I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now…: Job search advice from recent College alumni

By Kelly Cleary

Graduation season is a time when everyone seems to have advice for new grads. Below are some nuggets of wisdom and words of encouragement from recent alumni who graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences in the past couple of years. And if you need a study break or job search stress pick-me-up, listen to this YouTube clip of The Faces’ groovy rendition of  Rod Stewart’s “Ooh La La…”

Starting Your Search After Graduation – Encouraging Words

  • You will probably feel like the only person who has not found a job yet and get discouraged because you didn’t do OCR but something will turn up and things work out.  You are never too late in finding a job.
  • While many of my friends weren’t applying to jobs advertised through emails from Career Services simply because they assumed a large number of applicants for each position, I received a request for an interview for a research job that I thought was a perfect fit for me—and I got the job!
  • I started my job search right after graduation, and it was so easy! I got interviews and/or offers from almost everywhere I applied (and all great places) and was employed in a few weeks. I am an inspiration to anyone who gets depressed when her friends get jobs in September through OCR! (There is still hope!)

I admit, that last nugget is a little over the top—but it was true for one of our recent grads. I can’t promise the job search will be “easy” for all of you, but know that Career Services is here to help. In fact, Penn alumni have access to Penn Career Services for life.

Interning Or Temping After Graduation Can Lead To Full-Time Employment

  • I was offered a job after interning and was very happy to stay.
  • Finding a full-time job was difficult, but having internships really helped.  It kept me active during my time of unemployment and gave me valuable experience.  One of my internships ended up becoming my full-time job.
  • I started as a temporary employee and then was offered a permanent position within a month of working there.

Internships can be a great post-grad option especially for certain industries that tend to fill entry-level openings from their intern pool (for example, public relations, advertising, entertainment and some non-profits are employers that often do this.) Post-grad internships can also be a great first step for students who have minimal work experience or for students who are “career changers”– they gained experience in one field as an undergrad but then decided that they want to pursue something else. If the internship is in the field you are interested in, it wouldn’t be a diversion– it could be the key to open the door to an ideal first job! Check PennLink, iNet, and our Online Subscriptions (including internships.com and internships-usa.com for internship postings.)

Most cities have several staffing and temporary agencies; a quick internet search will help you find ones in your city or ask friends and alumni if they can recommend agencies. Also, the GoinGlobal City Guides include lists of lists of local temp agencies and staffing firms (available through our Online Subscriptions page), and legal staffing firms can be a particularly good way to find paralegal or legal assistant positions. If you are interested in a particular organization, ask if they use a particular agency. For example, Penn uses Unique Advantage to fill temporary administrative positions. And temping or a paid internship can help you pay the rent while conducting your full-time search.

Patience & Realistic Expectations Pay Off– Job Searching Takes Time & It Can Be Stressful

  • I did not have a job upon graduation nor any first interviews. I think that people who do NOT go through OCR don’t realize that it is almost atypical to have your full time job lined up well before graduation.
  • I hadn’t known how long job searching could take-in the end, it took me about 3 months to figure out where I’d be working, which I now understand is a relatively short time (I have other friends still looking). I surprised myself by taking a part time job in my field of interest rather than a full time job that I was offered at the same time- I think I will be happier & hope to be better trained as a result of the experience.
  • After I failed to receive any offers after OCR, I thought I was just going to have to go to grad school. But as everyone had been telling me, patience would lead me to good things. I saw a posting for a job offer on PennLink that was right up my alley and I jumped on it. It turned out great and now I’m basically work my dream job… at the least my first-year-out-of-college dream job.
  • It’s unrealistic to expect to have a job by graduation or even right after graduation. Be patient. Be strong.
  • It definitely takes patience… I don’t think I needed to worry as much as I did.

Making Contacts

  • I have utilized PACNet and also the English Department Career Liaison database. Both have been excellent sources of information and many kind alumni have provided me with guidance.
  • As it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a job I found that the best way to go about my search was through networking and contacts.
  • I’m really bad at networking, but the job I got was only available through professional contacts.  It wasn’t listed anywhere and you just had to know someone.  Use e-mail to constantly stay in contact with people who may help your career.
  • Find a Penn alum to help you out. That’s how I got my resume to actually be looked at.
  • Most interesting jobs aren’t posted– you have to find them word of mouth.

Check Career Services’ MAKING CONTACTS page for resources on connecting with alumni and other professionals in your field and http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/college/contacts.html

Use Career Services

  • Career Services was very helpful. Find a counselor you like and stay in contact. Visit them often or at least email with them to have a steady contact there. Do a mock interview. Get your resume read and edited many, many times.

Many students skim through our emails and are somewhat familiar with our website, but students often overlook the benefits of sitting down with a counselor to discuss their job search strategy. A career counselor can help you brainstorm career possibilities and prospective employers, point you in the direction of more targeted job search resources, and offer tips for more effective networking.

Good luck!

Author: Kelly

Kelly Cleary is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates.

2 thoughts on “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now…: Job search advice from recent College alumni”

  1. The paralegal suggestion is a good one. Law firms and corporate legal departments are always looking for bright young grads in a profession that is expanding every year. It can be a great career starter, or it can work equally well as an interim job that will give you good work experience and resume brownie points.

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