Three Clark alums joined the Career Connections Center and the School of Management for a Career Exploration Week panel to share how an educational background in psychology has helped them manage teams in a wide range of industries and areas, from public health and pharmaceuticals development to fashion retail to corporate-level management and human resources.
Zach Walsh ’16, MBA ’17, the human resources manager at NIC+ZOE; Sehar Mahmood ’08, senior manager, solutions squad lead, and project manager at Pfizer; and Jacklyn Mellen ’04, executive development/learning and development manager/marketing at The TJX Companies returned to Clark for the “Psychology in Business” panel on Oct. 19. They explained how a degree in psychology can help with social understanding in the workplace and provide a unique insight on workplace relationships.
“People will bring things to you whether they’re work-related or not,” Walsh said about working in human resources. He joined NIC+ZOE, a women’s fashion company, after beginning his career at a big company that left him feeling displeased with the large scope of work. He wanted a career where he could make a direct impact. His background in psychology, Walsh said, helps him encourage employees to bring their genuine personalities into the workplace and feel comfortable.
“Know what kind of business you want to work for and really stick to that,” he said. “That’s something you don’t want to compromise on.”
The panelists told the student audience that knowing the psychological underpinnings of how a workplace operates can give you an advantage in the job search.
“Interviewing is as much finding out about them as it is them finding out about you,” Mahmood said. “Trust your gut when you’re interviewing. If you don’t like the situation or you get a sense that culture is not good, don’t settle.”
Mellen found her passion for observing consumer behavior while studying psychology and communications at Clark and working at the Gap. She wishes she had kept a career journal during the start of her professional life to record “the elements that I got really excited about.”
“I’m going to document what I like now, so in the future, I can follow those threads and go back to them, and ask, ‘Do they still excite me; do they not? Have we moved on?’”
The roundtable conversation also revolved around the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced companies to adapt and create options for remote work.
“Now we’re [working remotely] two days a week and are very flexible,” Mellen said. “That was a huge change for our company. We’ve been able to hire more people from all over the country [because of the ability to work remotely].”
The Oct. 17-21 Career Exploration Week focused on careers in business, marketing, finance, and consulting. The week featured virtual and in-person workshops and panels, where students met employers, alumni, and industry professionals. It was the second of the Career Connections Center’s themed weeks introducing students to a variety of industries and career paths.