Your future after graduation may seem difficult to determine. There are many preconceptions about the “real world”: Your first job will dictate the rest of your life! Once you start on one career path, you’re stuck with it! At a recent career workshop for Berkeley Connect students, an alumna speaker and counselors from the Career Center debunked these misconceptions and offered useful career advice to students.
UC Berkeley alumna Rosita Lucas works as a fundraising strategist, an occupation she wasn’t expecting to enter when she was an undergraduate student. She described herself as “not a planner” and confessed that she “left UC Berkeley with zero career planning.” Conversely, as a young girl, Lucas was confident and sure about her future attendance at Berkeley. A Hayward townie, Lucas would people-watch on BART, eyeing the students, and just knew that Berkeley would be the university for her. Her decision had been made years prior to her application.
Prior to Berkeley, Lucas’ academic life was fractured. She perpetually moved around, attending eight different schools before graduating high school. Nevertheless, as the daughter of hard-working Central-American immigrants, Lucas was driven to succeed. Berkeley proved academically difficult even with her years of preparation, a feeling many students can relate to. Despite her struggles with the academic pressure, Lucas was able to figure out that her passion lay in the social sciences and successfully complete a BA in History; she later earned a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin.
Lucas found her way back to the Bay Area and to Cal, where she worked in the Student Affairs development office for over a decade, eventually achieving the title of Director of Advancement Services; she recently took a new position at Holy Names College in Oakland. She recommended students stay connected through alumni networks; Lucas herself encountered many great opportunities because of relationships she cultivated. “Fostering connections while [at Berkeley] is a key part of your path to career growth.”
Lucas enjoys doing work that benefits students, and discussed how important it is to align your career choices with your values. She asked, “If you’re not in touch with what’s important to you, how can you demonstrate your worth to your employer or employees?” Lucas remarked that Berkeley students have enormous advantages, as they have many opportunities to find challenges and tackle them, demonstrating their problem-solving skills, leadership abilities, and initiative.
Following this point, one student questioned how to know what to take advantage of. Lucas acknowledged: There is choice overload. It helps to hone in a key area of interest and focus on that. In the words of Marie Kondo, recall courses that really sparked joy for you or any professors that you’ve had an affinity with. Another student asked about how to advertise yourself for internships. Lucas suggested discussing what you can offer; demonstrate your value to a prospective employer, rather than how they can benefit you.
As a former hiring manager, Lucas was also asked what made her want to hire someone. She ranked these four qualities as the most important: incredible organization skills; ability to manage many projects at once; high levels of follow-through; and strong writing skills. Demonstrating these skills in interviews may be helpful for landing a job or internship—and these are skills that all students at Cal develop!
Following Lucas’s remarks, counselors Janet White and David Woodward from the Career Center offered additional helpful advice.
White discussed the “3 C’s” of career success:
- Clarity: Clarify what you want to do. You don’t have to know this with certainty now, nor when you graduate. Around half of graduating students don’t have a clue what they want to do, even though it may seem that everyone has identified their definitive future. White commented, “It’s okay to not have it all figured out.” The Career Center can help you articulate a future direction you want to explore.
- Connections: Connect with alumni and employers. It’s important to develop relationships with people on campus. This doesn’t mean creating artificial relationships with people based on how you presume they can benefit you in the future, but developing genuine connections around similar interests or ideas.
- Competitiveness: Enhance your marketability. It is important to stand out in front of employers and graduate schools. There are multiple ways to stand out, ranging from the strength of one’s resumé to interviewing skills.
On the topic of connections, Bob Woodward pointed out that many people are uncomfortable with the word networking, so he describes it as netsharing. It’s about sharing a connection, fostering a level of trust, rather than getting something in a purely transactional manner.
He also recommended that students take advantage of the alumni database, available through the Cal Alumni Association website. It’s a great resource, because these alumni have expressly agreed to be contacted by students for networking purposes. For discussion points with alumni, the business library is very helpful. You can access IBISWorld, a database that features a series of industry reports that can help you get up to speed on what’s happening in different fields and develop good networking questions.
Per Woodward’s advice, one student spoke about how she wants to build a career based on her current interests and skills. Evangeline Ebeyer, a transfer student, discussed her experience managing people in her workplace. She found pleasure in helping the employees develop their skills. As an English major, she can “effectively communicate the tasks [she] wants done.” As such, Woodward advised that a potential career option for her might be working in development in human resources. She could move up the ladder into management, and since she expressed interest in helping others, might also consider a segue into counseling.
The Berkeley Connect career workshop offered much practical and reassuring advice for students unsure of their future. There is no need to stress; there are tons of resources available for finding internships, networking, and developing professional skills. From polishing your resume to strengthening your interview skills, the Career Center and the networks of Berkeley alumni are here to help you. Always remember that Berkeley Connect is here to support you on this journey. #BerkeleyConnect #YouBelongHere
Written by Melody Niv, Communications Assistant.