Even when she is depressed, Merline Melvin finds it difficult to keep a broad grin from lighting up her face.

"I smile a lot. I just have that kind of face," she said soberly.

Despite the spontaneous grin, Melvin, 24, said employment problems have given her little to be amused about during the past two years. In 1976, she was graduated with a B.A. in criminal justice from the University of Washington, she said she was surprised to find she couldn't get a job in her field.

"I really thought I would have a job when I graduated," she said. "I even persuaded people at school to come into my field and told them, oh, you ought to come to Washington to work."

During the past two years Melvin has been a volunteer probation officer in a local VISTA program, a night cashier at Safeway and now, a CETA employe.

"I filed with CETA in January. I didn't hear from them (until) I went back in July."

By July 19, she began her CETA job as a program coordinator with the Metropolitan Washington Housing Authority. The position, however, ends Sept. 30.

"I think I'm more or less a liaison between the other CETA workers and the agency," she said. In addition to various administrative duties, Melvin said she writes monthly progress reports on the CETA employes and prepares time cards and sick leave forms.

"I found out by being in the (court) system that the only way to get ahead is to know somebody." She said she spent a year in VISTA "and I still didn't know anybody."

She said she sought help in finding a good job by contacting Mayor Washington's office, Manpower, CETA and various other government agencies. The exercise left her with a note-book full of telephones numbers but no job possibilities, she said. Accepting the 10-week CETA position was a last resort because "I was tired of sitting home.

"Between not knowing the right agencies to apply to and the right people to contact and, I guess, being in the right place at the right time, I had just spent most of my time looking at the want ads in the newspaper."