Job Seeker Hawks His Résumé at Metro Stations

Michael Volpe, a college graduate and Peace Corps alumnus, has taken to hanging out at Metro stations wearing a sign around his neck.
Michael Volpe, a college graduate and Peace Corps alumnus, has taken to hanging out at Metro stations wearing a sign around his neck. (By Petula Dvorak -- The Washington Post)
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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2009

After relentlessly pounding the industrial carpet at scores of job fairs, firing off hundreds of cover letters and knocking on dozens of doors since November, Michael Volpe was desperate.

The 25-year-old college graduate with a degree in physics and a couple of years with the Peace Corps is learning that the nation's capital is also the networking capital. And if you don't know the right people, landing a job can be daunting.

This week, he took his job search in a new direction, standing outside downtown D.C. Metro stops during morning rush hour with a sign around his neck reading, "ENTRY LEVEL JOB SEEKER."

"When you're out there with a sign around your neck, you can't get any lower," allowed Volpe, who is soft-spoken and finds it challenging to muster up the courage for a public crusade.

Last week, he realized he had to get more aggressive: "At this point, it's not like I can lose anything. Especially my pride."

On Wednesday morning, his battered pride took another hit as he became the butt of commuter humor.

"Ha! You're good for a morning laugh, at the very least!" howled a lawyer who shifted her armload of case files and held up her camera phone. "Let me snap a quick pic of you."

Volpe straightened his sage green tie, then his bright orange sign and gamely managed a tight smile for the photo. "Can I give you my résumé, please? I'm interested in any position in the fields of energy, environment . . . " The woman cut him off. "Oh, I can't do anything for you. I work for the government. But good luck!"

He has applied, among other places, at the Department of Energy, the State Department, USAID, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and scores of nongovernmental organizations.

He walked into the offices of National Geographic with his résumé. They suggested that he volunteer as an usher in their movie theater.

Volpe had a few more-promising interactions in his four-day barnstorming of commuter haunts.

One man sought him out at the Metro station at Judiciary Square. "Hey, guy who's looking for a job! My boss sent me out to find you," said a D.C. government employee, who said did not want to be identified because he is not allowed to speak to the media. "Your phone number is on here, right? On your résumé? We'll get back to you," the man told Volpe.

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