‘Tis the Season

By: David Ross

‘Tis the season to enjoy and indulge in the many great things happening around the holidays. Finishing up the semester. A brief respite from the many things you’re involved with. All of those seasonal items that make you happy – ciders, cookies, coffee blends…the list goes on and on… Not setting the alarm to wake up early in the morning (ok, maybe I’m biased on that one). The upcoming start of a New Year (and the many celebrations that precede it!)

‘Tis the season to also take advantage of any extra free time and proceed with your job or internship search. As some people customarily create lists this time of year, here’s a list of tips to utilize your free time during winter break:

1) Devise a plan. What do you hope to accomplish during your break? Outlining the parameters of your plan of action can be helpful to remain focused.
2) Open the lines of communication. During those get-togethers and celebrations, engage in small talk. Converse with family and friends – but also don’t be afraid to branch out and mingle with others. You never know if that conversation with the person sitting next to you on your plane or train ride home may be beneficial. Ease your way into conversations and see what useful information you may find.
3) Connect, connect, connect. If you are returning home, connect with local companies and businesses while you’re in town. Of course, companies will be closed at some point for the holidays, but try to speak with someone or schedule an informational interview at companies of interest while they are open.
4) Get up-to-date and creative. Update your resume with new information from the past summer and fall. Create or update cover letters to target companies and opportunities.
5) Apply yourself. Take some time to apply for jobs or internships you discover in your search.

And most importantly (and perhaps my favorite) – set aside some time to relax, have fun and enjoy winter break – you deserve it!

Pregnancy. Never to be described as the elephant in the room, for obvious reasons.

Dr. Joseph Barber

My wife is having a baby. Well…, not right now obviously. I’m not one to “tweet” about the immediate goings-on in my life, as it is hard enough for me to keep track of them, let alone update other people. So…, my wife is going to have a baby in early spring. This is a fact that is now obvious if you see her, but was not, until recently, apparent to my colleagues at Career Services who had not seen her, and did not know her.  It was a fact that I had not shared, for no other reason than it had not really come up in conversation.

“Yes, we have three speakers confirmed for the “Expanded Career Opportunities for Science and Engineering PhDs” panel discussion scheduled for the 30th November. Unlike my wife, none of them appear to be pregnant”

The proverbial cat was let out of the bag when my wife came to speak at the “Expanded Career Opportunities for PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences” panel discussion put on by one of my colleagues at Career Services. My wife has a PhD in anthropology and now works as an Executive Director of a non-profit organization here in Philadelphia.  As soon as that cat was unleashed from its bag, it ran around the Career Services office with frightening, supersonic speed. My colleagues both congratulated me and then chastised me for not sharing this exciting news earlier. I only started at Career Services in September, and so perhaps I can use this fact as a partial excuse.

You can probably see where I am going to go with this. It is easy enough for me to (unintentionally) conceal the fact that my wife is pregnant, and despite the many adventures that March will bring (caring for a baby is much like taking care of cats, right?), I can continue to turn up each day and do my work without too much trouble. If I were applying for a job, would my wife’s pregnancy be something I would share? Probably not, unless it just came up in casual conversation, perhaps with an interviewer who had also recently had a child. Building some common ground with future colleagues is not necessarily a bad idea. Would employers care if my wife was having a baby? Well, some employers might see this as a positive, because if I got the job, I would probably work hard to keep it and the necessary benefits that came along with it.

Understanding the culture of the organizations you are applying to will be important in terms of how much information you might be willing to share. Some places are likely to be more “baby-friendly” than others. Taking the opportunity to conduct informational interviews with someone from the organization might help you find out more about this culture, and give you a better perspective. You should also find out about Family and Medical Leave benefits that employers might offer for fathers and mothers.

But what if I was a woman…, or perhaps less confusingly, what if my wife was applying for jobs while pregnant? Should she talk about babies, family, personal goals, or any of that? In general terms, if she were not showing, then she wouldn’t have to say anything about being pregnant. The same is true during phone interviews where there are no visual clues. Being pregnant does not prevent anyone from using their academic and work-based skills in the jobs they are applying to, whether these are academic or non-academic careers. When it is obvious that you are pregnant, you should probably make mention of it, even though you are generally not required to do so during interviews. Most employers are legally bound not to ask you about personal matters like this as part of interviews (or to discriminate against you for being pregnant), but the topic of families might come up if your interviews have some social element associated with them (e.g., a 2-day campus interview for a faculty position with lunches, dinners, or other social gatherings).  If it is obvious you are pregnant, it is best to address it head-on, and address it confidently.


Being pregnant provides you with an opportunity to illustrate some key skills, and show your understanding of the requirements of the job. For example, if you have thought about how you intend to rear a child and work full//part-time at the organization you are applying to, and can present your proposed approach coherently to employers, you are showing an ability to plan and organize your time effectively, and to use a little creative problem-solving to do so. For example, for academic jobs you might be able to have your classes organized ahead of time, or be able to convert them into hybrid/blended courses (part face-to-face, part on-line) prior to the start of the semester. But interviews should not get side-tracked by your pregnancy; you need to make sure that the focus remains on your teaching and research skills for academic jobs, and your relevant transferable skills (e.g., leadership, team-work, communication) for jobs outside of academia. You need to stick in your interviewers’ heads as an outstanding candidate, not as a pregnant candidate.

You can learn more about pregnancy and its relation to academic job searching, and non-academic job searching, by following these links. Wish me luck for the spring, because there is no doubt in my mind that I will need it – lots and lots of it – especially as I have just been told that looking after a baby is absolutely not the same as looking after cats.

The Complete Package

by Robert Gannone

When it’s time to decide on a job, there are many factors to consider, both before and after you receive an offer.  For example, location tends to be pretty important.  Ask yourself “where do I see myself living?”  There are many more options than New York City!  Try to visit a place at least once before you contemplate moving there, and evaluate:  Do I like the weather… the people… the nightlife?  Do I already have friends there?  Can I even afford to live there?


To help you consider your geographical options, Salary.com allows you to see the cost of living in different cities, and how far that salary can really go.  Remember that you’ll be looking not only at rent, but also perhaps utilities, cell phone bills, student loan repayments, the price of transportation, groceries, entertainment and other activities.

City Data.com is also a great website that posts detailed information on the average climate, average age of the citizens, median income, and crime statistics on every major (and even minor!) city in the United States.

As you’re interviewing and hopefully getting the offer you want to accept, you have to decide not only if the position right for you, but if the company itself is as well.  Ask yourself, will I fit in with the company culture? Will I enjoy working for this company? Does it adhere to my values?

Look beyond the base salary and examine “the complete package” being offered – many “costs” of employment can have a significant effect on your paycheck.  For example, does the company offer and contribute towards good health, dental and/or vision insurance? Does the company make 401K contributions, or offer stock options, tuition assistance or reimbursement? (No, it’s not too early to start thinking about these things!) Sure, most places have coffee machines and other basic “perks,” but consider what other things you may need or enjoy.  Would you enjoy a free membership to the company gym?  What about discounts on transportation, dining or entertainment?  Some companies such as Google go well beyond the basics, offering such options as an on-site doctor or fitness classes.  It truly is worth your effort to consider “the complete package” when you get an offer from a company.


Certainly, you do have to look at the salary.  To see comparable salaries for the positions you are looking for, be sure to check out our Career Surveys from The College of Arts & Sciences, The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and The Wharton School.

And of course, before you do make that important decision, feel free to visit Career Services and speak with one of our counselors!

Career Strategizing from a Land Far Far Away

By Claire Klieger

So you’re studying abroad (or plan to) in some place breathtakingly beautiful like Lyon, France or Dunedin, New Zealand and you think, “how am I going to look for an internship and stay connected from  here?” (Actually, what you’re probably thinking is “how am I supposed to concentrate on anything productive while I’m here?” but that’s a different blog).

Benefits of the Road Less Traveled
Benefits of the Road Less Traveled

Believe it or not, it is possible to conduct an internship search remotely. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age, unless you’re in some place like Antarctica (and let’s face it, probably even there), you should be able to search for and apply to opportunities online. The tricky part, of course, is interviews. While you clearly can’t be there to interview in person, you may be able to do a phone interview or video interview via Skype. Naturally, it helps if you clearly state the fact that you are abroad in a cover letter and include dates you would be able to work.

Here are some other ways to maximize your search.

1) Plan ahead. If you’re interested in interning in the US upon your return, before you go abroad, you should ideally identify some organizations of interest and check PACNet to see if there are Penn alums working there with whom you could arrange some informational interviews and network. It’s also worth making a stop by Career Services to meet with a counselor to have your resume and a sample cover letter critiqued and develop a strategy for your remote internship search. In addition, we offer special resources to students studying abroad spring semester who are still interested in OCR positions.

2) Make the most of your time abroad. If you feel inspired, get involved on the campus you’re visiting. Especially if you’re interested in working in the country in which you’re visiting, do as much networking as you can. Connect with Penn alumni via PACNet and the many Penn alumni clubs abroad (no, I’m sorry, there isn’t one in Antarctica—maybe that’s not the best destination after all). And check out our online presentation on finding work abroad.

3) Stay connected. Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you can’t touch base electronically or by phone with contacts (ahem, and Career Services!) from that chic café in Rome.

4) Embrace your experience. As someone who spent 11 years abroad as a child, I know full well how living abroad can change your life. Take time to be “present” and experience your new surroundings. There are skills you will acquire that will make you more marketable to employers—a more international perspective, the ability to see things from someone else’s point of view, the ability to work well with a diverse group of people, etc.

So, before you go you’ll want to pack your bags, make sure your passport and visa documents are in order, and also stop by Career Services! Oh, and if you feel like sending us a postcard, that would be pretty awesome, too (you know, so we can live vicariously through your travels).

The Benefits of Having a Mentor

by David Ross

Do you ever find yourself with questions on how to prepare for your future?  Ever wonder how others may have gone through situations you’ve experienced?  Unsure just who to ask those pointed questions on things you really want to know but are afraid to ask – for example, what really is the best way to deal with office politics?  Consider identifying a mentor – someone you feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in conversation.

Mentoring can be formal or informal.  Some organizations you are already a part of may have structured, formal mentoring programs.  Take advantage of these opportunities to connect with individuals willing to share their experiences and be a resource for you.  In other instances, you may gravitate towards someone informally and periodically seek their perspectives on different issues.  These ad hoc “mentoring” situations can be just as informative and useful as well. Either way, mentors can be excellent sources of advice who may offer interesting ideas based on their own experience and knowledge.

While mentoring can be great from a career perspective, don’t overlook additional benefits.  Mentors may be interested in your growth and development as a person and can possibly offer their thoughts on any variety of subjects.   Once you identify additional, shared interests, you’ll find your discussions may expand to encompass a wider array of topics.

The strongest mentor/mentee relationships develop over extended periods of time.  Definitely seek out opportunities to connect with a mentor – you may find it a rewarding experience that serves you well both now and in the future.