From Student to Staff: Jacqueline Chang

January 31, 2024

“Student-to-Staff” is a series featuring stories from Cal alumni who are now career employees in One IT. This series was created to show the importance of investing in our student staff, and how vital their work is to the university and its mission.

Jacqueline Chang began her journey at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate student. Two cross-country moves and two degrees later, she’s back at Berkeley. Read about her journey. 

Jacqueline ChangWhat led you to apply for your first student position at UC Berkeley? What was the title of the position, and what was the application process like? 

My first job was as a tutor through BUILD, back then the acronym stood for Bears United in Literacy Development but now it’s called Berkeley United in Literacy Development. It was a work-study position through the public service center. I was a freshman at the time and I remember thinking, “I should get a job, but I don’t have any job skills. I’m good at school and I’ve tutored before, so maybe I can be a tutor!” I was interested in education and education policy and I was considering a career in education - so it seemed like a good fit. I don’t remember much about the application process. I think I submitted a resume and that was that.

Did you stay in that position for a while, or did you move to other positions on campus during your time as a student?

I was in that position for my freshman and sophomore years. By junior year I decided to take a different path in my career interests. I ended up declaring nutritional science, so I started looking for positions in healthcare and research. I ended up in a work-study position with the Center for Weight and Health (which is now called the Nutritional Policy Institute). I also had a few off-campus jobs. 

Jacqueline ChangDo you have any tips for how students can balance the time and energy demands of balancing school and a job?

I work a lot with students currently and I remember when I’d get advice as a student. A lot of people said, “Don’t stress so much.” And I refused to listen! I put a lot of pressure on myself back then to have my whole future figured out. For that reason, I felt I needed to pack my schedule (with multiple jobs, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, studying, and trying to have a social life). Every hour of my life was scheduled. In retrospect, I don’t regret participating in these activities, but I also acknowledge that I had to sacrifice my physical and mental well-being. I sacrificed sleep, emotional health, mental health, etc. If I could go back and tell myself something, it would be, “Stop for a second and take an inventory of everything you’re doing and ask yourself, ‘What’s meaningful, enjoyable, and helpful? And which activities are not worth your time? Which are redundant?’” College is the time to try new things. If you don’t like it, then stop doing it and do something else! Don’t be afraid to let go of things that no longer fit into your life, because the truth is - you only have so much time in a day. 

Do you feel your time as a student worker prepared you for full-time employment? If so, how? 

In some ways, it did because it taught me to manage my time. When I started working at the research center, I learned how to ask for opportunities. Initially, the job was data entry. But because I was able to be in proximity with all these brilliant minds I was able to have conversations like, “Hey, I’m interested in learning more about the research process. Is there anything more I can get involved with?” Through that conversation, I was offered a fellowship that then-President Napolitano had launched, and it was very unexpected. I learned that it doesn’t hurt to knock on doors and ask for what you want. 

Jacqueline ChangHow did you come to work at Berkeley full-time? 

After graduating from Berkeley, I attended a Master of Public Health (MPH) program in North Carolina. Toward the end of that program, I saw a job posting for a project policy analyst in the Office of Undergraduate Advising at Berkeley. At the time, I was very interested in this developmental period of college (the 19-26 age range), from a public health perspective. I also thought it would be fun to be back at Berkeley, so I applied - even though it was a bit outside the realm of Public Health. I ended up getting the position shortly after I graduated, in 2019! It was meant to be a one-year contract. I planned to get my foot in the door at Berkeley, then I’d transition out of it. They ended up converting my contract position to a career position in February 2020, just before my contract was set to expire in March - then the pandemic hit! So I stayed put, of course, and I was in that position for a little over two years. I enjoyed working in the UC Berkeley ecosystem, so I applied for another job on campus - project policy analyst with SAIT. I still hold that position today.  

What do you enjoy the most about working at UC Berkeley? 

What I like most about Berkeley is the environment. I have a personal tie to the campus and I still enjoy working with students. I think it’s refreshing and exciting to hear what they’re learning and be in proximity to the students and the rich thought life on campus, not to mention the resources we have access to. 

What advice do you have for students who are considering a career with UC Berkeley? 

Do your homework and try, as much as you can, to understand the role that you are applying for. When you’re in the position, identify what projects you’re working on and map out a concrete timeline. Otherwise, you can have a lot of thoughts and projects floating around, without ever getting anything done. Advocate for yourself. Be clear on what your priorities are and what your scope is. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What is this contributing towards? Why am I doing this? Why is our department doing this? Is this more important than the other work I have?” Be open, flexible, and willing to try something new.