How to Land a Keeper of a Career

Helen Oloroso’s professional development course helps MBP students sharpen their focus to reel in promising biotechnology internships and jobs.

Helen Oloroso’s Topics in Professional Development course for Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) could be thought of as a lesson in knowing when to fish.

Yes, you are technically fishing if you drop your line in the water when the fish are elsewhere, but it’s far more rewarding if you do so when a hungry school is waiting below.

For MBP students, that hungry school is made up of biotechnology companies looking for interns and full-time employees. Their lines are the skills they develop in Oloroso's class.

Helen Oloroso

“The content is designed to help students approach the entire job search,” Oloroso said. “It's all designed to have them hit the ground running right away in the fall when recruiting is at its peak.”

That means rapid-fire lessons on everything from developing a standout resume to constructing a great cover letter and honing top-flight interviewing skills. In addition to learning about the mechanics of career-focused growth, students also heard from industry leaders who discussed what they look for in potential interns and full-time hires.

Their messages were promising for MBP students.

“One of the things I think was very encouraging for the students is that companies are saying, ‘We have openings, please apply,’” Oloroso said. “That gave the students a great deal of promise for their ability to translate this degree into opportunities.”

The road to those opportunities is paved with two intertwined points of emphasis in the class: Networking and internships. Oloroso, who taught this course for the first time this fall but has led a similar one for undergraduate students since 2007, is also the assistant dean and director for Northwestern Engineering's Office of Career Development. She, more than most people, understands the value of internships and the role networks can play in professional success.

Good networks can lead to great jobs. Oloroso explained that when the majority of biotech employers look to fill a position, the first place they look for great talent is within their own network.

Internships, meanwhile, can help students better define their career path — or, in fishing terms, decide if they enjoy catching the kind of fish in the pond where they are dropping their line.

“The internship is just so important," she said. "It gives the student a kind of clarity that you can't get any other way,” Oloroso said. “It's that opportunity in a pretty safe environment to get out there and start networking professionally in the workplace, do the work, see the relevance of what you're learning, and make some important decisions.”

Internships also introduce students to more industry professionals, thereby expanding their network.

Oloroso is optimistic about her students' chances at success. By combining the lessons learned in her class with the opportunities available within biotechnology, she believes MBP students have the potential to be differentiators in the industry for years to come.

“Biotechnology is at the forefront of all different life forms,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities for MBP graduates. There's much more of a need than people might realize.”

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