Dear Seniors….The Best Is Yet To Come…….

By Barbara Hewitt

I vividly remember when I was finishing up college that people couldn’t wait to tell me that college was “the best years of your life.” Face it, when else do people have the opportunity to learn just for the sake of it, be surrounded by thousands of individuals close in age, and not have the burden of family obligations and mortgages? I wondered at the time if it would turn out to be true. It was pretty depressing to think that at 22 years old my future had a downhill trajectory.

As it turns out, 21 years after hearing those words, I believe they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hopefully, as seniors who have spent the last four years at Penn, you have had wonderful experiences and will look back at your time at Penn fondly. I am confident, however, that the best is yet to come for the vast majority of you. Earning a degree from Penn is a huge accomplishment. You have all (well, most of you!) worked hard and grown tremendously during the last four years. You now have the opportunity to go out and apply the things that you have learned at Penn to make real change in the world whether through teaching children, discovering a new scientific breakthrough, or helping a business bring a new product to market. You will move on to different phases of your personal and professional lives, eventually mentoring and managing younger employees, finding life partners, and perhaps raising families of your own. Yes, your lives will change, but simply to something different, not something somehow inferior. Take advantage of the unexpected opportunities that come your way and don’t be afraid to take some risks. Many of the most successful alumni I meet are those who haven’t been afraid to veer off the beaten path.

As graduation approaches, all of us in Career Services wish you a wonderful journey on whatever path you choose to take in the years ahead….

Curiosity & Careers: How Informational Interviewing Can Build Your Network

By Sharon Fleshman

Wherever you are in the career planning process, it never hurts to chat with people in careers that have piqued your curiosity.  Informational interviewing is a great way to build your network, gather helpful insight on a career, and receive advice on moving into that career.  Assuming that they don’t have major time constraints, most people are glad to talk about the work they do and offer their own perspective on what it takes to be successful in their field.  Why not schedule some interviews during the summer?   Here are some tips to get you started:

1) Be open to the many opportunities to engage people.

You may want to start with Penn alumni, who are generally happy to help.  The Penn Alumni Career Network (PACNet) was designed expressly for the purpose of facilitating informational interviews. The alumni advisors have volunteered to speak with Penn students and other Penn alumni, so don’t be shy about contacting them. You can also identify alumni with careers of interest by way of LinkedIn alumni groups and Penn Regional Alumni clubs.

Don’t feel like you are limited to alumni.  It is often tempting to overlook those closest to you, such as family, friends of the family, and relatives of friends.  If you have a summer internship, check with your supervisor to see if you can sit down with managers and other employees who are working in other areas that interest you.  Peruse the website of an organization that you respect and see if you can locate staff biographies and identify those doing work that you could see yourself doing in the future; if any Penn alumni are working there, all the better.

Once you develop a list of potential contacts, send an e-mail message introducing yourself and stating how you became aware of the person’s work.  Mention that you have developed an interest in the contact’s career field and that you would like to talk with him/her for 30 minutes to glean insight and advice.  Informational interviews can be conducted by phone or in person, depending on what is most convenient.

2) Prepare well.

Once the informational interview is scheduled, make sure to read up on basic information about the career field as well as the organization at which your contact works.  Good preparation is key to asking thoughtful and focused questions that spark informative and engaging conversation and leave a great impression.  Helpful sample questions are available on the Career Services website and career counselors are available to help with preparation. Though you will not be going to a job interview, professionalism is still important. If you are meeting your contact in person, be clear on what attire is appropriate and where the contact’s office is located. If you are talking over the phone, you should be in a quiet place during the interview.  Be sure to send a thank you note after the interview, and keep in touch periodically.

3) Respect the boundaries.

It is crucial to remember that an informational interview is neither a job interview nor the venue to ask for one.  The purpose of an informational interview is to gather information and advice as well as more networking contacts.   That being said, a contact who is very impressed with you may choose to offer additional job search assistance at his or her discretion.

4) Enjoy!

Informational interviewing allows for an intentional conversation where there is relatively little pressure to convince someone that you are totally committed to a given career or the best fit for a job.  The process offers a great opportunity for you to learn from another’s experiences and get clarity regarding your own career goals. It can be one of the more enjoyable aspects of networking, even for those who typically see networking as a daunting task.

CareerCast: Teaching Abroad (An Alumni Perspective)

Interview by Patrick Cawiezell
Video Podcast by Angie Luo (CAS ’11) & Jaclyn Chen (W ’12) and Claire Klieger

Patrick recently sat down with CAS alumna Becki Young (’93) to talk about her experience teaching in Japan!

Want to watch this video on your mobile device? Click here to watch on Vimeo Mobile!

CareerCast: Government Jobs in Sustainability

We recently sat down with Erwin Rose  (CAS ’84) of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Oceans, Environment & Science and Kristen Taddonio of the Environmental Protection Agency.  They discuss different opportunities for government jobs in sustainability and the many paths you can take to get one.

Want to watch this video on your mobile device? Click here!

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 and 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

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!