What if I don’t like my new job? This question may be on the minds of some very recent graduates. With the recession still hanging on, the feeling that “any job is better than no job” and/or family pressure may have encouraged some to accept an offer that they weren’t all that excited about. Now, as the first day of work approaches, some may be having second thoughts. If that is the case for you, here is a little advice we hope you’ll take to heart: DON’T • Don’t do the most drastic thing and quit before starting, which is a form of reneging on your offer. The world is small and a very negative picture of you may get around to potential employers. And it doesn’t reflect well on Penn either.
• Don’t start your job with the idea that you’ll “bide your time” till a year has passed and you can leave in good standing. Instead, have a positive attitude and do your job well.
DO • Decide that you are going to learn at least one new thing each day. You may have to make an effort to do it but most likely it will happen without you even noticing as you “get your feet wet”. Keep a record of what you are learning and before you know it you will have written the next entry for your resume.
• Try to talk to someone new every week. It might be someone in your division or department; it might be someone who works for your employer in another part of the organization; it might be a client. Again, keep track of the people you talk with. With ongoing interaction, some of them will become part of your network.
Remember that your first job after graduation probably will not be the job you have for the rest of your life. You will move on. And keep in mind that no one loves every aspect of their work every single day. But with each day you will hopefully develop confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your plans for the future. You will no longer be perceived as a student but as a professional in your field. The experience you get in this first job will help you with the next one, one that will be a better fit and that excites you more.
It’s graduation season and among other things (celebrations, remember-when’s and see-you-later’s, packing up dorm rooms, obsessively checking email and voicemail as you wait to hear news of interview and job offers…), it’s graduation gift time, which also means it’s THANK YOU NOTE time. If you are a procrastinator, you may simply have a mental list of aunties and old family friends to send little notes to, or your mom may be keeping that list for you. If you fall in the type-A category and you’re also still job searching, as many new grads are, then you might have cranked out those thank you notes and placed them in the post box soon after you received that copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” and those fantastic cards accompanied by checks, because keeping on top of thank-you notes is one way to feel like you’re in control. And we all know that one of the most frustrating things about searching for a job job is that you have little control over the interview and offer process.
In the same way that sending a sweet little card that says, “Thanks for the ….., it’s just what I hoped for…” makes auntie or granny feel appreciated and reflects well on your character and generally brings on good karma, so does a short thank you note or email to follow up with professional interactions you may have with alumni, prospective employers, and others who work in your field of interest. Of course, this means you should send a thank you after an interview, but it also means you should take the time to send thank you notes to recruiters you meet at career fairs, like the Campus Philly Opportunities Fair on June 15th, and professionals who give you job search advice at professional or social networking events, like the upcoming Penn Alumni Club of Philadelphia socials or the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network New Member Orientation.
It’s also smart to send a little thank you to your friend’s mom who offered to introduce you to a prospective employer while you were waiting in the buffet line at a graduation party or that friendly gentleman who suggested a few good companies or job search sites while you were sitting next to each other on the train. And all the better if in a few weeks time you send them another note to share an interesting article or a little success story about how their advice helped you progress in your search. While writing thank you’s probably won’t directly speed up the interview process, appreciative follow-ups to these types of interactions will help you cultivate colleagues and mentors while building a reputation as a collegial, proactive, and respectful professional which will no doubt help you advance your career. The magic connection to the job might not happen immediately, but these exchanges and relationships frequently bring you closer to new opportunities.
On Monday, I watched the great procession of graduates on Locust walk, and enjoyed the pervasive sense of pride at Penn. Graduation is a very special celebration – when we actually take the time to acknowledge the huge accomplishment it is to complete several years of academic training. Today is quiet on campus, a very dramatic difference from the pomp and circumstance of just two days ago.
And so I began to think…what will the coming weeks be like for the graduates who don’t yet know the next step in their career plans? This blog is for those newly minted alumni who might be feeling a little like procrastinating: don’t let graduation fade into a distant memory – you need this reminder that you can accomplish a great deal, and that you can learn new skills (like how to successfully job search) in the same way you learned the skills required to complete your academic programs. It is really important to stay motivated when you job search, and especially to focus on the things that help you maintain your self esteem.
Unfortunately, when job searching, a person’s “self worth” can take a hit – people often report to me their feeling demoralized or disappointed, especially when the process takes longer than expected or when the search includes rejections from desirable employers. For some graduates, the new release from school obligations actually adds another layer of challenge – a lack of structure in the day. Job seekers may begin to doubt their own productivity, or find there are fewer activities in the day to provide a sense of accomplishment. This quote from the Earl of Chesterfield just about sums up how I think procrastination works: “It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.”
In a tough economy, finding the job search to be a discouraging experience is understandable, and at the same time, you will genuinely benefit if you prioritize maintaining your self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy (knowing that you have the ability to make changes in your situation). As a job seeker, you are far better off if you are motivated to learn about new opportunities, face unknowns with confidence, and market yourself because you know that your skills and accomplishments are hard earned, and your ability to get things done will be valued by employers. This attitude is essential for persevering; and persevering is essential for a successful job search.
While you are in the process of looking for work, there are many things you can do to build or maintain self worth. Here are some ideas to get you started on writing your own list:
• Think about a time in school when you faced a new assignment or had to learn a new skill. What did you do to take steps to get it done? When you successfully faced a challenge, what did you learn about yourself?
• Do self assessment, so you understand not only what you are good at, but what you like to do. Some helpful worksheets are listed here.
• Make sure each day has some structure to it – keep busy and reward yourself when you do activities that contribute to your job search.
• Set small and/or measurable goals (I.E. contact 2 new people in my networking, apply to 2 jobs today)
• Continue doing hobbies that you enjoy.
• Exercise regularly – develop and/or maintain healthy habits.
• Review your accomplishments and successes from previous academic projects, internships and work experiences. Talk with former classmates, supervisors or coworkers and friends if you are having a hard time thinking of examples.
• Continue learning and gaining skills – take a noncredit class or workshop or read a book on your own. If you are in Philadelphia, check out the resources of the Philadelphia Free library, or the Career Services library.
• Keep networking and making connections with others. Here is a quick online presentation on networking, and more information and tips from the Career Services web site are here.
• Volunteer – helping others is a great way to know how valuable your efforts are. To find an organization that needs your help, start here.
• Avoid procrastinating, which paradoxically increases anxiety while you avoid the real work of job searching – here are some tips (replace the word “Academic” with “Job Seeker” for the full effect)
• Seek support. Meet with a career advisor (you knew I would say that, right?) – we are here to help, and will be around all summer.
By engaging in constructive activities and thinking about good experiences, you are fostering a positive attitude and strengthening self- esteem. Valuing your accomplishments – believing that you can succeed – can help you take more of the risks that are part of job searching and career planning. You be more open to opportunities that may come your way, at the same time you will be more prepared to take advantage of them. This may lead to an offer-in-hand sooner than you’d expect, and yet another reason to for a newly minted graduate to celebrate.
CAS alum Erwin Rose (’84) from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science, once again sits down with the Penn Career Services CareerCast to talk about careers in sustainability policy.
Want to watch this video on your mobile device? Click here!
Instead of writing a series of platitudes about how you are the future of the world and you will do great things (though we certainly believe you will), in honor of today’s festivities today’s post is on graduation ceremonies and in particular, graduation speakers. Some folks will tell you that graduation speeches are notoriously unmemorable. While I personally believe you will likely forget the more inspiring and heart-felt pieces of advice given at Commencement, if you are lucky enough to have a humorous speaker, you will remember the totally pointless stuff that makes you feel great to be at Penn and great to be graduating. Those are the anecdotes that you will look back at with fond memories.
Going into my graduation ceremony at UVA in 2001 I recall expecting the speech to be pretty dry—after all, it was being given by Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. How exciting could that possibly be? You know what they say about assumptions, though. While I don’t remember a single detail of the substantive portion of his speech, I will always remember how it ended, with him busting out his acoustic guitar and poking fun at the university experience in his own version of “My Way.”
In honor of Commencement, I offer these amusing highlights from previous Penn graduation speeches . Here’s hoping Huntsman can also tap into his less serious side today (who knows, perhaps even in song or an Eminem rap in Jodie Foster style) and congrats again, graduates!
Jodie Foster – Commencement Speaker 2006: “There are sayings like ‘the intellectual elite’ or ‘the hope for this country’s future’ or ‘the responsibility that comes with the privilege of education.’ And if you’re anything like I was at my Yale graduation in 1984, you’ll think, what a load of elitist crap.”
James Baker – Commencement Speaker 2007: “Of course, I am not talking about one of Franklin’s quotes that I, (and perhaps some of you), may have followed too closely at times: ‘Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.’”
Michael Bloomberg – Commencement Speaker 2008: “Tomorrow, with your newfound independence with honesty and accountability, and the spirit of innovation you’ll help build a better world. But today, you’ve earned the right to one last brew at Smokes.”
Bono – Commencement Speaker 2004: “Four years in these historic halls thinking great thoughts and now you’re sitting in a stadium better suited for football listening to an Irish rock star give a speech that is so far mostly about himself. What are you doing here?”
Jodie Foster – Commencement Speaker 2006: “Your Penn education has given you a two-by-four. You may build a building or hit someone over the head. The choice is yours.”