In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Claire Meurice, a PhD candidate in Pharmacology, was placed as a Fellow with Merck – Neuropharmacology. Read about Claire’s experience in the CEF below!
Describe your experience working with your host:
My host at Merck was very friendly and open to answer all my career-related questions. We discussed my motivations for entering R&D in a non-academic setting, as well as my interest in drug discovery for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. He then identified others for me to connect with to further discuss the roles and responsibilities held by people in different positions and neuroscience departments at Merck. I learned a lot about the drug discovery process and ways to develop my career, as I had also expressed interest in project management. I am thankful for everyone’s willingness to meet and help me better prepare for the next steps in my career.
What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?
As I interacted with multiple people at Merck, I asked about why they chose their particular career path and their opinions on my career aspirations. These conversations forced me to more clearly identify my career goals while also teaching me valuable interviewing and networking skills. I also learned about additional career development opportunities that I plan to pursue after my PhD.
How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?
The CEF experience helped me make connections with people to whom I would have been too nervous to reach out. The conversations that I had helped me to establish and prepare for the next steps in my career, while removing some of the anxiety I had about taking those next steps. Now I also understand that informational interviews are not out of the ordinary, and the CEF experience has given me more confidence in using linked-in on my own to connect with people in positions or companies that interest me.
What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?
Providing me the opportunity to network with successful scientists in my field of interest was the most valuable part of my CEF experience. In particular, getting feedback from those same scientists on how to craft the best resume and amend my linked-in profile to make me more appealing to recruiters were invaluable aspects of the CEF experience.
Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:
PhD students should apply to CEF if they are unsure about their career trajectory and/or feel like they need additional help in making their linked-in or resume appropriate for a non-academic career.