Getting Career Ready With Merck

A Project SEARCH intern at the Career Ready Day. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

Merck partnered up with KenCrest to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities prepare for the future. 

By Olivia Riordan

On June 7th, the Blue Bell branch of the Wissahickon Public Library housed its first Career Readiness Day, where young adults served by KenCrest’s Employment and Supported Independent Living programs stopped by to better prepare for their future careers. The event, facilitated by volunteers from Merck’s Human Resources team, included professional headshots, resume reviews, practice interviews, and a “Charting the Life Course” station.

Corporate volunteer days with organizations like Merck—a multinational pharmaceutical company—allow businesses to give back to their local communities, while strengthening connections with their teammates.

Why would a company decide to participate in a corporate volunteer day?

“Volunteering is something that my Human Resources team takes great pleasure in doing,” shared Merck HR Business Partner Dan Kesnick.* “As a team, we wanted to find a volunteering opportunity to use our knowledge and expertise to help our local community.”

“While volunteering is not a requirement at Merck, it is one of our core values,” added Mark Geiger,* Associate Director and HR Business Partner.


KenCrest Digital Media Manager, Aubrey Hoffert, taking headshots of interns. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo

The Merck team excitedly assembled in the Library’s back room and helped other KenCrest employees set up for the day’s events, Mark and Dan supported several interns from Employment’s Project SEARCH program, at the resume review station as they reflected on their past experiences, career interests, and ways they could bolster their resumes.

“[A few of the interns] asked me questions about Merck, my career, and what I enjoy about my job,” shared Geiger.

Across the room, at the headshot station, KenCrest’s Digital Media Manager, Aubrey Hoffert, took profile photos of everyone who attended. Hoffert professionally edited each image so that they could use them for their visual resumes or LinkedIn accounts. While at the interview prep station, volunteers prepped individuals on what questions they might hear during an interview and the best ways to respond.

The last table at the Career Readiness Day, focused on “Charting the Life Course;” a series of tools that provide people with disabilities with the framework needed to discover what is most vital for them to live their best personal and professional lives. Several elements from this framework were available to participants to help them reflect on finding a career that aligns with their interests and environment preferences.

The job search and application process can be stressful for anyone; however, it can be even more trying for people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only “21.3 percent of persons with a disability were employed” in 2022. Despite their desires to work, many people with disabilities searching for employment opportunities face challenges when getting hired.

But employment programs and support from one’s local community can make the job exploration and application process go much smoother. KenCrest’s Employment team provides services that help match their interests and personal strengths to prospective job opportunities with businesses that value diverse abilities. And working with various KenCrest community partners, like Merk, to practice job interview skills and resume prep gives neurodiverse community members the confidence to excel in any professional setting.


An employment intern learning to chart his Lifecourse. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo

“I have multiple years of HR and recruiting/hiring experience, and events like this allow me to share some of that knowledge,” says Kesnick. “Hopefully, I was able to give people some knowledge and confidence to land their next or first job. [The Career Readiness Day] impacts the people KenCrest supports because they get to hear a different perspective and practice some of the core pieces to applying to and ultimately getting a job. The most impactful part for me was just being able to offer some advice/feedback and see the people listening, understanding, and hopefully the end goal of them gaining something that will help them out.”

Although Merck’s team has volunteered at many career-themed events, Mark Geiger explained that KenCrest’s Career Readiness Day differed from other career days they’ve participated in previously.

“In the past, I’ve attended career events where the attendees didn’t come across as enthusiastic or excited about their future careers,” says Geiger. “I was quite happy that the KenCrest attendees were excited and passionate about their careers. They were friendly, motivated, prepared, and passionate. It was a pleasure to meet and work with all of them.”

The community at KenCrest was thrilled to gain valuable career readiness preparation and advice from the Merck team, as well as a new circle of support. While none of us know what the future holds, we know the future for our new young job seekers is bright and full of opportunities.

*Last names have been changed to respect the privacy of the volunteers and their professional networks.