A Day in the Life

By: David Ross

So by now you may have researched some internships and jobs of interest. Perhaps you’ve had several discussions with individuals revealing those little-discussed tidbits of “insider” information about what really happens at work and want more insight. Or maybe you’ve just determined that you’re at that point where reading anecdotes just isn’t enough. If any of this sounds like something you’ve contemplated or experienced, consider the feasibility of an externship.

What is an externship? You may have already heard the term used in a few different ways or contexts. For this purposes of this blog entry, consider an externship as an opportunity to experience firsthand a day in the life of a working professional. Some people refer to externships as “shadowing” experiences where a person has the chance to follow someone around for a day at the office. So imagine yourself working in a position of great interest to you – an externship may be helpful in revealing more details about what you can really expect once you assume that role. Be sure to make the most of any externship opportunity and absorb as much information as you can, ask questions you can’t find on a website and immerse yourself in the experience.

Perspective is important. So while externships can provide some additional information, note that your experience in one organization may differ from your experience in another. That’s ok – one outcome of an externship is learning more about what may be important to you in a workplace and leaving with more focused questions on similar opportunities within other organizations. The prospect of meeting some professionals in the field can be an added bonus.

Externships may occur through formal, structured programs or may be arranged individually through personal contacts. Regardless of how the opportunity arises, remember that while you are observing a professional at their workplace, your behavior and professionalism are being monitored as well.

Friends on the Inside

by Julie Vick

If you plan to apply for a job at a company or organization where a friend works, think carefully about how to “use” that relationship in a positive way.

It might be very helpful to ask your friend for information about the department or division as you prepare to submit an application or for an interview as you prepare for an interview. If the friend mentions to others that you’ve asked, no harm is done, because your question shows that you are trying to prepare thoroughly.

Once you’ve had your interview but haven’t heard anything, it’s difficult to know what’s really happening. If several weeks go by and you haven’t been contacted there are several possibilities: they haven’t finished interviewing; a reference said something to give the hiring manager pause; or you presented yourself well and your references are positive but you’re simply up against some very stiff competition. Even though your friend might be able to give you some insight into the process you should avoid being a pest and above all, don’t say anything negative about those who interviewed you.

Once an offer is made, however, think hard before involving the potential colleague in a salary negotiation. If it’s a very good friend in the same department, you might ask how flexible the department tends to be in negotiating offers, but leave it at that. For example, the friend may have done a poor job of negotiating, realizes it, and now finds him or herself in the awkward position of advising a new colleague about how to get paid a higher salary! If the friend is in a different department, the situation is less awkward.

Employees develop loyalty to their employer and, particularly in tough times when people want to hold on to their jobs, they don’t want to do anything that could be perceived as disloyal. As a rule of thumb, if you have to ask whether you could trust someone with information about your job search, you probably don’t know the person well enough to assume their loyalty would be to you, rather than to their employer.

Recruiters reveal their deal breakers

I am old enough that most of my friends have become bosses in their jobs.  So, they make decisions about who will work for them.  Recently, I got to learn more about what they consider to be deal breakers in a job application. Here are four of them:

Deal breaker: Resumes longer than one page. This is a bigger issue for the corporate employers than the nonprofit employers.  To be safe, keep your resume to one page at least until you turn 30.  If you need help choosing what to include on the resume, meet with a career counselor in Career Services.  Exception: resumes for positions in the federal government are often 2-3 pages long because they require more detail.

Deal breaker: Not showing understanding of what the job entails. Apparently, employers can spot generic cover letters in 10 seconds and eliminate a quarter of applications this way.  How to get your application to the “interview” pile?  Write to the employer about the job and how you will use your skills and experiences in the position.
– Deal breaker: Apologizing for not being able to do the job. I come across phrases like this a lot in cover letter critiques: “While I don’t have a lot of experience in the field, I ….”  Since you’ve only got a page to cover a lot of ground, focus on what you have done and what you can do.

– Deal breaker: Not dressing up for an interview. It seems obvious that we should wear a suit to a job interview, yet Penn grads have reportedly shown up for an interview at a nonprofit organization dressed in khakis and polo shirt. It did not make a good impression with the interviewer, who had already interviewed three suited-up candidates that morning. Lesson learned: Score some easy points by dressing the part.

I hope that by sharing these insiders’ tips, you will avoid some common job search mistakes.  Good luck!

Business Careers in the Federal Government

By Barbara Hewitt

I have many conversations each week with students about how they plan to apply the business knowledge they have acquired at Penn to the working world. As you might imagine, industries like investment banking, consulting, and consumer products are frequent topics of these conversations. This is not surprising, as recruiters from these industries abound on campus and the majority of the Wharton undergraduates ultimately end up working in them.


Most business students are unaware, however, of how valuable their skills are to the federal government (the largest, and perhaps most often overlooked, employer in the United States).  Almost any job available in the private sector can also be found in the public sector. In fact, there are almost 200,000 business related jobs in the federal government. (You can find information on some of the most common ones here: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/makeanimpact/business.pdf.) These are challenging positions where you can really affect the lives of everyday Americans. Want to help support US trade and American businesses abroad? Become a Foreign Service Economic Officer with the US Department of State. Want to help ensure that the banking system in the United States is stable? Apply for a Financial Institution Specialist position with the FDIC. Want to make sure the government gets the best deal it can on purchases? Become a Procurement Analyst. From ensuring the safety of our food, to responding to crises abroad, to administering the social security system…as a federal worker you can make a huge impact through your work.

You won’t be receiving an enormous bonus as a federal worker and the application process is likely to take longer than it would for many private sector employers. However, there are lots of benefits that come with federal employment including the opportunity for rapid advancement and promotion, the ability to move laterally between agencies, excellent benefits, challenging assignments, student loan repayment (in some cases), and knowing that you are making a contribution to our country.

Interested in finding out more? Check out Career Services’ “Make a Difference: Discover Careers in the Federal Government” page.

In addition, learn more from federal employees by attending our Business Careers in the Federal Government Panel. It will be held on Friday, February 26th, 1:30 – 2:30 pm in Ben Franklin Room, Houston Hall. This is a great opportunity to hear from individuals who are making a real difference by applying their business skills in federal roles.

Panelists include:
Nicole Faison: Director of the Office of Public Housing Programs and Acting Director of the Financial Management Center, Dept of Housing and Urban Development (and a 2007 Call to Service Medal Recipient)
• Michael Shiely: (WUG ’08): Auditor with the United States Treasury Department, Office of Inspector General
• Representative (to be determined) from the Internal Revenue Service

We hope to see you there!

Spring Career Fair 2/19 in Houston Hall

The 3rd Annual Spring Career Fair for internship & full-time opportunities is TODAY Friday, February 19th, 2010 from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm in Bodek Lounge & Hall of Flags in Houston Hall

Don’t miss this chance for students from ALL years and ALL majors to meet representatives and learn about job and internship opportunities from employers who are interested in hiring Penn students and alumni. Represented industries include:

  • Business/Financial Services
  • Communications/Media/Entertainment
  • Consulting
  • Education
  • Government
  • Healthcare/Biotechnology/Insurance/Pharmaceuticals
  • Hospitality/Tourism
  • IT/Computing
  • Manufacturing/Engineering
  • Marketing/Retail/Sales
  • Public Service/Non-Profit/Social Service

For the current list of over 70 registered employers,

No registration required. Dress is business casual. Be sure to bring copies of your resume!  Note: This fair is only open to Penn students and alumni.