Two years later….

by Patrica Rose

About this time in 2008 we saw the economy implode.  Recruiting just about froze in place. Those who had summer offers were lucky: the employers honored them, and we urged students to accept them.   Other students were in for a hard time.  Even so, the class of 2009 landed on their feet.  They worked hard to get jobs or get into graduate programs.  Some ended up in positions that were not their first choice, but they are doing well nonetheless.  Others were liberated from the specter of more traditional employment and struck out on their own, to pursue a dream.  By the fall of 2009, only 11% of the class was still seeking employment.

A year ago this time things were a little better.  Employer activity on campus was more palpable.  The recruiters who came were serious about hiring, and not just going through the motions.  During the spring semester of 2010 things really took off.  Spring career fairs had an uptick in employer attendance.  Some employers who didn’t recruit in the fall returned to campus, with unexpected positions to fill.  On it went throughout the late spring and this summer, when we saw strong signups for fall career fairs and on-campus recruiting.  We breathed a sigh of relief:  things would be almost normal for the class of 2011.

But not so fast.  Over the past week or two there have ominous financial reports.  In particular, sales of existing homes were off 27%, and the number of first time filers for unemployment benefits was higher than expected.  More commentators are talking about a double dip: having emerged from the last recession, perhaps we are going to fall back into a second.  Something called the Hindenburg Omen may presage a stock market collapse.  Will the class of 2011 actually have an experience closer to that of the class of 2009?  If I could answer this question with any authority I would be in a different line of work.

If you are going to be graduating this spring (or before), what should you do?  First, you can’t control the economic forces swirling around us.  And we remain hopeful, after all, that all the employers visiting campus this fall will not just be going through the motions.  But if things do slow down, focus on the things you can control.  Take a leaf from the pages of the 2009 book.  Think seriously about what you want to do in your first post-Penn job.  If you need help figuring that out, see a counselor here at Career Services.  Make sure your supporting documents (resume, cover letter drafts) are ready to go.  For those of you interested in the large employers who recruit on campus, the year starts today, August 30, the first day you can submit resumes.  Employer information sessions begin the day before classes start.  The large career days are the second week of classes.  Recruiting starts September 28.  Those who get a slow start will miss out on real opportunities.

If you are applying to graduate or professional school, consult early with one of our pre-professional advisors.  Attend graduate school information sessions, beginning in September.  Be realistic about the schools on your list (our advisors can help with that too).   Ask for recommendations in plenty of time.  Make sure your applications are ready to go early.

Is all this making you nervous?  It’s still August, you say, and you’re right.  So sit back and enjoy this final week of summer.  Be confident.  You are at Penn, which will help, believe me.  Take advantage of all the resources that come with being a Quaker, especially those here in Career Services.  We look forward to working with you in the year ahead.  Here’s to the class of 2011!

What Am I Worth?

by Peggy Curchack

Here’s a question I received from a student a while back:  “Should I be willing to take a job for $25,000?  Isn’t that like insulting me, or inappropriate since I have a Penn degree?”

I see two different issues here:  one is “what is a reasonable salary?”  The other:  “doesn’t the fact that I have a degree from Penn enhance my worth?”  In this blog, I’ll address the salary issue.  Stay tuned for another blog about the “worth” of a Penn degree.

I maintain that no salary is insulting if it is within the boundaries of the industry standards.  Some fields traditionally have paid well (i-banking, consulting), others pay middling (web development, economic research), others pay terribly (women’s shelters, arts organizations, entry-level positions at ad agencies).  The fact that some of your classmates will be offered $60,000 in one industry doesn’t mean you’ve been dissed if you get offered $30,000 to teach in a private school – and take it!

It’s regrettable that there isn’t greater equity among salaries paid in different fields (or, at least, I think it’s regrettable), but that’s reality.

And while many of you have come to enjoy a level of comfort that you’d like to maintain, think hard about what you really need to be fulfilled and challenged.  One’s earnings and one’s “worth” are often equated, but not for any good reasons.  And certainly what you earn in your first job out of Penn is not what you’ll be earning forever and ever (though some fields never pay a lot).  People who hate their jobs are unhappy people, no matter what they earn.

For the number of you with truly daunting loans to pay back:  I wish I had simple words of wisdom, but I don’t.  However, think hard about whether your life will be over if you don’t live in, let’s say, NY.  A dollar goes way farther in Philly or Baltimore or Boulder than it does in Boston, SF, or NY.

The Walt Disney Company
©Walt Disney Company

Finally, a personal belief:  all kinds of people have ended up making good money doing things they are passionate about.  I like to fantasize about Jim Henson coming home from the University of Maryland one weekend and, responding to his grandmother’s question “What are you going to do with your life?” saying “I’m going to make puppets”.  If there is something you know you adore doing, and feel passionate about, do it – you might even find it remunerates better than you expect.

Back to School Shopping for Professional Attire – Dress for Success But Don’t Break the Bank

By Kelly Cleary

We all know we should dress to impress when it comes to professional networking and interviewing, but what does that mean, exactly? We know it doesn’t mean jeans, t-shirts, or anything you’re likely to wear to an 8am class or a party on Friday night.  But what should you wear to employer information sessions (which begin the night before classes for full-time OCR positions), alumni panels that include networking receptions, career fairs, or first or second round interviews?  (The info session and employer links above provide some tips on what to wear to these events.)

If you’re planning  to interview for post-grad jobs or internships in the upcoming year, you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe, but it’s a good idea to have a few key pieces of professional attire in your closet, or at least at your disposal (your roommate’s closet?) If have clean and pressed articles of these types of clothes that fall into the same color scheme (black, gray, dark grey, some neutral tones),  you should be in good shape for recruiting season.

What to wear? The Basics

  • A dark suit, ladies can opt for pant or skirt suits
  • Dress pants, again dark shades are preferable
  • Dress shirt(s) in conservative colors (white, blue, other neutrals)
  • You can also add a professional looking sweater, ladies can go with a blouse
  • A blazer, if you can find one that works with one or two pairs of your dress pants
  • Dress/professional shoes that work with your color scheme (black shoes make a black/grey color base easy) with dark socks
  • For Men: a tie or a few
  • For Women: conservative (just above or below the knee) skirts or dresses can also work well.
  • This article offers more detailed advice on what to wear.

Where to look for your new professional attire? Yes, you can easily spend a chunk of your hard earned summer cash on new clothes, but you don’t need to do so. Here are some suggestions for finding professional clothes while staying within your budget.

Hand-me-downs – check big sis, big brother or maybe even mom and dad’s closets. I’ve always been really fortunate to have a mother who dresses well and is about my size. I’ve also scored some great clothes from my sisters once they were gainfully employed and happy to pass on last season’s suit or shoes.

Discount stores – you can find great deals on suits, slacks, shirts, ties, blouses, and shoes at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Kohl’s.

Sales at department stores and specialty stores – If you hit the sales right or remember to bring in those 20% coupons (which can sometimes be found online), you can purchase some of these wardrobe staples at great prices at stores like Macy’s, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic.

Your friend’s closet – Most of us have friends who seem to have endless closets of really great clothes, and some of those friends are also willing to share. When I was in college one of my suitemates worked at Ann Taylor so she had a closet full of stylish professional clothes. Several friends treated her closet like a library for interview clothes. Unfortunately for me she was 5’8 and I was 5’2. She was also finance major and I was an English major, so at the time I was more than a little intimidated by her career path focus and interview confidence… but that’s another blog story.

For more tips on business etiquette and professional dress read the article on p. 89 of our career guide Pathways. (Note, this link takes you to the 09-10 guide, but hardcopies of the 10-11 guide are available in Career Services and it will posted online soon.)

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall…

..who is the fairest one of all?  If you’re familiar with the children’s story of Snow White, you know this is a desperate plea from the Evil Queen to her enchanted mirror, so that she may know with certainty if Snow White has perished at the hands of the Evil Queen’s minion, making her the “fairest in the land.”  Even Harry Potter had the Mirror of Erised, in which he saw his “living” parents.

And while I certainly would like an enchanted mirror of my own, in which to ensure work gets done or to see my heart’s greatest desire, I am not sure such things exist in real life.  But, I do think reflection can be of great help to you in your job search.

Thinking back on where you’ve been and where you are today, on what you’ve enjoyed, what you’d rather not do again, what skills you’ve gained and experience you’ve earned, will prepare you well for SO many questions you’ll be asked as you apply to internships and jobs.  Are you considering a career path that requires a great deal of team based work?  Think back to your (possibly many) examples of great team work – as well as those times your team didn’t succeed.  “What is your greatest weakness?” is a popular question – when did you suffer from a shortcoming and work hard to overcome it?  Sift through your experiences in advance, so you can easily tell YOUR story when asked.  Think back on the times you’ve been applauded for success, been celebrated for your achievements, but also the times you’ve had challenges, and times you’ve learned from disappointment or mistakes.   I guarantee the answers you can create for interview questions will be the better for it.

Practice, Practice, Practice

By: David Ross

Consider this scenario. You’ve just landed that coveted job or internship interview. The prospect of this new opportunity is exciting and you can already envision your first day at work. All that remains is a bit of interview prep, acing your interview and presto – you’re good to go.

So you figure you’ll do some homework to get ready for the interview – review a list of possible questions, research the company…you know, traditional interview prep. Often, people will ask me: how should I prepare for my upcoming interview? What specific questions will I be asked? Now, generally speaking, interviewers may ask different types of questions: fit questions, technical questions, behavioral questions, just to name a few. And certainly, the infamous “Tell me about yourself” and “Walk me through your resume” standbys never get old. But no one can ever predict exactly what questions will be asked by whom in advance. Believe me, if I could look into a crystal ball and reveal every single question you will be asked, I would. (If I could look into a crystal ball, to see the next winning lottery numbers, I’d do that too – but I digress.)

Given that interviewing is a skill that can improve with practice, definitely take advantage of opportunities to participate in a mock interview. Anyone can attempt to guess in advance how well they will interview – but at the end of the day, all that creates is pure speculation. Why not take the time to practice some questions and put yourself to the test? An added benefit of a mock interview is feedback on your performance. Are you tapping your foot inadvertently? Do you have a penchant for minimal eye contact? Inclined to use fillers (“like” and “um”) when you get nervous? All of these things can happen and have happened when candidates interview for positions. These tendencies all can be corrected – but that’s much easier when they are brought to someone’s attention.

Career Services provides a plethora of resources to help you prepare for interviewing – including mock interviews. So you have great resources already at your disposal. Just remember – practice, practice, practice…