A Stanford degree -- and no job

Mountain View resident Chad Bowling, 23, never thought he would fall a victim to the down economy.

As a chemical engineering student at Stanford University, "I assumed that I would not have a hard time finding a job," he said.

His plan was to work for a few years before applying to graduate programs in his field, a move often encouraged by professors to broaden a student's perspective. In the fall of his senior year, Bowling casually began his search.

"I never considered that a year or two break would be a hard ordeal," he said.

Fall passed, and winter and spring quarters rolled by. It was graduation time and Bowling still didn't have anything lined up.

By that time, he was "desperate," he said. He decided to widen the pool of jobs he would apply for, and continue his search from his parents' house in Kentucky, with the eventual goal of heading back to the Bay Area.

"I was sending out tons of e-mails every day," he said, "applying for everything I could online, e-mailing alumni -- anything I could do. But it was all so electronic and anonymous, and nothing came back."

"I decided I'd take the plunge and move out to California and just try my luck," he said.

'I felt guilty'

With the support of his family, Bowling began leasing a Mountain View apartment month-to-month in August. He kicked up his job search, but nothing came through, and unemployment began to take its toll.

"It was a really hard place to be in," he said. "It was a balancing act between convincing myself to a certain degree that it was just the state of the job market -- but I also had to keep up the other side of it in that it was my responsibility."

"The whole time when I was searching for a job I felt like I could not really enjoy all the things that I normally did," he said. "I felt guilty during all of my free time. I realized that I could work only so many hours without getting totally down on myself. You can only send so many e-mails a day."

In order to save money, he didn't do much of anything beyond applying for jobs, he said. "I ate a lot of bean burritos."

His relationships with peers changed, too. While friends wanted to check in with him, he said, it was a "sensitive subject."

"It's really hard to take advice from people because you're doing everything you can," he said. "All your friends, when they're talking to you, they want to help you."

"It's also a hard place to be in, looking around at everyone else who has a job and think, what did they do that I didn't do? How did I fall into this?"


Heading into winter with no prospects, Bowling began applying for more "immediate" positions. He took weekend babysitting gigs, and submitted his resume at restaurants or retailers with "now hiring" signs in their windows.

At one point he went through two rounds of interviews for a serving position at the Olive Garden. Despite having restaurant experience in the past, the manager said Bowling was overqualified -- he might leave the job if something better came up.

"The manager told me they had interviewed the broadest range of people they'd ever interviewed," he said. "People who had owned their own companies were coming in to work as waiters."

The irony, Bowling said, was his academic training made him too qualified for some jobs, but he didn't have enough experience for most science-related positions.

"It put me in a hard place because I really had to focus on entry level jobs which just weren't there," he said.

Two interviews

Finally, in March, Bowling landed an interview with Envia Systems, a Hayward start-up that makes lithium ion battery materials for electric cars. The company was looking to hire a Ph.D., but agreed to speak with him anyway on the recommendation of a professor.

Though he was unqualified for the open position, the company offered him a temporary job in their lab, with the potential for full employment in six months.

"It took a while to hit me, and it was also strange because I had numbed myself from getting too excited about job prospects," he said. "When I heard about it I didn't want to get too excited until I had signed the paperwork and sent in the signed job offer."

In the end, Bowling only interviewed with two companies during his time out of college. He said the quantity of applications he submitted and job-related e-mails he sent numbered well over a thousand.

Looking forward, Bowling said he would be more conservative about job changes, and about saving money.

"I'm just going to take everything as a positive right now," he said. "Even if I'm only at this job for a couple months it's going to be great experience and it's going to be a building block."


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Posted by Kanank, a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 30, 2010 at 2:57 pm

It is a tough economy to find a job and lot of youngsters like Chad are out there in similar situation. The fact that he is from Stanford makes this case little more strange but not completely surprising. as they say "it is the economy,stupid". Last year was the toughest year to get a job in the last 20+ years, in my opinion. I wish Chad and people like him, lot of good wishes for better days.

Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 30, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Chad, I would encourage you to further your education. Go for that PhD if you are seeing demand for such degrees!

Posted by Thom, a resident of Jackson Park
on May 2, 2010 at 12:56 am

Life is tough for a lot of us. I was laid off because of the economy and have been looking for over a year. After sending over 500 resumes/applications I have been invited to 2 interviews. With over 27 years experience I found myself inteviewing with people younger and less experience than myself. I am amazed at the lack of intelligence some of these companies show when they pass on experience. I hear 'over qualified' a lot. I claim there is no such thing. As a former hiring manager I used to love interviewing people with as much or more experience than myself. Experience equals success.

At 23, it is hardly time to panic. Wait until you've worked 20+ years, have a home, and multiple other financial obligations and find yourself out of work. Unemployment is barely enough to help make ends meet, not to mention your payments are also taxable which in itsel fis laughable. When you start using the money you saved for retirement, max out a credit card or two. . .then you can start to panic.

Not to mention it appears a lot of full time jobs have gone away. The company that let me go now operates with students or retired folks working 16-24 hours a week. No medical expenses, no vacations, etc. It's an employers dream. What I forgot to say is their level of service went down to a pathetic level.

Good luck to all of us out there scrambling to find employment. I retired from coaching the youth in Mountain View in Little League, Babe Ruth, and Pop Warner football, but now I may go back considering the job search is all but over for me until the economy gets back to a level where jobs are opened up.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Why are we writing this story and wasting paper. Congrats you went to Stanford and have a degree with no job welcome to the world. Anyone interview this guy, who knows maybe there is something lacking that even a Stanford degree can't make up for. Tough economy with thousands of young people jobless, sad part is the education system is charging more, and banks are raking in big bucks with student loans, and that big job that was suppose to make it all worth it, no longer exists.

Posted by surprised, a resident of Whisman Station
on May 3, 2010 at 10:25 am

Why is this story in the front page of the Voice?

There are too many assumptions here: He thought that being from Stanford gave him more chances to get a "good" job(that normally is), he took for granted that the plan he outlined for the next 10+ years will become real.

Welcome to real life, I must say.

Good luck, Chad.

Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 4, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I don't see anything here that reflects a bad economy or the lack of jobs. If this young fellow are willing to work for some chemical company in a small town in the Midwest or South, he will have plenty of offers. The underlying, real motive is that he wants to stay in Bay Area.

Posted by Orrick, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

Please. Just because he went to Stanford doesn't qualify him to hold any job. The arrogance of this piece is astonishing.

Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

James makes an important point: if you are willing to relocate, your chances are much better at landing work.

Economists have said part of the problem with unemployment in this recession is decreased mobility of the available workforce. You have a lot of people who are tied down to where they currently live (often due to a home they cannot sell or won't sell at the market price) and so cannot/will not move to where there are more jobs.

Posted by Damian Smith, a resident of Willowgate
on Nov 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm

In the ChemE field you have to work about 2 years as an intern while you are taking your classes(thats why most people take about 6 or 7 years to graduate because they spend 1 or 2 working in the field). If you failed to do that no plant will give a second thought as you have no real world experience. Making your degree almost worthless. Being good at CAMS or being able to do cost/risk/benefit reports gives you a great and looked for edge down here in the Beaumont, Tx and Lousiana area(largest chemical plants in the world are in this area. Those types of ChemE's are wanted.

Posted by Damian Smith, a resident of Willowgate
on Nov 10, 2013 at 11:05 pm

And should have worked those 1 or 2 years while earning your bachelor's

Posted by Flava Dave, a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Flava Dave is a registered user.

I was vetting possible renters who had upcoming jobs at google. EVERY single one had done the semester abroad thing or volunteered overseas in Peace Corp etc.

Employers love that... he is young. He can defer loans for certain things (Peace Corps) Don't waste time in the office when your under 25

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