In Search of a Career


Being in college is not easy: studying around the clock, keeping up with extracurricular activities, and maybe even working a job on the side to help pay tuition. But the prospect of finding employment after graduation can be even more stressful and scary. Fortunately, Berkeley Connect recently held a career workshop to help students navigate this seemingly overwhelming process.

“One of the best things you can do for students is show them alums who have careers,” said Professor Maura Nolan, the director of Berkeley Connect, acknowledging the anxiety about the future that so many students share. She proceeded to introduce two successful Berkeley alumnae, starting with Rachael Myrow.

Myrow is an award-winning radio journalist who currently covers arts and culture for KQED and does freelance reporting for NPR. Upon graduating from UC Berkeley with an undergraduate degree in English, Myrow admitted she initially didn’t have the foggiest clue what she was going to do next. “Inspired by NPR blasting on the home stereo every weekend when I was growing up and having three newspapers a day on the kitchen table, I decided to go back to school for journalism,” she explained. From her experiences in this competitive field, Myrow had quite a few tips to offer students.

First of all, she said, “Be willing to travel the world or the clock.” She suggested finding the job other people don’t want to do, and applying for that one. She also stressed the importance of networking. You have to be a familiar name and face to stand out in an endless sea of applicants. Myrow also suggested researching the job, knowing before you walk in the door what salary range you should be negotiating for, and realizing that sometimes you may have to leave a job in order to learn and grow.

“Your industry will change over the course of your career, but it’s also true that you will change,” were Myrow’s final words of advice. She reminded students that their ambitions may evolve, and that they shouldn’t feel stuck on whatever career path they initially select. “Keep researching, and keep your options open,” she suggested, “Because the ultimate goal is fulfillment – and paying the rent, of course.”

The second speaker was Madonna Bolano, currently the Group Vice President of Human Resources for Applied Materials, Inc. At UC Berkeley, she got her undergraduate degree in Sociology. Bolano emphasized the importance of Cal’s name in finding employment. “The first two jobs I got offered straight out of college were from Cal alums,” she explained. “Anywhere I go, I still use my Cal degree as a way to meet people, even around the world.”

Aside from leveraging the Cal brand, Bolano advised students, “Know what you’re good at, and be able to highlight that. Also know what you need to develop in.” She also told students to be willing to start at the entry level. “Don’t forget that all of us have to start somewhere,” she said. “But look for the opportunities and don’t sell yourself short.”

The evening closed with a presentation by counselors from the Career Center, followed by a reception where students got a chance to network with the speakers and get some one-on-one advice. Janet White, one of the Career Center counselors, advised students to imagine their careers unfolding not as a straight path or a ladder, but as a unique path they create. For now, she suggested, “Focus on your next step, and not on your entire life or career.”

With this advice, and lots of practical tips from all the speakers, the process of searching for post-graduation employment may seem a little less daunting for Berkeley Connect students. Success is possible, as demonstrated by Myrow and Bolano’s impressive careers. Students can take a deep breath and dive into the job search a little more fearlessly, knowing that a winding path marked by some uphill climbs, detours, and changes of direction can still lead them where they want to go.

Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant