On February 13th of 2020, the O’Brien Center for Career Development hosted its first-ever Ask an Employer: Life Sciences event in the newly named Palmisano Hall. The event allowed students to discover companies and available opportunities in a variety of industries, as well as connect and converse with several professionals about the realities of the working world. Distinct from other Ask an Employer events, the O’Brien Center introduced the Ask an Employer: Life Sciences event as an experience specifically for life science students and companies. Employer representatives and recruiters from Pfizer Inc., Charles River Laboratories, GENEWIZ and EMD Serono readily awaited the opportunity to speak with ardent Merrimack students hoping to expand their networks and receive vital information to aid in the advancement of their career development.
Unlike most other events hosted by the O’Brien Center for Career Development, the Ask an Employer: Life Sciences event offers a unique opportunity for students to explore companies in the life science industry in an informal setting, alleviating students of nerves and pressures of more structured career events. One of the students in attendance, Taylor Hunt, Class of 2021 with a double major in psychology and biology, particularly notes the encouragement of the event’s laid-back environment to foster a networking experience; “it’s been so easy to network with the companies [in attendance], [which is] especially important since I’ve been looking for a summer internship”, Hunt expresses. “I’ve really liked a lot of the companies I’ve met so far, and they’ve all talked with me about what I want to do to help guide and direct me towards the types of internships I should be looking for in their companies.” She continues to emphasize the value of the interpersonal aspect of the event in allowing her to create one-on-one connections with employers and learn about essential career and transformational skills.“It was really nice to be able to put a friendly face to a company. [The employers I’ve met have all] had a lot of great advice for how to apply and stand out for certain positions, and what employers are really looking for in prospective interns and employees,” Hunt states.
Employers in attendance also enjoyed the casual atmosphere of the event and noted opportunities to explore potential hires and develop first impressions of future applicants. Jeanne Tran, scientist for Pfizer Inc., comments of the event, “[This event is a] good opportunity for employers to get to know the Merrimack students who are potential candidates [for our open positions], just as much as it’s a great opportunity for students to get a feel for each of the companies’ cultures.” Beyond the benefit for students to make connections with industry professionals, Tran further explains the importance of on-campus events in allowing employers to get to know students as well. She concludes, “[Events such as the Ask an Employer] are also good for us to associate names to the students and put faces to the applications.”
Representatives from Charles River Laboratories, Human Resources Representative Nancy Burke and Technologist Stephen Girard, also encourage students to take advantage of events such as the Ask an Employer: Life Sciences event, particularly in the events’ ability to aid students in the search for their next internship or experiential learning opportunity. “It’s important for students to be proactive in getting their names out there in the community,” Burke states when prompted about the significance of attending on-campus events. She further maintains that, “proactive students [who attend networking events] have a better chance of finding an opportunity than they would from just applying to positions online. It’s all about meeting people and talking about how [prospective interns and employees] can help us, and how and what our company can do to help them as well.” Both Burke and Girard especially conveyed the necessity for students to make the most of their attendance to career and professional development events, and assured students against feeling held back by their nerves and other reservations. “Students should know they can ask as many questions as they want, and can ask specific questions about the jobs they think they’re most interested in pursuing,” Burke reveals. Girard furthers Burke’s statement, urging students, “don’t be afraid [to approach us and initiate conversation] – recruiters want to talk to you as much as you want to talk to them!”
Although the Ask An Employer: Life Sciences event certainly serves as a casual event for students and employers alike, students should nevertheless consider the event a valuable opportunity to practice their transformational skills and professional pitches. Hunt particularly stressed the necessity for students to prepare for any professional event on- and off-campus. “I definitely think [interested students] should come [to on-campus events], and have a little something prepared at the very least to introduce yourself, know what you’re looking for, and have questions you may want to ask the [employers in attendance] to try to find out more about the company,” Hunt imparts upon her fellow students. “One of the best ways to prepare beforehand is to make sure your resume is complete and up-to-date before you come [to any professional event] so you can apply right away – and to say thank you [to the employers you met]!” Burke and Girard too supported Hunt’s comment of the power of following up with companies that students take particular interest in, especially in order to effectively communicate their curiosity further and to reap the benefits of the connections they’ve made.
The Ask an Employer: Life Sciences event offered an essential opportunity for students to create vital connections with recruiters and potential employers, explore the positions available to them in a variety of the life sciences industry, and increase their chances for employment, furthering the development of their careers. Although the event has passed, the next opportunity to advance your career development lies just around the corner – RSVP on Handshake for the Spring Internship & Career Fair, hosted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2-4:30 PM in the Sakowich Campus Center! For more opportunities to advance the development and expansion of your career and network, see the full list of upcoming events here.
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021