Students graduating from college are entering perhaps the toughest, most uncertain job market in generations. In our series, we met recent grads who shared the frustrations and fears they faced as they set out in search of work. In this installment, we follow up with one of our graduates, who has now landed a job after a yearlong search.
You can smell chicken cooking in the oven, and it's warm and clean in Melanie Singer's first apartment. What's more important, however, is that it is not where she was after graduation in the spring of 2010. Singer was living back home with her parents.
"I felt like I shouldn't be living with them. I have a college degree and I should be on my own," she says. "It [was] time for me grow up and move on."
Singer studied accounting at the University of Dayton, a field that was supposed to be a surefire path to employment. Following graduation, it took her a whole year to finally find work as an accountant.
"I looked over my books, my accounting books, before I started, just because I was nervous that I wasn't going to remember something important," she says.
Now, Singer balances the spreadsheets every month and reconciles the accounts — all of the things that her college degree prepared her to do. And now with her job, she's paying off her $15,000 in student loans.
"For once it felt like, OK, all this work is finally paying off," she says.
Back when Singer was unemployed, she had gone to interview after interview and sent out more resumes than she can remember. After a while, she said, it took a toll on her.
At the time, she said she always wanted to put the blame on herself when the rejections came. Was she not qualified? What could she do better? Did she do something wrong? Thinking about it now, 18 months later, Singer's eyes well up with tears.
"I feel like I've grown up now and become that independent individual," she says. "So it's a much better feeling than feeling like you're hopeless and living off someone else."
Her boyfriend, Eric Krissek, says there's a big difference in Singer's personality in terms of how confident she is. Krissek, a middle-school math teacher, says now they can talk about their days at work when they sit down to dinner. Before, it was nerve-wracking to talk about job stuff because Singer's news usually wasn't good.
"She was working her tail off to try and find anything and to just keep coming up empty. So, it was really difficult," Krissek says.
During that time, Singer says, she learned patience and perseverance, and what it means to take responsibility for her own life.
"That was definitely the next stage that I was looking for," she says.
Singer likes making facts and figures balance, so being an accountant suits her. And this year is extra exciting; this will be the first time she's doing her own federal and state tax returns. Still, when it comes to the future, she's not taking any chances. Singer is going back to school at night to get an MBA, just in case.