Five Insights from the Saint Mary's Career, Graduate, and Law School Fair
Recruiters give the inside scoop on what they value in SMC students, and why they continue to return for new hires.
For students attending college, one of the big questions that looms larger near graduation is: What next? This fall, the Saint Mary’s career, graduate, and law school fair brought over 100 businesses and graduate programs to campus. More than 350 students and recent alumni took advantage of the opportunity to share résumés, make connections, learn about internships, and start a conversation that could lead to a full-time position in the months ahead.
Recruiters represented biotech leaders like Genentech, top Bay Area media outlets like KQED and KCBS, Travelers Insurance, Opus One Winery, Enterprise, Verkada, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Offering opportunities in professional and graduate programs were representatives from Chapman University to UC Law San Francisco, from Boston College to the University of Colorado. There were also many nonprofit and volunteer organizations on hand, giving students a wide range of options and experiences to explore.
Here are five takeaways from representatives recruiting for job opportunities at the career fair. They offer insights into what these employers look for in graduates, and what it is about Saint Mary’s students in particular that keeps them coming back. There’s also some good advice for students looking for next steps after SMC.
Genentech | Don’t limit yourself
Ruben Garcia ’05 from Genentech encourages students of all majors to try to look seriously for opportunities with the company—and at other opportunities in general, even if it’s not directly related to their academic focus. Instead, Garcia argues no student should limit themselves to one field, especially when they’re early into their career.
“I want to let people know that, yes, we're a science company, but we have marketing, we have communications, we have finance, we have social media. There's more to it than just benchtop science,” Garcia says. “Being in Seminar, for example, means being in a meeting, speaking up, being heard, and coming prepared. All those skills translate very well in a professional setting.”
Also know: Garcia is in the inaugural cohort of the Professional Science Master’s in Biotechnology at Saint Mary’s, set to complete his degree in spring 2024.
Vector Laboratories | “You don’t have to know exactly where you’re flying.”
Lisa Sellers and Marina Martinez, recruiting for the biotech company Vector Laboratories, believe that the small, intimate campus environment gives Saint Mary’s students an ability to connect with their peers and bosses in a professional setting. Sellers serves as CEO of the company, and Martinez serves as the head of human resources. Both have daughters enrolled at SMC currently—and they’re eager to recruit Gaels to Vector.
“Our hypothesis is that students going to a small Catholic school like Saint Mary’s allows them to develop close relationships with their teachers as they learn from their guidance. That's why my daughter chose to go here, where she could develop relationships with their professors, maybe even doing research in their lab,” Sellers says. She also says SMC is “a great funnel of talent for us, given our values and what those students value when they choose Saint Mary's.”
“You don't have to know exactly where you're flying, but be open and expose yourself to as many opportunities as you can so you can figure out what really speaks to you for a successful career.”
—Marina Martinez, Vector Laboratories
Martinez encourages students to keep an open mind and explore different opportunities, even if they don’t fully know what career to go into. “I did not anticipate being where I am today,” she says. “As I followed new opportunities and relationships that had been presented to me, my path became clearer. You don't have to know exactly where you're flying, but be open and expose yourself to as many opportunities as you can so you can figure out what really speaks to you for a successful career.”
University Credit Union | The value of community
Representing the University Credit Union, SMC grad Julia Racioppo ’21 also has alumni in the family; her father is an alum, and she grew up with the family holding season tickets for Men’s Basketball. So it comes as no surprise that, for her, the most striking part of SMC is community. “Students at Saint Mary’s know how to be a part of a community; they know how to contribute and how to share and manage an equal workload, and not just be another number,” she says. And at University Credit Union, she says, “We're a small community where you can get to know everybody, and it's a friendly place. It serves you well in any job to know how to properly invest in the community, and take up ownership in the workplace.”
Her associate, Veronica Nims ’21, echoes this sentiment. And she points out that while banking might not seem to offer creative opportunities on the surface, the best employees are usually the ones who think in creative ways. “We're looking for driven individuals who can work well autonomously and collaboratively. It's a unique position; the job changes on a daily basis depending on what's the focus,” she says. “Somebody who can be really innovative and creative on the spot is very helpful.”
WATCH: Recruiting Coordinator Courtney Martin ’19 from Athens Administrators shares advice for Gaels looking for their first jobs. One takeaway: Look for an employer whose values align with what you’re hoping to find. / Video by Bryan Navarro
Gallagher | Chasing opportunities
Jordan Shinn ’23 and Christopher Ericson ’24 point to the importance of going for internships sooner rather than later. Having both worked as interns at Gallagher—an insurance, risk management, and consulting service—Shinn and Ericson describe how it launched their careers with the firm.
“There's a family culture at Gallagher that accepts new people into the workplace; they want you to succeed. When young people can succeed and grow, it's better for the entire company,” Shinn says. “I would definitely say get an internship and get experience.”
“Having those close relationships with a lot of people directly translated into Gallagher. That's what I felt like this summer; it felt like we were all one big family,” Ericson says. He underscores the advice about taking advantage of the opportunities at SMC. “I didn't have an internship after my sophomore year, and looking back I wish that I had gotten one, so I had some more experience. It helps you grow in a lot of different ways and you learn exactly what you do and don't like.”
F&M Bank | Maintaining connections
Ryan Misasi ’99 is Executive Vice President of retail banking at F&M BANK, with more than two decades of experience in the banking industry since he earned his degree in Economics from Saint Mary’s. He’s quick to point out that industries are always changing, and having the skills and attitude to adapt to that change is crucial.
“The most important advice I can give to somebody who graduates is to stay connected. I still talk to professors that I had over 20 years ago.”
—Ryan Misasi ’99, F&M Bank
“There's not really a degree in banking anymore, or an emphasis in banking, even though banking is foundational for the financial industry and business in general,” Misasi says. “I would say the most important advice I can give to somebody who graduates is to stay connected. I still talk to professors that I had over 20 years ago.”
LEARN MORE about the services the Career Center offers at Saint Mary’s. And mark your calendar for the campus-wide career hiring fair on February 28 from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Soda Center.
See all the latest news from Saint Mary’s at the SMC NewsCenter.
Sam Nobile ’25 is studying English at Saint Mary’s and serves as a student writer with the Office of Marketing and Communications.