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Berkeley's new graduates discuss the job market and what comes next

In a time of much uncertainty, seniors share their hopes and plans

| 21 May 2009

Campus faculty are collecting their last sets of final exams this week and students have begun scattering to the four winds for the summer. For those who are graduating seniors, it's a proverbially bittersweet time — with extra bitter in the mix, perhaps, as they head out into a time of economic distress and record unemployment.

"This is definitely a year for patience, persistence, and flexibility in the job search," says Tom Devlin, director of the UC Berkeley Career Center, which helps students and recent alumni seek employment. But despite a very challenging job market, he adds, the college job market does not necessarily mirror the general job market. "A major firm could be laying off individuals in their organization, but still hiring college graduates." And many employers continue to put "high value" on a UC Berkeley degree, he says.

We asked seven campus seniors to tell us what's next for them — their hopes, plans, and their experience so far looking for employment or a slot in graduate school.

Caitlin O'Donnell

Caitlin O'DonnellCaitlin O'Donnell

Hometown: San Diego, CA
Age: 21
Major: English, minor in Global Poverty and Practices

Next step
I have an assignment to teach English for two years with the Peace Corps — in Eastern Europe, starting in late September. After that, I plan to pursue graduate school.

On job hunting
During my search for paid internships and jobs this semester (before I settled on the Peace Corps), I met with Sarah Backes-Diaz at the Career Center numerous times. I spent the entirety of our first 45-minute session relating my career aspirations and anxieties; in following meetings, she offered concrete advice.

When I first approached my job search, I felt overwhelmed by anxiety about leaving academic life and finding a job in a tough economy. When that initial anxiety abated, I proceeded with a realistic pragmatism — hopeful that persistence, and confidence in my academic and workplace experience, would lead me somewhere.

christopher chaplin
Christopher Chaplin

Christopher Chaplin

Hometown: Concord, CA
Age: 22
Major: Mechanical engineering

Dreams
I hope to work in the biomedical industry for 15 to 20 years (I'd like to start a bio-tech company) and then become a professor.

Next step
I plan to work toward a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Berkeley; I will start research this summer in the field of biomechanics.

On job hunting
Up until March I was searching for work to start in the summer or fall. I received an offer from one company at a career fair, and was preparing to submit my resume online for several other places, when I learned I had the chance to go to grad school. One compelling reason to stay in school is to wait for this recession to pass, so that hopefully I can apply for (and get) a position I really want.

Words of wisdom
Applying for grad school (the expense, getting letters of recommendation, and taking the GRE) is a grueling process. I really wish I had taken more advantage of grad-school assistance offered by the Career Center, such as help reviewing my personal statement.

kelsey blegenKelsey Blegen

Kelsey Blegen

Hometown: Rio Vista, CA
Age: 21
Major: History

Dreams
To pursue a career as a lawyer.

Next step
A small law firm in San Francisco offered me a position as a legal assistant; I plan to begin full-time in June. My goal is to gain more experience in the legal field and to apply to law school within the next year or two.

On job hunting

I have a pessimistic outlook on the current job market. Although I was fortunate enough to find a full-time position, I've seen my friends go to interview after interview and get no job offers because of the competitive climate. It has been a very frustrating experience for many.

Words of wisdom
During winter break, I went to the Career Center and had my resume critiqued. I made heavy use of their "Job and Internship Guide," spent hour upon hour on my resume and cover letters, and applied to nearly every job in the legal field I could find in California — fellowships, as well as jobs listed on CalJobs and Craigslist. I believe my efforts, and the resources I used at the Career Center, gave me a very solid resumé, as I received interview offers from many of the places I applied.

Adam MeleroAdam Melero

Adam Melero

Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
Major: Business Administration

Dreams
I plan to start work in Ernst & Young's Assurance group and obtain my CPA license. I'm also starting to think about getting an MBA.

Next step
I hope to enjoy my time off and travel before I start work in the fall. I'll also be preparing to take the CPA examination.

On job hunting
I was worried about getting a full-time job offer in the current climate. I felt I was at a disadvantage — not having had an internship — but was fortunate to receive several offers. I made use of the Career Center resources and counselors, who were very helpful in preparing me for my interviews.

Belova AleksandraBelova Aleksandra

Belova Aleksandra

Hometown: San Jose, CA (born in Moscow, Russia)
Age: 21
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology/Psychology double major, minor in French minor

Dreams
After taking classes in my two majors and doing some medical internships (I shadowed a pediatrician and volunteered in ER), I realized that I really want to become a doctor.

Next step
I decided to apply to medical school during my junior year because I knew that getting into med school is an extremely competitive process; I thought that I would have more of a chance this way.

I was able to juggle my two majors and a minor, honors research work in a lab, volunteer work in an ER, an officer position in an Honor Society, together with the application process (MCATs, essays, interviews). I think this showed my determination to become a doctor, and was a contributing factor to my acceptance into medical school.

On job hunting
I have not heard any negative feedback about people's inability to find jobs. Most of my friends are already set to go with some plan for the years after Cal. Most are either applying to graduate school, or planning on doing research work (paid or unpaid) in order to gain more experience, to later apply to grad school. Some are simply taking a year off to go travel or participate in programs such as Teach for America.

Mariel LisudMariel Lisud

Mariel Lisud

Hometown: San Gabriel, CA
Age: 21
Major: Business Administration

Next step
I've accepted a job as a business analyst, for Sourcing Services at the headquarters for Target in Minneapolis. In the next year or two I'd like to advance or move to a different function within the company.

On job hunting
I found my full-time job through Monster's Diversity Leadership Program, but did the rest of my job search through the Career Center's on-campus recruiting program. I also made sure to network with professionals at Career Center events, such as the job fairs and info sessions. That has helped me land some interviews and made me a more competitive candidate.

Words of wisdom
I feel very fortunate to have found a job, and feel it has a lot to do with the Berkeley brand — but more importantly with the skills and education I've received here. For my fellow graduates looking for a job, I say "stay optimistic and network with a strong Cal Alumni community."

Jordan SmithJordan Smith

Jordan Smith

Hometown: Pacific Palisades, CA
Age: 22
Major: Business Administration

Next step
After graduation I will be working as an investment-banking analyst at Lazard Freres in Los Angeles. I plan to take the knowledge and skills I learned at Cal and apply them to my new job.

On job hunting
The current job climate is challenging, but companies are still looking to recruit graduates, albeit in much smaller numbers. It is very important to be proactive in the recruiting process and utilize the network you have built. 

I participated in on-campus recruiting through the Cal Career Center in the fall. I interviewed with many investment banks and was fortunate to be able to choose between multiple offers. Even in this down economy, many top companies still had a recruiting presence on campus; they recognize the value of a Berkeley degree.