When the subject is Getting a Job After Graduation, there is no single or simple formula that will direct graduates to a coveted first job; many roads lead to success. One good place to start is the Career Center resource guide for graduate students (see below). Gathering advice from people who succeeded in landing their first job is another way to gain inspiration for your search.

This time we profile Tierra Bills, a doctoral candidate in the Transportation Engineering Program, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Tierra expects to file her dissertation by September and will begin a unique position with IBM Africa in October. For her, attending a “Research Job Talk”  on campus was crucial to landing a valuable first job.

In this recent interview with eGrad, Tierra shares the details of her successful journey from graduate school to the beginning of a successful career.

Image of Tierra Bills, doctoral candidate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Tierra Bills, doctoral candidate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

How did you get this job?
I attended an IBM Research job talk on campus back in March. After the presentation, I talked with the speakers about my skill set and inquired about potential job opportunities. I followed up via email with my cover letter and CV. The speakers forwarded my information around to IBM HR and I ended up getting interviews with the IBM Africa and Brazil labs. This probably sounds really simple, but this is exactly how it happened.  I accepted a research scientist position with IBM Research Africa, and will start on October 1st.

What will you do at IBM?
I will work in their “Smarter Cities” group, focusing on transportation issues. I have a particular interest in emerging data sources for travel modeling.

How is this position related to what you studied at UC Berkeley?
The focus will be similar to the work that I have done here at Berkeley, as my focus here is on travel demand modeling. The fundamental skill set for this includes microeconomics, econometrics, and statistics, which equate to strong data analysis skills.

One thing that everyone should do as a graduate student is ….
Invest in cultivating a professional network. This has proved invaluable for me.

Based on the success of your experience, what are three key steps a graduate student should do to land a good job after graduation?

  • Networking was, without a doubt, the most critical piece to my finding a position! Just talking with a few key people – faculty who sit on search committees, research directors in industry, my research advisor, alumni, other researchers who are familiar with my work, etc. – has made a world of difference for me.
  • Develop a web presence! This has proven to be critical as well. This was advice that I received from a few alumni of my department. It really helps to put information out on the web – personal webpage, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, etc. – highlighting the information that you want recruiters, potential employers or colleagues who will share your information with their network to know. This includes educational background, research experience and skill sets, research interests, and even some personal background such as hobbies, etc.
  • Do great conference presentations. These have really helped me to establish myself in my field. I always try to practice as much as I can so that I can do a good job with these presentations. I have found this to be really beneficial, as academics love to gossip (in my humble opinion). So if you do a great job, the word will surely spread — eventually to the right people.

What’s your ultimate career goal?
To join the tenure-track faculty at a major research university in Michigan, teach transportation courses, solve all of Detroit’s transportation-related problems, simultaneously save the city of Detroit, and win a Nobel prize for my great scientific contributions.

Career Guide

Image of Berkeley's Career Center Did you know that the UC Berkeley Career Center has a website loaded with great job resources for students?  Check out the links below and start planning your career now:

Employer Info Sessions
Every year, the Career Center advertises and facilitates hundreds of Employer Information Sessions on or near campus, often in conjunction with their On-Campus Recruiting (OCR) or Career Fairs. Learn about Employer Info Sessions.

Career Fairs and Forums
Meet with employers in an informal setting, and learn more about job and internship opportunities offered by companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations where you might like to work. Learn about Career Fairs and Forums.

Online Workshops
Need a workshop right now? Career Center offers online workshops that provide expert advice on job search resources, informational interviewing, networking and more. Watch the Career Center Online Workshops.

An internship is a wonderful and effective way to connect your academic experience with the professional work arena. It allows you to gain valuable exposure to the workplace, provides the opportunity for skill development, and gives you a competitive edge in the job search. Check out a special section on internships – including opportunities and tips – on the Career Center Website.