Even before their first classes this semester, nearly half of UC Berkeley’s 2,700 new transfer students were out networking for internships, jobs and career ideas on Friday as guests of more than 50 Bay Area businesses. Company Visits day, launched last year, is considered unique — Berkeley’s peer institutions don’t have a similar program during new student orientation.
As part of Golden Bear Orientation, groups of five to 100 transfer students were welcomed by 53 employers, including Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Cloudflare, Fisher Investments, KPMG, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, San Francisco Playhouse, the U.S. Department of State, Under Armour, Williams Sonoma and VISA.
“Transfer students come to Berkeley ready to start their career exploration,” explained Chrissy Roth-Francis, director of Berkeley’s New Student Services. “Many of them are very sure of their majors and career paths. We provide them with the opportunity to network with professionals — including alumni — in their industries.”
Achille Bocus, a history major who transferred to Berkeley from the College of Alameda, said his tour of Caliber: Beta Academy, a K-8 public school in Richmond, was “the best experience I had at GBO. Our group was small, so we had many opportunities to ask questions of the teachers and staff. The school’s ideas on education were very close to mine, and I hope to follow up with (Caliber).”
Companies gave tours of their workplaces, and some provided visits to off-site projects, formal presentations about their industries and panel discussions. Many began discussing internships and pre- and post-graduation jobs with students.
“Coming from a community college and working hard to get into a prestigious school like Berkeley says something about the character of these transfer students; they have that drive we’re looking for,” said Lynn Bass, human resources generalist at Overaa Construction, which hosted four students. “At the end of the visit, all of them thought they could see themselves as project engineers within the construction industry. I asked them to send me their résumés and to think of me as an industry contact.”
“We love Berkeley,” said Bass, adding that Overaa, based in Richmond, has Berkeley alumni on its team and has done several construction projects on campus. “We’re ready to put the date of next year’s company visits on our calendar.”
Other transfer student activities during Berkeley’s seven-day orientation (Aug. 15-21) included a networking mixer and dinner for 1,000 students and 100 alumni, as well as Cal to Career Connection, an event where Career Center counselors shared tips with transfers on how to tap resources in the broader Berkeley community for career advancement.
Transfer students interested in Company Visits read about the event online before GBO and then sign up for the company they most want to tour. “It’s first-come, first-served,” said Roth-Francis, adding that “the spots at Lawrence Berkeley Lab fill up within just a few hours.”
Robert Quach was one of eight students who chose Wilson Ihrig, an acoustics, noise and vibration consulting firm in Emeryville. “The topic of noise reduction in the environment is intriguing to me,” he explained.
The visit included short presentations about Wilson Ihrig’s projects, discussion about the interdisciplinary and interactive nature of consulting and a chance for the students to work with the instrumentation used in the company’s field work.
Students weren’t the only ones who benefited. “It’s a great experience for us to meet young people as they chart their careers,” said Deborah Jue, principal and CEO of Wilson Ihrig.
Quach’s biggest takeaway was that “you don’t need to work at a big-name company,” he said. “Wilson Ihrig is doing impactful, world-changing work with a team of under 40 people.”
Some students emerge from Company Visits with an even bigger takeaway: a job.
Sociology major Beatriz Cadenas, a transfer student from Solano Community College who took part in Company Visits last year, toured CollegeSpring. The national nonprofit, with a branch in Oakland, provides schools with mentors to help high school students prepare for the college SAT and ACT tests.
“I really believe there’s impact in mentoring students, particularly brown and black youth,” says Cadenas, who is Latina and the first in her family to go to college. “My parents didn’t have the tools or experience to mentor me in that arena, so I wanted to help.”
Cadenas was hired as one of 60 CollegeSpring mentors while still in school. On Saturdays, she helped juniors at Richmond High School with reading comprehension, essay writing and math, getting them ready for college admissions tests.
It’s too early to tell whether Berkeley transfer students will get permanent jobs after graduation from the companies they visited. None of those who have taken part is ready to graduate yet, and “landing a job as the result of the Company Visits has never been an expectation,” said Roth-Francis, “although we have heard anecdotally of some students getting internships or jobs while they’re in school.”
But New Student Services — in partnership with its alumni network and with the Career Center and its network of employers — does know that Company Visits is a hit. The list of students and businesses wanting to take part continues to grow.
“It’s a great idea, and my company visit was an awesome and helpful experience,” said Joshua Belich, a civil engineering major who was on the Overaa Construction tour. “We learned what type of projects the company has worked on, and we even toured an actual construction site. We were also able to meet people from the company and hear their experiences and perspectives.”
“Company Visits allowed us to see the bigger picture, in terms of where our areas of study can be applied,” he added. “It also provided us with the opportunity to make connections for internships or with potential future employers.”