If job-seeking were a job, Quinn French would be an elite candidate.

He’s attended career fairs and employment expos, met recruiters and distributed resumes. He’s scoured online postings, filled out numerous applications and even completed personality surveys.

But he’s constantly battled the conundrum of needing experience to land a job and struggling to land jobs to give him the necessary experience.

“It can be very confusing, frustrating and difficult to navigate,” said French, 25, who used to live in Santa Monica. “There’s a sense that it is an employer’s market. They’re just weeding people out. Too many people are applying for each job, so they’re looking to eliminate people from the process so they can get numbers down to something more manageable.”

French, who was homeless for years following the economic recession in 2008, offers an acute portrait of the obstacles facing many millennials in today’s job market.

His story is reflected in statistics found in a recent report by Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit research and advocacy group focusing on young adults’ challenges in education, employment and health care coverage.

The unemployment rate of Californians ages 16 to 24 is 20.2 percent — nearly three times the rate for people in the state over age 35, according to the report.

“Bouts of unemployment early in a person’s career lead to lower wages for years after,” the report reads. “California’s future depends on the success of today’s young adults.”

Wages were also a topic of concern. The median incomes for 18- to 24-year-old workers in California have fallen sharply over the last decade, according to the report.

“We can do better in California to set up our generation for the workforce,” Irving Pineda, who led the organization’s recent job tour, said in a release. “Their success is critical to the future of our economy.”

Young Invincibles and other groups are lobbying for more career and technical education pathways, quality paid internship programs and fair scheduling.

That kind of assistance would’ve been welcomed by French, whose life changed drastically when the economy bottomed out seven years ago.

After getting his General Educational Development requirements out of the way at Olympic High School, the Santa Monica-Malibu district’s continuation site, he started taking English and film classes at Santa Monica College.

But in 2008 his family fell behind on rent payments because his father’s telemarketing job wasn’t yielding enough income.

“When the downturn started to be felt, he was hearing more and more, ‘We don’t have the money,'” French said. “He couldn’t maintain his business. At a certain point, he just couldn’t pay the bills. … We got evicted. We became homeless.”

French split with his parents and began fending for himself, landing part-time work at Sears in Santa Monica.

Living in and out of a variety of area shelters and youth centers, French enrolled in a program at Antioch University in Culver City that offers nine months of free education to low-income students. He eventually hopes to secure an English degree, although he’s taking time away from school.

An aspiring scriptwriter, French is working on a piece for a small studio and since January has had a job assignment through a Long Beach-based staffing agency.

He feels lucky just to have a room in a Los Angeles apartment.

“It’s tough — you feel like it’s an endless cycle,” he said of being homeless. “I was basically going from living with my parents … to being on my own, surviving, to finally getting my own place. It was quite a relief. It was a new experience.”

French’s experiences have led him to see a pressing need for help with career preparedness before college — in high schools, at youth centers and online.

“That’s where you need these programs — so our young people know how to navigate the job market,” he said.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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