Trophy Kids Do Well By Doing Good: The Millennial Generation and Public Interest Careers

By Kelly Cleary

Most college students today are probably well aware that they have often been labeled by educators, market researchers, and prospective employers as Millennials, Generation Y or the Next Me Generation.  Older generations comparing themselves to the next crop of young adults is nothing new, but never before has a generation (in this case, those born between the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s) been scrutinized so closely as technology has made it easier to track the behavior of large numbers of people while our consumer culture has provided the motivation for marketers to gather as much information as possible about this group of young people and their purchasing power.

Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.

As a student affairs professional, I’ve sat through many conference presentations that introduce educators to this generation of students who grew up receiving trophies, regardless of the final score; a generation of students who have been connected and online ever since they can remember, not thinking twice about posting photos and very personal updates about themselves on a myriad of social networking sites; a generation of students who have been pushed to achieve and believe they are special. The Pew Research Center’s 2010 report, The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change , offers a fascinating and, I think, very positive portrait of this “self-expressive, liberal, upbeat” generation of young people who are “receptive to new ideas and ways of living.”

One of my favorite Millennial monikers is the “Next Civic Generation” referenced by Winograd and Hais, co-authors of Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics, which proposes that the Millennials are the most civic minded generation since the 1930s and 1940s. According to Michael Brown, co-founder and CEO of City Year, “Community service is part of their DNA. It’s part of this generation to care about something larger than themselves.” (USA Today, 4/2009)

Penn students engaging locally and globally

As a career counselor at Penn, I am often humbled and inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of so many students and alumni who work with various community service and public interest initiatives in West Philadelphia, across the nation, and around the globe. Many Penn students intern or volunteer for nonprofits and many go on to create nonprofits or to support public interest initiatives as part of their private sector careers. Clearly our students know that pursuing an internship with a nonprofit organization is one of the best ways to learn about public interest careers, build their skill set, and figure out what specific career path they eventually want to pursue.

Fortunately for Penn students who identify with the “Civic Generation” label, there are many ways for them to connect with related volunteer and internship opportunities and to talk with alumni who work in the field. Our Career Resources by Field page includes resources and tips from alumni for students interested in nonprofits, policy, international development, and government careers. And Idealist’s Guide to Nonprofit Careers for First-time Job Seekers is also a wonderful primer.

If you are interested in learn about what a nonprofit internship might involve, read the Civic House Associate Coalition’s summer internship blog. The contributors are Penn students who have received funding through Civic House programs for internships affiliated with the Penn community and beyond. I’m sure you’ll find Ankit, Estee, Allyson, Haley, and Shri’s observations, reflections, and musings interesting, insightful, and even entertaining. I loved reading about Ankit’s students Pradoop and the two Poojas.

What’s the 411 and what do I do with it?

By Sharon Fleshman

Lately, I’ve been amazed at how much information is at our immediate disposal these days. Recent innovations have opened up more sources than ever before…. text messages, blogs, RSS feeds, LinkedIn or Facebook updates, tweets, wikis … the possibilities are endless. The temptation with such a flow is to either become overwhelmed or get distracted. I must confess that I’ve been guilty of both. For this reason, I encourage you to come up with a system to make the most of social media and other online resources that can facilitate your networking, job search or career development goals without monopolizing your time. Perhaps you’ll decide to spend 15 minutes a day on your Twitter account, sorting through tweets to see what’s most relevant to you. Maybe you will touch base with one contact from a LinkedIn alumni group per month to build your network.

Over the past year, our office has made quite a bit of progress in terms of leveraging social media as a means of receiving and sharing career-related information. Check out the following resources to learn more.

Creating an Online Persona-A good primer to get you started or help you manage the online presence you already have.

Penn Career Services Social Media page-A good starting place for finding resources from Career Services on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Webinars for Jobseekers-Webinars with a special focus on using LinkedIn for your job search.

How to Become the Next Intern Idol

By Claire Klieger Regardless of whether you’re in your dream internship or something that isn’t living up to your expectations, it’s important to create a positive impression. You want to leave a job with people wanting you back, no matter how glad you are to leave! Potential employers will often ask for references (even if your previous experience is completely unrelated) so you want to be able to provide them with a list of contacts that you know will speak highly of your job performance.

You may not have celebrity judges but your employers are watching…

Last week I visited Lincoln Financial Field (and got to see the players’ locker room, which was really cool) to hear about opportunities for students with the Philadelphia Eagles. They have a post-graduate internship program where they hire 50 interns for a one-year program but only make permanent offers to a few. One staffer spoke about what sets people apart in that internship and how to get noticed. Here are some of his tips as well as my own: 1) Volunteer for any work that needs doing, no matter how menial or uninteresting. Whether it’s making copies, picking up mail or (as in the case of one intern at the Eagles), counting the number of toilets in your facility, be willing to do whatever is asked of you without complaint or grumbling. Simply saying “sure, I can do that” can make a big difference. 2) Drink the cool aide. Fitting into any working environment relies in large part on figuring out and participating in the culture. Take part in social activities provided by your organization to show that you are a team player and enthusiastic about your work. 3) Go the extra mile. It’s important to make the very best of whatever situation you’re in.  If you don’t have enough to do, look around to figure out who could use help; then offer it. You never know who is going to be grateful for your offer to run a spreadsheet, or make a Powerpoint chart, summarize a set of articles, or run an experiment, etc.    If you identify a need or see areas for potential improvement, you might gently offer an idea (and volunteer to do it) that might be useful. 4) Put in the time. One of the things the Eagles’ rep mentioned was that he notices interns who arrive early and stay late. Don’t create the impression that you’re checking your watch so that you can bolt out the door at 5 (or whenever the business day ends where you work). 5) Be professional. This is important for demeanor as well as dress. Also, be cognizant of your on-line communications. Keep your work emails professional and if you’re a blogger, don’t trash talk your employer or any individuals at your organization of employment specifically–you never know who may read these things and it is possible to get fired over it! 6) Treat everyone pleasantly, regardless of status. Focus less on becoming chummy with your fellow interns and more on being pleasant with everyone. This could be as simple as greeting people at the beginning and end of each day and remembering to smile. Also, be careful not to look like you’re only interested in making a good impression with the folks at the top.  

Should You Be Doing That At Work?

By Barbara Hewitt

Our methods of communication have clearly changed over the last decade. Most of us have the ability to check work email from home, pay our personal bills at work, and text and access social networks like Facebook just about anywhere we want. In fact, the question becomes not “Can we do these things at work?”…. but “Should we?”.

For a lot of people, “work” and “personal” days have blurred and they may feel justified in using office technology and time to handle personal issues since they are probably handling at least some “office” work from home. For many organizations there is an implicit (if unstated) culture that on a limited basis this is fine. As long as employees are productive, providing them with the flexibility to determine what they need to do while at work may keep them happier and in the long run more loyal to the organization. (This is analogous to the somewhat dated notion of making personal calls at work. A few are overlooked and seen as necessary, but it is pretty easy to get annoyed with a colleague who spends three hours every day yakking on the phone while everyone else in the office is working hard on projects.)

Beware of using employer phones for personal texting.....

As a new employee, there are some things you should do to make sure you make a smooth transition into your workplace. When you start a new job, make sure you investigate if there are written policies governing how you use the organization’s resources such as computers and telephones. What are you allowed to access from the office (or outside the office, say, on a company issued phone)? If there isn’t a written policy, pay attention to the unwritten rules of the office. Many organizations outright block access to sites like Facebook, not wanting their employees to waste time on things that are clearly not related to their jobs. Other employers are much more flexible, understanding that communication technologies have changed and allowing employees to utilize these tools as long as they don’t interfere with productivity. Still others wholeheartedly embrace employees’ use of such tools – believing that their employees should keep up on the latest trends in technology. (And let’s face it, lots of people now manage social media as part of their job descriptions!)

As an employee, you should be aware that many employers have the capacity to check employee computers, emails, and texts from an office phone or pager. There is no assurance that what you might have thought was private is. (Just ask the police offer in California who was texting heavily with both his wife and mistress from an employer issued pager. The Supreme Court ruled last week that his employer, the City of Ontario, CA, did not violate his rights when they checked his text messages.)

You should also be very careful what you say about your employer in online forums. CareerBuilder.com has reported that a significant number of companies indicate that they have investigated the posting of sensitive information to a social network, ultimately resulting in disciplinary action including termination of employees. I’ve personally worked with a student who was terminated from an internship because she posted information about her company to what she considered to be a private blog. The company had a Google alert set-up and found it very quickly once it was posted. It wasn’t even that the content of the post was egregious to the employer, but rather that the intern had violated company policy by posting anything at all about the employer online.

Words to the wise. It is better to be cautious in today’s world than to find yourself in a position to regret your actions later. In today’s online world, it is almost impossible to deny your actions after the fact.

Do what you like, or like what you do?

by Patrica Rose, Director of Career Services

Jeffrey Coon in "Sunday in the Park with George." Photo by Mark Garvin, courtesy of The Arden Theater.

Which is better, to do what you like or to like what you do?  I started thinking about this last week while attending the theatre, when the question was posed by a character in Sunday in the Park with George, now playing here in Philadelphia.  So many students and recent graduates, having been told to follow their passion, are intent on doing what they like, either in a particular field   (you like art: find a job in a gallery) or a particular function (you like to write: find a job as a journalist or a speechwriter).

Too often, though, the result is a poor match.  Although they are working in a field or function they love, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a perfect job.  In fact, there is no job where you can do what you like all the time.  All jobs have their drudgery.   In fact, I think it is very hard to find a job where you can do what you like for the majority of the time, particularly at the entry level, when dues unfortunately have to be paid.

Some of the happiest people I know are successful in jobs or careers they happened into.  They took a job because it was a) available, b) in a convenient  location or c) because someone they knew helped them get the offer.  They assumed they would do it for a while, and then move on, to something closer to their passion.  But surprisingly, they discovered they liked the work, the people, the challenges.  It turned out to be a great fit.  They prospered.  And almost every day when they go to work, they like what they do.

Therefore, my conclusion is that it is far better to like what you do.  Do you agree with me?