Honing Their Skills for Success in the Workplace

Sixty Merrimack seniors received a crash course in career planning last week at the college's semiannual Professional Development Retreat at the Battery Wharf Hotel in Boston.

Sponsored by the O’Brien Center for Career Development, in partnership with Merrimack’s College Leadership Council and the Office of the President, the two-day event was designed to help students better understand the problem-solving, communication, teamwork, networking and adaptability skills they’ll need to flourish in the workplace.

Through a fast-paced and comprehensive curriculum, students heard from distinguished speakers, engaged in interactive learning sessions and networked with an impressive group of industry experts, including members of the leadership council, board of trustees, Merrimack faculty and staff, and corporate partners. The program included a self-awareness assessment, group problem-solving challenges and exercises aimed at enhancing public-speaking skills.

Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive.

“I’m shy in social settings,” said Andrea Ahearn ’18, a human development major who plans to pursue a career in higher-education development and gift operations. “My current internship supervisor said this would be a great way to build confidence in my public-speaking skills.”

Will Druid ’18, a marketing major, said he was excited by the opportunity to network with successful professionals from a range of industry sectors.

“I want to learn the groundwork for networking, and I’m looking forward to using this experience to get more confident in my interview skills,” said Druid.

Mary Tinebra ’82, U.S. growth leader and senior partner at Mercer, delivered the opening keynote address, in which she shared some personal and professional reflections of her career journey. Noting she lost out on a job early in her career by appearing unsure during the interview process, she urged the students to project confidence when speaking with prospective employers.

“The key,” she said, “is to focus on authenticity, maintain high levels of energy and connect them with confidence.”

Following the keynote, students completed a StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment to better understand their personal and professional tendencies. These findings are key as students worked side-by-side with industry and College representatives on workplace scenarios that tested their reactions to various challenges throughout the program, from problem-solving scenarios to crafting personal elevator pitches in advance of the evening’s networking reception.

College Leadership Council member Michael Loiacano ’95, partner and head of the healthcare services practice at Heidrick & Struggles, also worked with the students on confidence building.

“We took the Gallop (StrengthsFinder 2.0) test today as part of this project, and we realized that a lot of these young students didn’t realize what their personal or leadership DNA was,” he said. “They were pleasantly surprised in what they found out about themselves.”

Associate Professor of Psychology Christina Hardway, meanwhile, worked with students to advance their emotional intelligence and strengthen essential soft skills.

“My job in the classroom context is to help my students become more aware of themselves as learners,” she said. “I also think it’s really important to find meaningful work after college and even while you are going through college. So if I can get my students to the point where they can understand what they are doing in the classroom and how it connects to the bigger parts of their lives, then I think I will have done what I need to do as a professor.”

Brian Downer ’87, chief procurement officer at State Street Corp., spoke for many of the corporate participants by stressing the importance of the two-day retreat.

“By learning from industry experts and college alumni, faculty, and staff, the students gain the critical skills they’ll need to enter the workforce with confidence and a real sense of how they perform under pressure,” he said.

Added Jim Scammon ’83, chief financial officer at Bose Corp., “The Professional Development Retreat is a game-changer. This career program helps prepare students for today’s workplace through college staff and alumni working with them to develop skills that ignite their confidence in public speaking, interviewing and networking.”

The retreat was sponsored by The Zatta Career and Professional Development Innovation Fund, Huron Consulting Group, Patriot Energy Group, PROCON, State Street Foundation, Guggenheim Partners, WinterWyman, Enterprise Bank, Micros Northeast, Robert Zatta ’71, Louis A. Frate II ’91, Brian J. Downer ’87, Joanna Catalucci ’88 and Vincent J. Ragucci, III ’86.


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