Job prospectors mine a new vein

This week's lead story is a springtime perennial, and it's hard to resist comparing its findings with those of past years.

For the new crop of job-hunting college graduates, the bloom, you might say, is off the rosiness.

Job prospects didn't wither all that suddenly. My column alongside the "outlook" piece two years ago, for example, acknowledged that job-seekers were then running the table for about the fourth straight year. A third of grads expected to be handed more than four job offers. Big consultancies were among the goliaths of hiring.

But the column also pointed at an ominous spike in job cuts: the worst single-month hit in nine years, and a hint of more to come.

Now, by some measures, job cuts appear finally to be easing. Many younger workers, however, have grown wise to a hard reality: In the past couple of years, those 16 to 24 have seen relative job losses six times as high as those 25 and older, according to a recent study by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies.

That uncertainty, added to post-Enron doubts about the corporate life, means some new grads are opting for work that's more about passion, less about profits.

* * *

This week marks the inaugural installment (page 12) of a new occasional feature: first-person accounts of investing strategies that have had a degree of success (or failure) that can be instructional.

We run plenty of quotes from professional financial planners and fund managers. Some hit, some miss, some contradict. You can do at least as well. Be conversational, lay out your logic, give us a sense of how you're doing and what's next.

If we run it, you'll see a (small) cash return on the time you invest.

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