.

Holmes: Waiting tables. A lot of people have to do that. You're in these transit stops. There is a lot of foot traffic. How important is it to get the eyeballs on you but also it’s a bit of a publicity stunt, knowing that press would pick you up locally and nationally?

Volpe: You know I never expected it to get this big. I guess you could say I didn't look past putting the sign around my neck. So I just went out there and did it and then kind of reaping the benefits, I guess.

Holmes: How much pride did you have to put aside to do this?

Volpe: Well, it was tough at first. Obviously it's a vulnerable position that I put myself in. But, you know, a lot of things happen when you put yourself out there and go out on a limb. People have been supportive, given me a lot of encouragement. Some people have passed by and just say, oh good luck, you'll get something soon. So, it’s actually built my self-esteem more than the internet job search has.

Holmes: I'm going to hand the last 30 seconds over to you and let you do a sales pitch. If someone is out there looking to hire. Give us a pitch why they should hire you.

Volpe: Okay, well… I have a Bachelors in Physics; two years in the Peace Corps. Some of my interests are in the following areas [Environment, Energy, International Development, Foreign Affairs.] I'm a creative, talented, hardworking guy and I’ve got a lot of discipline and I think I would be good at any company or firm. Email:

Filed under: Economy
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Charles Hammill

    So as I understand from the previous comment, its not important to have a formal education and companies should be staffed by semi-literate people. After all, as the person stated, " it’s about who you know, not what you know."

    June 3, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  2. Tom

    Getting hired: it's about who you know, not what you know.

    May 28, 2009 at 3:40 am |
  3. l

    cool dude 🙂

    May 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  4. Charles Hammill

    Seeing this young man reminds me of my own difficulties in locating employment.

    Prior to graduating from a major university with a bachelor degree in business administration and management I had no difficulty getting hired. As an experienced high school graduate with years of successful work under my belt and a keen desire to learn and succeed I always found a job.

    However, since obtaining a university degree and seeking employment I am now often told that I am not what "they" are looking for, and that "they" want people that are high school graduates. "People that are easy to manipulate and control." Of the few companies that did offer employment the wages offered were minimum wage or at poverty level income ($10 per hour or below, prior to university I earned $42,000 per year, which was considered a good wage.)

    Now that depression had set in I found that I had a useless college degree and owed $50,000 in college loans with no means to earn a living much less repay this debt.

    After the initial shock of these highly negative statements wore off I started asking questions of the interviewers and found that approximately 80% of the interviewers did not have the academic qualifications to hold the position they now occupy. Thats right, a full 80% simply did not possess a minimum of at least a bachelor degree. I also found out that most jobs (80% or more) require only a high school education and the positions college graduates must seek are the remaining 20%.

    No wonder the job market is so tough when the job seekers, myself included, are considered vastly over qualified and not even given a chance to interview for positions we are more than qualified to fill.

    In seeking advice from within I recalled my early days of youth when seeking employment I always found the hiring manager and spoke directly to him, and was given the opportunity to sell myself. In the process I more often than naught either received a good critique and some additional job leads or I was simply hired by that person.

    My advice is to fall back to the tried and true method of meeting hiring managers face to face and get five minutes of their time to sell yourself and provide what they are in need of. By all means stay away from online job boards as they are akin to pushing paperwork into a black abyss never to be seen again.

    Please do understand that Human Resource departments once used to exist to provide supporting service and it was up to the hiring manager to make the determination of who he should hire. Now a days it seems that HR departments need to justify their own existence and try desperately to restrict the applicants, many of which are a very good fit for the company as a whole. So I would make the case that HR departments and the techniques they use are part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    So next time you try to get a job give it a try, find the hiring manger and sell yourself and give him what he needs. I think you will find this method has a greater chance of success than being blockaded by HR managers or peering into the great abyss of internet job boards.

    Companies are run by people for people, so does it not make sense to speak to people?

    May 27, 2009 at 8:58 am |