As Erin Pacheco, Class of 2019, prepares to walk the stage and receive her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration with a Double Concentration in Management and Marketing this December, she will enter the working world with the very thing all college graduates hope to achieve: a guaranteed position in the industry and company of her dreams. After much deliberation, Erin chose to take what she depicts as a “leap of faith” to pursue a full-time, semester-long co-op with TJX Companies in Framingham, Massachusetts, the parent corporation of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and several other popular subsidiaries.
Throughout her years at Merrimack College, Erin acquired significant skills from her internship and leadership positions, currently serving as the President of the Sport Management club. Nevertheless, she felt indecisive in her future career path. The O’Brien Center for Career Development’s Director of Employer Relations, Brian Berkeley, suggested Erin consider the role of a co-op experience, an opportunity much like a paid internship operating full-time during the year, to help mitigate her indecision. While the opportunity attracted Erin, she felt hesitant in putting her education on hold; “I heard about the TJX co-op position, and I was so nervous to go two hours away to Framingham and graduate a semester later,” Erin recalls. “Katie Fell, a [Liberal Arts] Career Advisor at the O’Brien Center, really gave me the push to apply. Her advice stuck with me when all I could think about was getting behind in school and how afraid I was to move. She just kept saying, ‘you can do anything for six months, it’s only temporary. You can do it, and it’ll be so worth it in the end.’ I wouldn’t have had the guts to take a semester off and apply without that encouragement, and I wouldn’t have absorbed so much about the industry in a position that wasn’t as immersive.”
With Katie’s and Brian’s advice and encouragement in tow, Erin applied for the co-op position with TJX in Merchandising as an Allocation Analyst. In preparation, Erin headed straight to the O’Brien Center to refine her resume and cover letter in order to ensure her skills and personality would stand out in print; “I definitely harp on the fact that it’s so important to constantly update your resume and cover letters so that they’re as perfect as possible. Especially with your cover letter, that’s your chance to explain who you are, where you’re coming from, and your passion for the company or what you’re applying for. It’s crucial [to have a well-done cover letter] because you can’t always get that opportunity to be face-to-face with someone first.”
Erin comments that in addition to a distinct resume and cover letter, proper interview preparation is essential. In her own experience, she recalls, “[the co-op applicants and I] had to use Hirevue, which is similar to Quinncia from the O’Brien Center’s website,” Quinncia allows students to practice their interview skills with AI technology. “[The platform] asked us automated sample questions, I would respond, and then I could see how I did. I think it helped that I had that practice beforehand, because I could get comfortable with interviewing that way.” With her stand-out resume, cover letter and polished interview skills, Erin rose to the top of the applicant pool, offering and accepting the co-op position.
While Erin values every experience she’s had, she maintains an emphasis on the momentous effects co-op positions can present to students. She recalls, “[in my position] I actually got to make business driving decisions based on selling…and function as a regular analyst. I could be fully immersed in the culture of the organization and get a real feel for the workload I’d be doing after graduation and what it was like being in the real world. A co-op let me focus more and not have to worry about balancing between an internship and school at the same time.” Such an engrossing role allowed Erin to realize how her passion for the retail industry could align with her major through merchandising. She states, “I always knew I liked fashion and retail, but I didn’t know how marketing or management fit into that…TJX actually looks for business majors too for Merchandising positions, because they can look at things from a different perspective than just a creative perspective.” Since her co-op experience allowed Erin to thoroughly demonstrate her outstanding capabilities in her fit for the position and within the company culture, TJX offered Erin a full-time position as an Allocation Analyst upon her graduation in December of this year.
As Erin wraps up her final semester at Merrimack College and prepares to work full-time with TJX in February of 2020, she reflects on all that her co-op experience allowed her to learn. She increasingly places emphasis on students to take any chance to develop their career exploration and success, no matter how daunting it may seem; “I’ve learned that sometimes it’s really important to take your head out of the books for a second and think about where you’re going with your education, and how what you’re learning applies in the real world. It’s not just about understanding the information in class, you need to take that next step with an internship or co-op to see how what you’re learning in school applies to what you can do in the real world, and where you want to go with it.”
Erin’s decision to take on a different and immersive experience exemplifies how beneficial it is for students to consider every opportunity for career growth and development. The ability to take control of a future career resides in your desire to seek out the best means of exploration for you – and, sometimes, in a simple leap of faith.
Interested in exploring a co-op position like Erin? TJX and many other companies are hiring! Head on over to Handshake today to find open positions and opportunities that are available to you!
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021