Developing Personally and Professionally

One MBP course is focused on professional development and giving students the knowledge to succeed throughout their careers.

By Natalie Champagne

When you hear the term "professional development," what does it mean to you?

From my perspective, "professional development" means learning new skills that will enhance your career. Progressing is an important part of it, too. As humans, we're not meant to be stagnant. We always should be open to learning so we can become better and accomplish different types of professional or personal goals.

I teach a professional development course for the Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP), and I am honored to teach various topics in professional development such as personal branding, networking 101, and interviewing techniques. MBP understands the value of soft skills and that’s why my class was created. In addition to my course, the students take team dynamics and leadership, and responsible conduct of research.

The fact that we have these three separate courses embedded into the curriculum is different from other universities that have a biotechnology program. Yes, we're a very technical program, but we want to prepare our students — many of whom are coming straight from undergrad — to become professionals who understand how to work with others and succeed in virtually any workplace.

It is in the best interest of our students that they are prepared both technically and professionally. Additionally, employers in the industry are looking for new professionals who are able to work in teams, manage difficult situations and people, and still produce. Yes, new professionals need to understand science, which is crucial in order to get hired, however, being able to stand out in an interview and ultimately have longevity professionally takes more than technical skills.

My professional development course is a two-quarter course. The first part of the course focuses on basics I think students need to understand, topics like how to write a resume and cover letter or how to maneuver in LinkedIn. The second part of the class builds on those first topics and features far more conversations about how to brand yourself (and yes, I think each and every one of us is our own brand), tips on networking and finding a job or internship.

Another topic that we focused on recently is intercultural diversity. Our student body is diverse, and having candid conversations about diversity is important. Showing students how to deal with people who may be different from them is essential in the biotechnology job market.

The McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University has adopted this thought. "It takes a different way of thinking to connect disparate fields, put big ideas into action, solve global problems, and imagine what’s next. It takes left-brain analytical skills. It takes right-brain creativity. It takes whole-brain engineering."

MBP has adopted the idea of whole-brain engineering by preparing technical savvy professionals who are professionally trained for the workplace.

Natalie Champagne is the Assistant Director of External Relations & Career Management for Northwestern University's Master of Science in Biotechnology (MBP) program.