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8 past grads share their secrets to success


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Every year, after the confetti has been swept, the caps have been thrown and the bleachers are packed away, graduates are ready to take a leap into the job hunt. For some, attaining a job in their desired fields after college takes a lot of time. For others, it’s a short journey to employment. We asked a few Cal State Long Beach alumni to share their experiences and advice on how to get a job and keep it.


Courtesy of Betty Chavarria
CSULB 2013 graduate Betty Chavarria has her bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in communication studies. She works as a designer for the Los Angeles Times.

How did you adjust from campus life to the work environment?

CHAVARRIA: “The only shock that came to me was when I realized spring break and summer break weren’t going to happen again in the working adult world. That was a bummer. But when you go from graduating to starting work right away like I did, there’s really no time to adjust. You’re just so excited and ready to enter the real world.”


What skills did you need to learn in the work environment that you didn’t learn at the university?

CHAVARRIA: “Office dynamics and varying personalities. It helps if you learn how different people work and learn to anticipate their needs.”


Courtesy of Criseida Serpas
CSULB 2010 graduate Criseida Serpas has a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising. She is a fashion designer and owns her own clothing line, Criseida Couture.

What skills did you need to learn in the work environment that you didn’t learn at the university?

SERPAS: “I did not know how to mass produce/manufacture for industry standards. I learned the hard way. Working the jobs in the factories behind the scenes that nobody wants. Lots of [the] time, new grads get internships just running errands [and] getting coffee. I got behind the scenes, got my hands dirty and made the contacts I need[ed] to get my own line produced.”  



Courtesy of Theresa Reyes
CSULB 2016 graduate Theresa Reyes has a bachelor’s in illustration/animation. She works as a Fix/Crowds animator at Pixar Studios.

Did the classes and programs at Cal State Long Beach best help you prepare for your career?

REYES: “Yes! After all, it was CSULB’s Animation Department that introduced me to this industry and made me fall in love with animation! The collaboration between the teachers and students there made it all the more inspiring. And even though I originally disliked juggling my GE classes with producing my senior film, having to do so challenged my work ethic and my determination to animate a project I believed in.”


What advice do you have for students who are graduating?

REYES: “First of all, be a good person. Kindness, patience, and humility go a long way. People would rather work with someone pleasant and willing to work hard than someone who’s extremely talented but difficult to be around. Second, believe in yourself! It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The only guaranteed rejection of your job/internship application is the one you never submit in the first place. Keep working hard toward your goal and send those applications–no one else is going to do it for you! And for the animation students: an internship isn’t the one and only way to get into the industry. I’ve met animators who started as security guards, DJs, or surgeons; people who didn’t even want to be an animator at first, and others who spent years sending applications to Pixar. And some who just so happened to be at the right place and the right time during an obscure chapter in their lives. Yet, we all found our way to one another. Work hard to earn your dream job, but please don’t give up when things are looking down.”


Courtesy of Taylor Bell
CSULB 2014 graduate Taylor Bell has a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in communication studies. She is a staff writer for ConsumerTrack.


Did the classes and programs at Cal State Long Beach best help you prepare for your career?

BELL: “Yes, some did. I had a class that was a television production class where I had to produce a show with a group of students and write for broadcast television. Another class, I had to go out and write a story/blog post each week. Both classes exposed me to the adrenaline of reporting and writing on a deadline that I needed to have exposure to. And also, these classes helped me discover myself as a writer. I’d never done anything related to journalism in high school so my college classes were my first exposure to that world so they were imperative in helping me understanding the foundation of being a journalist.

At the same time, ultimately, it’s up to each person to make the most of their time in school, so if you apply yourself and truly take advantage of your resources like your professors, the opportunities they offer, then you can get a lot back in return.”


What advice do you have for students who are graduating?

BELL: “Make a website that has your portfolio. This is invaluable. It’s not only going to be good for potential employers to see when you put it on a resume but it’s something that helps make networking a lot smoother. People can go to your website and look at all your skills and your accomplishments easily. It’s basically showcasing you and it’s a chance for you to build your brand and show people what you’re all about, so I highly recommend doing that as soon as possible.

Also, don’t bank everything on finding a job right away. That might not happen, so try to find ways to get involved in your career even if you don’t have a job in your field yet. If that means doing something for free or going to a networking event, then do it. Be flexible. Don’t be so rigid when it comes to your idea of what life should be like after college.”


Courtesy of Angela Ratzlaff
CSULB 2013 graduate Angela Ratzlaff has a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in film. She works as a social media producer at Southern California News Group.

What advice do you have for students still in school?

RATZLAFF: “I will say that my advice to students who are still in school, or about to start their senior year, is to get involved! There are so many cool opportunities at Cal State Long Beach and outside of school that can help prepare you for the professional world. Just reach out to your department to see what you can get involved in and do things outside of class. Going to class, getting a B and having a degree really isn’t enough to get a job these days, and I’m sure that those students may feel way more lost when they graduate. Getting involved in outside projects, at school or even at an internship or volunteer opportunity, is so so important and can help guide you on what step you want to take next.”


Courtesy of Robert Nehemiah
CSULB 2017 graduate Robert Nehemiah has a bachelor’s in drawing and painting. He is an artist who produces works on unconventional canvases including unprimed wood and cardboard.

Were the classes and programs that you took at CSULB really helpful in preparing for your career now?

NEHEMIAH: “In general, did they prepare me for leaving? No. But I was fortunate enough to have a small group of instructors who were ready to prepare us for that part. … I’d like to mention three particular instructors that helped. They would be Marie Thibeault, Tom Krumpak and Daniel Dove. I guess to be fair I think all of the instructors gave us what we needed, but these instructors in particular were aware of the struggle of our particular generation’s post-life, the economy what’s going on and the reality of being an artist today.”


What skills did you learn in the working environment that you didn’t learn at the university?

NEHEMIAH: “The importance of self-networking and association to friends. We’re not surrounded by art everyday anymore. We need to find it, to surround ourselves with it. I think it’s really important to make that connection. Once you’re out of school, what you do on your own time is everything. If you don’t go to art shows, if you’re not hanging out friends who make art, you’re not going to be around it. That’s one of the biggest things I kind of learned to do.”


Courtesy of Marie Cathcart
CSULB 2013 graduate Marie Cathcart has a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in political science. She works as a news writer for KTLA-5.

What skills did you need to learn in the work environment that you didn’t learn at the university?

CATHCART: “I needed to learn to develop thick skin. I quickly became aware of how cutthroat the industry is, or rather how cutthroat the people in the industry are. There are some folks in higher positions than you who will try to break you down by bullying and belittling you. Develop thick skin, focus on your craft and no one can touch you.

I also learned to adjust to working a 1:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. schedule. It’s been over four years and I feel like I’m still adjusting to that.”


What advice do you have for students who are graduating?

CATHCART: “If you don’t have a career job lined up yet, stay positive. Take a little break if you need to, but not for too long. Also, keep in touch with your professors, and don’t be afraid to reach out to them for help. There are countless instances where they have offered me advice and connections to industry professionals.”


Courtesy of Agnes Arnold
CSULB 2007 graduate Agnes Arnold has her master’s in business administration. She is a stay-at-home mom and a part-time Children’s Choir Director.

What skills did you need to learn in the work environment that you didn’t learn at the university?

ARNOLD: “Team projects can be rather tricky especially because there is almost always a freeloader in the group. In school, once the class is over, you don’t ever have to work with the freeloader again.  However, in life, sometimes you run in the same social circles and need to figure out how to juggle the work vs. personal relationship.”


What advice do you have for students who are graduating?

ARNOLD: “Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you need to know what you want to do the rest of your life. It’s okay that your degree is just part of your journey.”

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