John Cobb, Class of 2020 and majoring in Biology with a minor in Religious and Theological Studies, certainly began his sophomore year at Merrimack College with quite a lively semester ahead of him as a member of the Austin Scholars program, the Stevens Learning Center E-Board, and a position as a private biology tutor. Still, despite his mounting accomplishments on campus, John felt he was missing vital hands-on experience in the biotechnology industry. As his senior year grew ever nearer, John decided to take the first step towards his career success and head over to the O’Brien Center for Career Development and meet with his Career Advisor for the School of Science and Engineering, Laura Thibodeau.
John recalls his semesters of preparation leading up to his spring internship as a BioMedicine Design intern with Pfizer, stating, “I heard about it from a professor, and I met with Laura about my resume and how to get an internship at the end of last year. I found out that a lot of the summer and even fall internships were already booked, so Laura recommended I start looking for the coming spring semester. Once the position for the spring was posted, I applied on Handshake right away. So, it’s definitely important to start as early as you can to find an internship.”
Once John applied for an internship position at Pfizer, he began to take the necessary steps towards ensuring his ability to secure the position once he received a notification regarding his interview schedule. While John felt confident in the strength of the resume he and Laura had developed, he knew the importance of practicing the interview process in order to conduct himself appropriately. He recalls, “I was really fortunate to be able to meet with [my career advisor, Laura,] before the interview. She really helped me to build up some of that confidence, and give me more information on how to apply for these kinds of things. Your career advisor is definitely the most valuable resource there is.”
As a first-generation college student, John thrived in the multitude of knowledge he was presented with while interning at Pfizer. John possesses a keenness to learn all that he can from those around him, including both the demands of a position as well as the nature of the working world. While the opportunities of handling new machinery and being immersed in the industry itself certainly enthused John, he recalls an even greater significance to his career development attributable to his internship with Pfizer: his colleagues. He specifically recounts that, “my supervisor was great to talk to too. She was a recent graduate herself, and she had a lot to talk to me about what I should do after I graduate, if I should go for my masters, and where I could fit myself in [the biotech industry]. You definitely don’t get that from just your classes.”
While his determination and attentiveness to academia plays a considerable role in his impressive feats, John further attributes his success to the events and services made available through the O’Brien Center for Career Development. He specifically names the Professional Development Retreat in aiding him in refining his professional skills beyond those he cultivated in his hands-on experience with Pfizer. He insists, “I would definitely recommend it to any junior and senior. To everyone I knew who didn’t apply, I was just like, ‘you gotta do this’, because it’s just so helpful. It made me a lot more confident with how to network, and made it all a lot less awkward, especially in meeting and reaching out to alumni in both in my field and from other fields.” John stresses that the ability to network and connect with alumni is a skill that is simply indispensable in navigating the working world. The power of meaningful connections and being able to convey your skills and experiences can transcend even the most comprehensive resume. John continues, “I remember at the Professional Development Retreat, I really hit it off with this one guy from an entirely different field, and we were just laughing and really able to connect. It’s really cool to see how much alumni really want Merrimack students to succeed.”
As John enters his senior year at Merrimack, he assures he feels confident and prepared to enter the working world upon his graduation. While he wraps up this summer at his second experiential learning opportunity acquired from a connection he created with a Merrimack alumni, he reflects gratefully upon his diligence and calculated use of campus resources to pave the way for his successful career development. John finalizes his observations in stating, “the power of networking with former Merrimack students and using the O’Brien Center is something I’ve really taken advantage of in the last few years, and it’s something that I think will really help me when I graduate next year. I think a lot of students when they graduate have a lot of anxiety for finding a job and not knowing where to look, so I think just having more knowledge about that stuff from the O’Brien Center just puts your mind at ease.”
John’s experiences encapsulate the immense significance of preparing for career success in manners that extend beyond an initial creation of a resume. The path to career success involves constant development in your connection with others, as well as in your confidence in your skills, experiences, and abilities. The resources you need to succeed are available to you on campus — all you need to do is take that first step.
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021