Don’t Try this At Home

As a career counselor I often hear the frustrations of job seekers who send out applications, who interview, who network…. and despite all these efforts, get little response from certain employers for their invested time. Particularly heartbreaking are stories from people who get through the interview process only to feel themselves in a “black hole” as employers delay (or avoid) letting them know their status in the search for candidates. Typically in this situation, no news isn’t good news, but there are some constructive tips for handling the ambiguity that is inherent in the job search process. I will share those ideas below, but first, a humor-filled moment (if you think shows like MTV’s Jackass are funny).

I recently read a fun article from the New York Times about a man who got his revenge for all the agonizing silence we job seekers have collectively experienced. Read his story here:

Now, that was action packed! But… I don’t recommend it for job seekers who are more interested in landing a job than pulling off a crazy stunt. Here are some effective, and reasonable actions you could try on your own:

1) Think ahead – if you are interviewed, find time at the end to ask the question “what is your timeline for making a decision?” and to state something like “I’ll get back in contact with you if I haven’t heard anything by this time, are you the best person to call?”. It is critical to have this information before leaving an in-person interview or putting the phone down for phone interviews. Asking about “next steps” means you are indicating your genuine interest in the job and puts a bit more control into your hands regarding the communications you have with the employer.

2) Exercise patience – remind yourself that ambiguity really is part of the job seeking process. Keep putting yourself out there, get feedback from a career advisor regarding your job search strategies if that would be helpful.

3) Be proactive in a polite way – whether or not you interview, it generally is fine to follow up your application either by phone or email, to see how the employer’s search for a candidate is going, and/or to let them know you remain interested in the opportunity. (A caveat: if a job application says “no phone calls please” then you ought to follow the expressed preference of the organization.) Ultimately, if an employer is unresponsive to your effort to check in, then stay open to hearing from them, but move your job search energies into other endeavors.

4) Remember, it isn’t all about you – sometimes employers don’t get back to you because they are busy, because they have been inundated with applications, because they have many people who are involved in the decision making process, because there are formalities that prevent them from responding to your inquiries. You might be their first choice, but they haven’t had a chance to get back to you in a timely way. You might be the second choice – which means you still have a chance at the job if their initial offer is turned down. You may not be selected at this time. The point is, you do not know what is happening on the employers’ side. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don’t take it personally.

5) Remember, it isn’t all about this one opportunity – as hard as it is to put effort out in the form of applications and interviews, the measure of success is not all-or-nothing: getting an offer of employment is not the only way to measure a successful job search. Each time you write an application, go through an interview, and meet people in the field, you are strengthening the skill sets that will serve you well in your future. Don’t forget, many people change jobs every 3-5 years. You will be using those job seeking skills again and again.

Can you (and you, and you, and YOU?) hear me now?

by Sue Russoniello

You’ve heard all the job search advice about cleaning up your voice mail message and untagging Facebook photos of you at that incredible party last weekend.  Hopefully you’ve even followed that advice.  But have you thought about the conversations you have with friends while walking across campus, or on your cell phone while standing in line for coffee or working out at the gym?

Remember that there are people all around you and you don’t always know who they are. There was a man near me on the train one evening talking on his cell phone.  He had obviously had a bad day – I’m guessing even a bad week.  He was very loudly sharing this with a friend on his cell phone and, in turn, with every occupant of that train car.  This man was naming names and giving specific examples of things he didn’t like about his place of employment, his boss, his co-workers, his clients.  After about 10 solid minutes of this rant, no one on the train could possibly read their book or work their Sudokus and we were all exchanging glances with each other.  When I got up to leave, I SO BADLY wanted to suggest that he be careful during his next conversation that his boss’s wife wasn’t sitting in the next seat. Can you imagine if that really had been the case?!

Think everyone here wants to hear your conversation? Think again. (Image via Tarotastic on Flickr)

There were students next to me at a popular campus restaurant earlier this week conversing in the explicit vernacular of many college students about the OCR process — what they REALLY thought of the internship search, how they were as good as that #$%^&* loser George who got 8 @#$%^&* interviews, how they’d rather sit at home with their &*%$# parents (the ultimate bad Friday night) than listen to their @#$%^&* friends talk about their @#$%^&* job search.  On and on it went.  Think about this; if I was a recruiter grabbing a quick sandwich on my lunch break and I overheard this conversation, what image of them would have been left in my head?  What if you were one of these students and you went to your interview that afternoon and came face to face with me?   And you’re already lamenting how competitive these interviews are?  You may have just helped that recruiter make the very difficult decision between hiring you or the next guy.

To broaden the scenario, maybe I’m a professor you are about to start a class with and you need a letter of recommendation from me for your med school applications. Or I’m the administrative assistant to a person you’ve been dying to get an appointment with for job shadowing. There are any number of other nightmares waiting to haunt you in that sea of unknown faces that surround you daily.

The advice about emails applies to public conversations as well…..if you wouldn’t write it on a postcard, say it directly to the person you’re talking about, or use that language in front of your mother (yes, that pesky mom again) then perhaps you don’t want to share it while walking down Locust Walk, sitting on the trolley or waiting for your cheese steak.

Do yourselves a favor and don’t air critical opinions and inappropriate language in public.  Help that recruiter or professor think of you as the mature, polite person you are, ready to join the professional world.

A Day in the Life of a Penn Entrepreneur

Read Rich Cisek’s archived tweet feed here:

Energy Efficiency Entrepreneur and SEAS ’93 Alum, Rich Cisek is our first alumnus featured on our newest initiative @PennCareerDay (

Rich Cisek is the Founder and CEO of Green Home Energy Management, a company that specializes in solutions for utilities to help consumers better manage energy costs.  The Green Home solution consists of proprietary monitoring hardware and specialized data analysis software.  This product helps individual consumers reduce their energy use and in addition it aggregates data so that utilities can help all consumers learn how to better manage energy costs.   Green Homes is currently conducting field trials and raising venture financing.

Rich has a deep background in product development and operations.  Rich graduated from Penn with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1993 and he also has an MBA from the Wharton School.  Early in his career he designed air traffic control solutions for Lockheed Martin, followed by various operations and business development roles for America Online where Rich played a significant role in launching AOL’s broadband service.  Prior to founding Green Home Energy Management, Rich served in various senior leaderships roles at Comcast including the general manager for where he had responsibility for the overall site user experience and online sales.

This is your chance to find out what a typical, or not so typical, day is in the world of an entrepreneur focused on energy.  If you have questions for Rich, @reply to @PennCareerDay and check back here for his answers at a later date.

Preparing for the Spring Career Fair

By: Kelly Cleary

It’s career fair season once again with Penn’s Spring Career Fair on campus THIS FRIDAY, followed by the All Ivy Environmental and Sustainable Development Career Fair on Friday, February 26th and the Not-for-Profit & Public Service Career Fair on Friday, March 5th, the latter fairs being held in NYC.

The Spring Fair on Friday, February 19th from 11am-3pm in Houston Hall will be a great chance for students from ALL years and ALL majors to meet representatives and learn about job and internship opportunities in a variety of industries including communications/media, business/finance, consulting, education, engineering, government, healthcare, IT, and nonprofits. For the current list of over 65 registered employers, click here or check PennLink.

While career fairs are a fantastic way to connect with job and internship opportunities, I’ve talked with many students who really stress out about career fairs.  When I talk to students who are hesitant to attend career fairs because they worry they’ll get nervous and won’t know what to say or do, I always remind them that recruiters register for (and pay good money to attend) career fairs because they are eager to talk to and potentially hire talented students like YOU.

Here are a few career fair prep tips to help ease some of that pre-fair anxiety:

Reflect on your career interests, skills, and personal goals for the fair. Are you looking for an internship or a full-time job?  What type of what of work do you want to do (i.e. writing, analyzing, programming, event planning, researching…)? What industries are you most interested in? Where do you want to live?

That said, while it’s important to have goals in mind, it’s also important to keep an open mind so you don’t miss out on an opportunity simply because you overlooked the fact that it could be a worthwhile way for you to gain experience.

Develop your “30-second commercial” – if that sounds silly to you, just think of it as your basic introduction. Career fairs at Penn do get crowded so you might only have a few seconds to attract and keep a recruiter’s attention. This can be a little daunting, so work out a great sentence or two about your career interests, skills, special research projects, and background (academics, extra-curricular, internships, etc.)

Research  organizations that are attending and develop a plan of attack. Come up with a list of your “must see” companies to make sure you don’t miss their tables, but survey the entire list of attendees. An organization doesn’t have to be a household name to be a great employer who offers interesting and rewarding opportunities.   I know a student who received a super job offer with a great company after she stopped by a table that had no student traffic when she walked by. She would never have known about what that company had to offer if she didn’t stop to ask.

Taking the time to reflect on your interests and goals, develop your introduction, and research organizations will help you make the most of your time at the fair.

And here’s a quick run through for the day of the fair– dress sharp, brush your teeth, bring lots of copies of your resume, shake hands, smile a lot, ask intelligent questions, take business cards (and make notes on those cards for easy recall), and follow up with recruiters that night. You can find additional career fair tips on our Navigating Career Fairs page and our Tips For Mastering a Career Fair video, or plan to attend the Career Fair Prep workshop on Tuesday, February 16th at 2:30pm in McNeil Building, Room 97.

The Job and Internship Search Process…

By: David Ross

…can be somewhat unpredictable each year. Regardless, it’s great to see many students contemplate and pursue a myriad of employment opportunities with a keen interest in obtaining experiences that will serve them well for their future endeavors. And while there are “do’s” and “don’ts” that can be helpful as guidelines, one thing never changes: the process is unique and distinctive for each individual.

Why is this important? Well sometimes it may be easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities without taking a moment to consider the process. What may be helpful is perspective and reflection on the bigger picture. As students here at Penn, all of you have already accomplished great things and are destined to continue to do so in the future. You are all extremely talented individuals with great things to offer. Don’t ever lose sight of that. The odd thing about searching for jobs and internships is how unpredictable the process can be even when applicants proceed with great diligence in a structured manner. Sometimes the search may take longer than anticipated or require more effort than imagined. But that’s ok (and common!) – ultimately the number of interviews you receive and how long the process is irrelevant.

I encourage everyone to keep focused on your goals and remember that jobs and internships will continue to become available over the next few months. Think broadly about your interests and consider utilizing your background and skills in creative ways. Try not to depend on one job/internship search resource – diversification is key. Hang in there. And one last thing…take some time to do something enjoyable – everyone deserves to have some fun at some point.