Susan Cass' Career Moves

Advancing At Berkeley: Susan Cass' Career Moves

Susan Cass

What roles have you had throughout your time at Berkeley? 

I started at Berkeley in 2000 as a Student Affairs Officer in the College of Natural Resources, from there I moved on to serve as a College Adviser and a Project/Policy Analyst in the College of Letters and Science, then as an Executive Assistant to the Dean, and Coordinator of Policy and Strategic Initiatives in the College of Environmental Design, then back to Letters and Science as Coordinator of Educational Policy, and now as Manager of the Central Evaluation Unit in the Division of Student Affairs.

Similar to your trajectory more people are currently advancing along varied directions that comprise a “lattice,” instead of strictly “up the corporate ladder.” What factors do you think helped you grow and switch positions successfully?

Very early in my time here, I got involved in a Community of Practice as well as Berkeley Staff Assembly (BSA); sought out training/education programs such as project management workshops; and volunteered to serve on campus committees. Then later on, I completed the ‘Women and Leadership’ Extension program and the Berkeley Catalyst program. All of these activities introduced me to staff across various campus units, and in turn gave others the opportunity to get to know me -- both of which served me well in developing valuable skills (and knowledge unique to Berkeley) and in switching positions (both within a unit -- which I’ve done twice -- and to new units). 

What challenges did you face when seeking your next opportunity and how did you overcome them?

Applying to several positions and not getting the interview! Several times I’ve had to step back and realize that I could do better in tapping into my network while conducting the job search. When I took the time to reconnect with a colleague to share my goals and interests in moving on to a new position, it did pay off. Either I received valuable feedback that resulted in an adjustment to my resume/cover letter, or that person spoke about me as a potential candidate with the hiring unit.

What do you do to keep growing as a professional? 

As a result of my participation in various programs, classes, and trainings, I have a wonderful community of colleagues that I meet with regularly either one-on-one or in small groups and through these exchanges, I troubleshoot current challenges, or learn about a valuable resource for my growth and development. 

I also participate on interview committees when asked -- it is a good networking opportunity and it has always helped me glean a tidbit or two that improves my resume or interview skills.

Read this article on how to do an informational interview. See more tips on the Wisdom Café homepage.  

What was the most motivating thing someone told you on your career journey?

Many years ago, I attended a ‘new professionals’ workshop sponsored by a higher education organization, and one of the panelists spoke about her goal in becoming a ‘higher education generalist’ rather than focusing solely on any one job ‘family’ within the campus. This stuck with me as I knew for certain I wanted a career in higher education, but was very unsure about committing to a particular career track. I realized I could create a path of my own by focusing my next career move on opportunities from any area of campus that required the skills and knowledge I enjoyed most, rather than limiting myself to advance to the next level within a very particular campus function or program. As a result, I’ve worked on several campuses, in a variety of units including residential life, orientation, admissions, academic advising, dean’s administration, faculty regulations/policy, and student systems. At this point in my career, I believe I have evolved as a highly skilled generalist that could contribute to any number of roles on campus, and at the same time I have acquired a body of specialized knowledge that is of most interest to me -- which I draw upon daily! 

Any final words of wisdom to staff looking to grow their careers at UC Berkeley?

Get involved in campus life -- particularly with an organization or initiative that is outside of your immediate job role. If there is a campus colleague that you correspond with often via email -- but never met in person -- meet them in person!!! Attend a campus wide event -- for example a public lecture, or charter day celebration, or faculty senate division meeting. Take advantage of courses/workshops available from UC Extension or LinkedIn Learning. Participate in at least one NOW Conference -- and/or view the workshops that are posted online from the event. Take a ‘Be Well at Work’ course. Sign up for Workfit. Bring a kid to Cal Day. Look at Wisdom Cafe at least once a month. All of these activities are a terrific benefit to us as campus staff and will increase your exposure to opportunities, and your network.

If you’d like to advance your career with today’s methods read about the corporate lattice model- here

Susan Cass is the Manager of the Central Evaluation Unit within the Division of Student Affairs. She’s been a part of the UC Berkeley community for 18 years. To follow up with her about her success connect with her on LinkedIn.

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