Graduates look to job market abroad

March 28, 1993|By Alfred Borcover | Alfred Borcover,Chicago Tribune

As college seniors edge nearer to their diplomas, a wave of fear sweeps over most of them. Jobs are tough to find in today's market.

Some will follow the path that Kristin Murphy took two years ago after she graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. After a fruitless search for a job in advertising, the 23-year-old Evanston, Ill., native, who majored in fine arts, opted to try her luck abroad.

"I had a lot of interviews at home in three weeks, but I was told I'd have to work for free," Ms. Murphy said during a recent visit home. "If I had to work for free, I thought I'd rather do it in France."

"I went through the Council on International Educational Exchange," Ms. Murphy said. The private, non-profit organization New York helps thousands of people participate in work, study, travel and volunteer programs.

"The CIEE got me a three-month work visa. When I got to Paris I looked up all the affiliates of American advertising agencies with offices in Paris. Out of 20, 11 asked for resumes and three gave me interviews. One of the three hired me for a one-month internship. Then I worked for 1 1/2 months with McCann-Erickson as an unpaid intern."

When Ms. Murphy's advertising job ended, she went to work as an au pair.

Then Ms. Murphy and an American friend journeyed across Russia on the Trans-Manchurian, an eight-day train trip that cost them $450 each for second-class tickets. Their destination: Tokyo.

Ms. Murphy, who's still teaching in Japan, said that newspapers advertise, every Monday, for English teachers. "There are no qualifications except being able to speak English. . . . I found a position within a week of being there."

The jobs pay well, Ms. Murphy said. "My salary is 240,000 yen a month, about $2,000."

For college grads in June confronted with no jobs at home but an urge to go abroad, Ms. Murphy offered some advice:

Talk to people who have traveled and worked abroad because you can't learn from anyone behind a desk who hasn't done it. Talk to people from the countries you are going to visit. If they have contacts, use them.

Students in search of programs abroad can contact the CIEE, 205 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017; (212) 661-1414. The CIEE's "Work, Study, Travel Abroad" handbook, available in bookstores for $12.95, is an invaluable reference.

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