RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
College graduates face one of the bleakest job markets on record. Reporter Sayre Quevedo of TurnstyleNews.com met an aspiring accountant who emailed resumes for six months and then tried on something more daring.
SAYRE QUEVEDO, BYLINE: Alexander Monsanto has achieved a lot of firsts. He's a first generation American, the first in his family to graduate high school, and the first to get a college degree. All eyes are on him to succeed, but it's been 10 months since he got his accounting degree from Florida Atlantic University, and still no job.
ALEXANDER MONSANTO: There are times where I would question what I was doing. I studied accounting for four years. If it's going to be this difficult to get a job, is this a field I want to be in?
QUEVEDO: One morning he says he responded to every Craigslist ad in the San Francisco Bay Area that mentioned accounting, and didn't receive a single response.
MONSANTO: It turns into like this vicious cycle where it's not helping to stay home to look for a job. You kind of have to just get out of the house and go and network, put yourself out there. I needed to find something different.
(SOUNDBITE OF BUS)
QUEVEDO: It's 7:45 in the morning and the lanky 25-year-old boards a commuter bus to San Francisco, holding a sandwich board with the words Hire Me spelled out on the front with big black sticky letters. Monsanto steps off the bus, pulls the straps over his shoulders, and begins walking the streets of the financial district.
His Hire Me sign beats against his chest with every step. It's a moment that he says fills him with embarrassment every time.
MONSANTO: Whatever it takes, that's what I keep telling myself. I mean a lot of people probably think I'm crazy, but I'm not.
QUEVEDO: Not crazy at all because it because actually works. Monsanto says he gets twice as many interviews with his sandwich board - three to four per week.
At one point Kim Tobias passes by. It turns out she's a corporate recruiter who wants a resume.
KIM TOBIAS: I think it's, you know, a little wacky, but I think that it would work. Shows me that he's really interested in finding a job, he's got initiative. That's even better than LinkedIn.
QUEVEDO: A few blocks later a woman calls out to him: Hey, you in the sandwich board. Janet Myers works at the University of California and she has a tip for him.
JANET MYERS: Check out the UC website, they're looking for like a bunch of accounting clerks to do part-time grant process.
MONSANTO: The University of California?
MONSANTO: Can I use you as a referral?
MONSANTO: All right. U.C. ...
QUEVEDO: While he scribbles down the job details, Eric Schroeder, a senior VP at the insurance giant AON, pulls out his phone and snaps a picture, promising to post it on his LinkedIn profile.
ERIC SCHROEDER: Here's my card.
MONSANTO: Do you want a copy of my resume?
MONSANTO: Yeah all right, here you go.
SCHROEDER: I'm going to post it on LinkedIn and just say here's an enterprising young man.
QUEVEDO: One of Monsanto's favorite stories is about the day he met his potentially perfect match. Representatives from the solar company SunRun were on the same street corner in downtown San Francisco, wearing T-shirts with the advertisement: We're hiring.
Susan Wise, a PR manager at SunRun, was stoked about the chance encounter.
SUSAN WISE: Here they were proactively seeking job-seekers and they bumped into this guy who was doing his own little guerrilla marketing thing for seeking a job.
QUEVEDO: Monsanto followed up with a resume and even landed an interview, but no job.
WISE: I think what happened was just the opportunities we had listed weren't really a fit for his background. But I think it's a good example of how the concept of a mutual fit is tremendously important.
QUEVEDO: With so many midcareer job seekers competing for the same positions, it's hard for newcomers like Monsanto to be that perfect fit employers are looking for. So forced to face the reality of paying bills, Alexander Monsanto has put his dreams of a full-time accounting job on hold. Instead, he's willing to accept a part-time or even temporary job as an accountant. And in the meantime he keeps beating the streets in his sandwich board.
MONSANTO: Do you know anyone who needs and accountant?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Creative idea though.
QUEVEDO: For NPR News, I'm Sayre Quevedo.
MONTAGNE: Sayre Quevedo is a reporter for TurnstyleNews.com. That's a project of Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.