Although COVID-19 has upended career trajectories and challenged internship and job searches, it certainly has been no excuse for Merrimack College students to make their career and professional development a priority. On Saturday, November 14th, the O’Brien Center for Career Development hosted its first ever, virtual conference, the Skills Development Summit. This day-long, virtual event was an opportunity for students to help navigate the tumultuous job landscape as many of them prepare for graduation this December and May 2021.
With representation from almost every college at Merrimack and a wide range of majors and interests, these 28 students began the day with a presentation featuring Sarah Viner, Customer Success Manager from LinkedIn’s LinkedIn Learning. Sarah’s engaging and informative presentation set the stage for the summit, teaching students how to take their LinkedIn profiles to the next level by utilizing countless LinkedIn Learning videos. From LinkedIn-specific job search strategies, to turning an internship into a job to pitching yourself, these video recommendations were just the start of using online technologies to prep students for their professional development.
For the majority of the day, Merrimack Warriors created a COVID-proof career plan based on exploration into their majors and identification of skills to pursue as they relate to live labor-market data. Students used online technologies like AWATO, What Can I Do With This Major, Burning Glass Technologies and LinkedIn Learning to develop a 3-year skills pursuit plan and identify their goals to stay on track for career success. Cobbina Appiah ’21, communication and media major, also found the blend of technologies helpful in preparing for his career. “As a Senior going in my last semester of college next year, it is utterly important that I would take the time to not only find each and every opportunity in the market, but it is best to get it done sooner rather than later. I am taking the skills that’s reliable in my experiences and building them off through my work, like my portfolio, my company, Spinmaster Media, and so forth.”
Along with a heavy focus on skill development and career planning, students also received a healthy dose of advice around LinkedIn Learning, resume writing, mock and informational interviewing preparation, and industry-specific job and internship search techniques. Audrey Regan ’21, human development and human services major, was among one of the attendees at the summit. “My favorite part of the event had to be that each session incorporated personalized segments that each participant could relate to in some form or fashion. Even though everyone came in looking for different takeaways from the event, I think the variety of content within the sessions helped keep us engaged throughout the day. I really liked being able to explore careers that I am interested in using the variety of resources the O’Brien Center had for us. I was looking directly at sources that told me how many open positions there are in my town for the career I want, the top skills needed for the position, and more. It was awesome!”
At the conclusion of the event, students were issued a digital credential around career management that was prominently displayed on LinkedIn profiles. Earning skills like critical self-assessment, professional communication, self-advocacy, and upskilling, Merrimack Warriors are ready to draw upon their strengths, skills and experiences to articulate a professional brand and land an internship or job despite COVID-19’s setbacks. Although the hope is to continue the summit in-person when it is safe to do so, the virtual event was nonetheless impactful for students in the development of their skills and careers.
Looking for ways to make your career a priority during COVID-19? Start your game plan by booking an appointment with your career advisor to get started!