Career Decisions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s that time of year when many people– graduating seniors in the post-grad job search, sophomores getting ready to choose a major or concentration, juniors trying to decide what type of internship to choose, and even alumni who realize it’s time for a change– come to Career Services asking some version of the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

While there is no single correct answer to this question because there are a gazillion career possibilities out there, there are some basic considerations people should make to increase the likelihood that they’ll actually be happy in their chosen career. And in my opinion, since most of us spend so many of the waking hours of our adult life at work, we can’t afford not to be happy in our career.

To put it simply, your career path should be a good fit with your interests (activities you like to do or issues you care about), skills (your abilities and strengths), and values (your ideals and the lifestyle choices that are most important to you.) Once you’ve “self-assessed” your interests, skills, and values, the next step is to explore the job and career opportunities that may be a good fit for you.

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For current students trying to find some career direction, Career Services and CAPS are partnering to offer the Career Exploration Seminar: Exploring your Potential, Finding Your Fit to assist students in the career discovery process. This seminar will lead students through a guided exploration of their values, skill sets, and interests. Participants will also take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which is an assessment that helps students understand work and personality fit, and the Strong Interest Inventory (SII), which matches students’ interests to various career options. While assessments aren’t tests that “tell you what to do,” they can provide a great starting point for successful career exploration.

For more information about the Career Exploration seminars, seminar dates and to register, visit the CAPS website. The first session is this Wednesday, January 27th.

You can find additional resources on Career Services Career Discovery page, and from the Career Services Career Exploration page for College Students you can view this short video on Career Exploration.

Career Exploration from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.

Going Global: Go Abroad Now!

Going Global is a great resource for anyone interested in going abroad to work, intern, study or volunteer.   We currently have an online subscription with them (gain access by visiting our international resources’ page) and their listings are available to Penn students and alumni through PennLink.  Every Monday, Going Global features a piece of advice on their blog to help you get abroad.  This ongoing series is called “Must Do Mondays”  –  a must read if you want to turn your dreams of getting abroad into reality.  Today’s post discusses the importance of building your LinkedIn profile – check it out!

Let the Internship Search Begin…..

By Barbara Hewitt

Last year was the most challenging year to find internships that I have witnessed in my nearly 12 years at Penn. As the economy rapidly declined in the spring, many employers pulled back on their internship programs in an effort to save dwindling resources and an uncertainty about future hiring needs.

Fast forward to today….Happily, the economy seems to be on the rebound and the hope is that intern hiring will spring back with it as employers feel more comfortable in committing resources to their summer programs. However, even with the improvement, it is unlikely that intern hiring will return to the 2006 and 2007 levels.

We’ve just recently completed our summer employment report for the Wharton Undergraduate Class of 2010 which examines the activities they pursued last summer. You can see the complete survey by click on this link!

We can draw a few conclusions from the experiences of the Class of 2010 which will likely be relevant to the Class of 2011.  Among them:

There are a broad array of internship options to consider…even in a tight economy…
Sure, lots of Wharton students pursued financial internships last summer (even with the meltdown on Wall Street). Investment banking was still the most popular industry (with 36% interning there), but lots of students worked in other industries including consulting (12%), nonprofit/education/government (9%), investment management (9%), communications (4%), real estate (3%), manufacturing/consumer products (3%) and retail (2%). The take away? Think broadly about possibilities and don’t narrow your consideration prematurely to a small subset of opportunities.

There are lots of ways to find internships…
Less than half (45.6%) of current Wharton seniors landed their summer internships last year through on-campus recruiting. OCR is a great avenue to interview with a variety of interesting employers, but it is by no means the only way to find an internship. Nearly 11% of students reported obtaining their internships through other Career Services leads (such as non-OCR internship listings on PennLink, iNet, or career fairs), while 17% found an internship through contacts (family, friends, alumni and faculty). Nearly 10% applied directly to employers and over 3% applied through an online site. Cleary there are many ways to land an internship, and you should take advantage of all of them to increase the number of opportunities available to you.

There are many places to go…
New York remained the most popular destination for Wharton interns last summer, with 43% working there. However, California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were also popular choices, and nearly 12% of the class worked outside the US. (The most popular international destination was Hong Kong.) Don’t assume all the good jobs are in the Big Apple!

Internship offers come at many different times…
Most students reported receiving their internship offers between January and March, but almost a third received their offer between April and June. It’s not too late to be looking for an opportunity towards the end of the semester…in fact, that is when some of the most interesting opportunities arise, and the competition tends to be lighter since many students have already accepted offers.

So, in brief, consider a wide array of internships in a variety of industries and locations. Use different search methods in your quest, and don’t give up if you haven’t landed something by May. The perfect opportunity might be just around the corner.

As you begin (or continue) your internship search, here are some resources to help you get started:

PennLink: On-campus recruiting for internships is well underway and an excellent resource for juniors (mainly) thinking about business and technical opportunities. However, don’t ignore the non-OCR job listings on PennLink. These opportunities are posted by organizations who will not visit Penn to conduct the interviews but still want applications from Penn students. The job listings tend to be more varied in terms of geographic location, industry and preferred qualifications than the OCR listings.

iNet: This is an internship consortium created and shared by the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Northwestern University, Rice University, Stanford University, University of Southern California, and Yale University. Employers interested in reaching students at all of these schools are encouraged to post their internships to iNet, resulting in a diverse set of opportunities for you.

Career Services On-line Subscriptions: Career Services subscribes to a number of resources that can help you with your job and internship search. To access them, click on Online Subscriptions Link from the Career Services library page. You will need to sign in with your PennKey and PennKey password to view the login information for each site. Some of the resources specifically useful for internships include,, ArtSearch and which is focused on environmental opportunities. (Don’t forget that we also have loads of old-fashioned printed materials in our library as well, including quite a few internship directories!) Of course, the Vault and WetFeet Guides also available from the online subscriptions link can be extremely helpful with industry and employer research, as well as interview preparation.

Spring Career Fair: Save the date – February 19th! This is your chance to meet with a variety of employers interested in speaking with Penn students about internship and full-time opportunities. Check PennLink for details.

Career Services Counselors: We are here to help you with your search. Stop in during walk-ins or call the office to schedule an appointment to discuss your search and how we can assist you.

FrankenFood for thought! How lunch can help you find a career.

Dr. Joseph Barber

If you are interested in the way that animals are treated in captivity, then when it comes to mealtimes you probably fall into one of these three categories:

  1. You are a vegan/vegetarian and don’t eat meat;
  2. You try to be a humane carnivore by selecting some of the welfare-friendly farming options (e.g., free-range chickens, outdoor-reared pork);
  3. You really try hard not to think about the delicious meat that you are eating, where it came from, or whether animals were poorly treated to get it (a very wise idea when eating ‘mystery meat’ pies and hotdogs).

I recently had my Hunter College (CUNY) masters students discuss the idea of ‘cultured meat’ (Hopkins & Dacey 2008) – meat that doesn’t come from whole animals, but that is grown from cell cultures (for more information click here and see this recent news article). If we believe that animals can suffer from physical or psychological ill-treatment, and there are many intensive farming practices that may potentially lead to suffering (e.g., confinement without social companions, overcrowding, early weaning, beak trimming), then the idea of cultured meat actually sounds very attractive. From an environmental perspective, cultured meat would also probably need less space, fewer resources (e.g., water, food), and be less polluting than whole animals as well.

On the whole, my students were supportive of cultured meat (and it was generally meat-eaters who tended not to like it), but all of them identified some very relevant obstacles that this future technology would have to overcome to be a viable alternative to whole animal farming. Growing cell cultures is a current technology, but turning these cultures into tasty steak and kidney pie or pulled pork is going to require more research. And then you have to think about marketing it to the potential consumers of the product. All you would need is for the press to refer to cultured meat as “FrankenMeat”, or as another author put it “mindless chicken tumours” (Warkentin 2009), and you will probably lose a significant number of customers!

So what does this have to do with careers? Well, first of all, I like the idea of cultured meat, and so I thought it might be good to encourage any of you looking for PhD or Postdoc research opportunities to consider this as a potential topic. I think this could be a break-out product within the next 10-20 years, and the more of you who are working on it, the faster this might happen. If the vegans in my groups of students said that they would be willing to try cultured meat, then there is likely to be a huge portion of the population who might buy this. Secondly, the idea that mis-marketing of cultured meat as “mindless chicken tumours” might turn people away from this potentially great idea is a good reminder that how you talk about your research, especially to people who are not experts in your field, is very important. Cultured meat probably does have a lot in common with tumor growth at some biochemical level, and scientists in the field may know this, but talking about tumours and food in the same sentence to non-scientists isn’t going to get you very far when extolling the virtues of this idea. Whether you are looking for postdocs or jobs, networking, or even just trying to apply the results of your research, you will need to talk about your research to people from many different backgrounds, and you will need to do this in a way that makes your research interesting, relevant, and completely not gross or retch-inducing. An easy litmus test to use: if people ask you more questions about your research after you give them a 1-2 minute, tailored introduction to it, then you have done a good job. If people start dry-heaving and then run off in the other direction, looking over their shoulder at you to make sure you are not following them, then you may need to practice your 1-2 minute research talk a little more. We have a Career Services’ workshop that deals with talking about your research (Thursday 4th February), and so keep an eye out for this on our schedule.

Finally, if you are interested in the application of your research within industry or the business world, it might help if you have some understanding of marketing, economics, and business methods. These may be very transferable skills when it comes time for your job hunting. The wealth of student-based organizations here at Penn offers you an enormous choice in terms of skills that you can acquire or practice (e.g., Penn Biotech Group).

As always, visit us at Career Services for more information on your job search strategies, and I promise I won’t talk about a future filled with “mindless chicken tumour” nuggets.

Do blogs have a reference section? They do now!

Hopkins PD, Dacey A. 2008.  Vegetarian meat: could technology save animals and satisfy meat eaters? J Agric Environ Ethics 21: 579-596.

Warkentin T. 2009. Dis/integrating animals: ethical dimensions of the genetic engineering of animals for human consumption. In: Gigliotti C. (ed.), Leonardo’s Choice: Genetic Technologies and Animals. Springer, Netherlands. Pp.151-171.

C is for Cookie…but is it Good Enough for Me?

Sesame Street meets Aida in this epic meditation on the “C.”  Cameo by the blue monster himself at 2:37.

A new year and semester are upon us!  Judging from the crowded waiting areas at Career Services, many of you are taking stock and planning for the future.  Part of this process may be making peace with the past.  If you’re a premedical student then you probably know what I’m getting at.  That “C” from freshman year.  Maybe those grades in physics.  Perhaps you’ve been moving along the premedical path for a while, feeling that your grades aren’t quite strong enough.  Rather than fretting about the less-than-stellar aspects of your GPA, or denying that they exist, we at Career Services invite you to take a square look at them.  Many premedical students find it very helpful to come in for an appointment and talk about their concerns.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts about grades that you may find helpful.

A single “C” on your transcript is not likely to keep you out of medical school. Grades are very important in the admissions process, but they do not need to be perfect.  Although you may be extremely disappointed in a single grade, admissions committees are looking at the big picture.  If you made a C- or lower in a class required by medical schools then you should speak with a pre-health advisor.  To fulfill the requirements, you should earn a grade of “C” or higher.

You can visit our office and review statistical information to gain a sense of how your grades compare with those of other Penn students and students nationwide who have been admitted to medical school.  Doing so may not tell you your “chances” of being admitted (as it’s so often put), but it will make you more informed.

Instead of feeling bad about your grades, think about what’s behind them. Are you setting unrealistic standards for yourself?  Are you taking on too much coursework or too many extracurricular activities?  Do you have anxiety when you sit for an exam?  Are you ambivalent about your pre-medical path?  Did you just not “click” with your professor and TA?  If you can sort out what is behind the grades, then you are more likely to take positive and productive action.  Some students find it helpful to meet with a pre-health or academic advisor, visit Counseling and Psychological Services, make an appointment at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center, or utilize the services of The Tutoring Center on campus.

If you suspect your grades are going to hurt your chances of gaining admission to medical school, take time to evaluate. Proceeding along the premedical path thinking, “I’ll see how next semester goes,” without reflecting upon your academic work and whether it’s an issue may lead to more difficulty.  While it can seem that “everyone else” is moving lockstep along a single track to medical school — they are not.  A realistic discussion with a pre-health advisor about grades may be more helpful sooner than later, allowing you to plan your career more mindfully and productively.

At some point, move on. More than once I’ve asked an applicant about his or her grades in a mock medical school interview only to witness the applicant engage in extended self-flagellation or angrily vent about a difficult professor or tough grading scale.  Your professional career is bound to include disappointments and undesired results.  Working through your feelings about your grades can help you develop confidence and perspective about your work.  You must be able to handle, learn from, and rebound from hard times.  There is no reason to do this alone — in addition to family and friends, consider using the campus resources mentioned above for support.