Still only in his sophomore year at Merrimack College, civil engineering major Joseph Diaz ’22, earns quite a reputation for his mounting career accomplishments so early on in his undergraduate experience. Throughout his time at Merrimack, Diaz has made the conscious effort to prioritize his professional development and obtain as much experience in the working world as possible. Consistent visits to the O’Brien Center for Career Development to meet with his career advisor, Laura Thibodeau, has aided in Diaz’s ability to land two internship experiences to date with SPS New England for the summer of 2019 and New England Civil Engineering Corporation for the spring of 2020. Diaz continues to pave the way for his future career success within his position as an Engineer Technician Intern with New England Civil Engineering Corporation, and gains crucial hands-on opportunities each day to improve his skill set and further prepare him for the working world.
After his first internship experience with SPS New England as a Field Engineer Intern, Diaz fell in love with the office environment and hands-on work throughout the various job sites he experienced. He craved to get back into the working world and gain increased and diversified experience in his next position. Diaz decided to research the different organizations within his area in the hopes of discovering a company that may suit his interests. Soon, Diaz stumbled across the perfect organization for the work experience he desired most: the New England Civil Engineering Corporation. Yet, even after perusing the company’s website thoroughly for open opportunities, Diaz found no postings for an internship position. Diaz refused to become discouraged by the seemingly disheartening situation, and resolved to take advantage of a contact link listed upon the website to send along his resume, cover letter, and inquiries about internship opportunities. To Diaz’s surprise, he soon discovered, “the email happened to belong to the Project Engineer.” Diaz recalls, “about a day [after I sent my email, the Project Engineer] got back to me, and [he] asked me a few questions about my major and [my career interests]. After [the email exchange], the Project Engineer asked me to send along a couple of references, and we scheduled to have an interview about a week later.” Diaz forwarded the contact information of his references from his prior internship with SPS New England, and immediately planned his next appointment with Laura Thibodeau in preparation for his interview.Diaz emphasizes the key role his meetings with his career advisor play in increasing his confidence in his professionalism and preparing him for succeeding in interviews. “Laura has been extremely helpful in terms of editing my resume, helping me do job searches, and answering any questions I have as quickly as possible, whether it be over email or in-person during appointments or walk-in hours,” Diaz maintains. Diaz goes on to stress, “[Laura and] the O’Brien Center have helped me to prepare for multiple interviews by giving me tips on [how to stand out in the interview process], such as by researching the company thoroughly, coming up with questions to ask about the company [at the close of an interview], and how to self-reflect on my past experiences to come up with examples of how I would be able to apply my skill sets if I were to work with the company I am interviewing for.” Diaz further affirms the importance of learning how to expand and utilize a personal and professional network; advice he additionally received throughout his appointments with Thibodeau and various other career advisors during walk-in hours. Diaz details, “the O’Brien Center has helped me to practice my professional skills personally, physically, and socially. [Everyone at the O’Brien Center has especially] taught me how to prepare myself for networking with others effectively.” The practice and tips Diaz received from his visits to the O’Brien Center, as well as his admirable determination and ambition, provided him with the exact skills he needed in order to shine in his interview with New England Civil Engineering Corporation and land his current position.
As Diaz navigates his current position with New England Civil Engineering Corporation, he’s even more certain about his decision to pursue a career in field engineering upon graduation, and finds himself thrilled by the opportunities he receives within his internship. “I’ve been able to work on specification contracts, water sampling, field walks and reviews, perform GPS Surveying and work on transferring GPS data into GIS and AutoCAD…[and especially, I love] being able to learn how to use multiple softwares and being able to understand how they work,” Diaz reveals of the incredible involvement his internship allows him to possess within the company’s daily functions. Most importantly, Diaz feels he’s received vital networking practice and experience with real-world professionals, an irreplicable aspect of the working world compared to the classroom setting. Diaz reflects, “I’ve learned that being able to socialize with others, especially at work, is definitely key to creating a personal network of connections [to utilize in my future professional endeavors].”
Throughout his almost two years at Merrimack College and his various experiential learning opportunities, Diaz believes now more than ever in the necessity for students to take initiative in the advancement of their career development as soon as possible during their undergraduate experience. “I think that landing an internship during your freshman or sophomore year of college and gaining experience in your field of choice is an essential part of finding a job after college,” Diaz begins of his reasoning behind beginning his professional journey as early as his freshman year of college. “If I were to give out any advice to anyone, it would be to take time everyday to do some job searches on LinkedIn, Handshake, or even just searching up any companies close to your area.” Diaz further details his key to staying on top of the internship application process, encouraging his fellow students, “to also keep track of who you contact, where you apply to, and when they get back to you [regarding any next steps].” Beyond the application process and beginning the career development journey as early as possible, Diaz urges others to make the most of creating and taking advantage of a personal and professional network, particularly due to his own experiences in which his network has aided in the acceleration of the interview and hiring process. “[Especially for engineering majors, and current students in general, I’d advise students] to make as many connections as possible. The more connections you have, the more doors will open for you down the road. Using the O’Brien Center is the first big step in doing so!”
Diaz’s various internship experiences with New England Civil Engineering Corporation and SPS New England demonstrate the immense significance of taking advantage of your own personal career development journey throughout your undergraduate career, and the numerous benefits of beginning the journey as early as possible. As you progress throughout your academic career at Merrimack, remain mindful of the advancement of your professional development and the resources available to you both on- and off-campus.
Career advisors are still available remotely through Zoom, phone call, Google Docs, G-Chat, and any other mode of virtual communication – the choice is yours! Take the next step in your professional development journey and schedule an appointment with your career advisor through Handshake to discuss your unique career path.
Written By: Kerry Reynolds, Class of 2021