High Hopes

I must confess, the past few days I’ve been a little preoccupied with baseball. And by “baseball,” I mean the Phillies. (And by “a little,” I mean, a lot.) After a season of ups (Roy Halladay’s perfect game) and downs (more injuries than I could even keep track of) followed by a spectacular September, Charlie Manuel’s team found themselves not only in the playoffs, but the arguable favorite to win the NL penant. Which brings us to today: down 3 games to 1 in the Division Championship series, with our ace Halladay starting against San Fransciso’s ace, Tim Lincecum. Do or die. Win tonight or go home.

Any analogy I might make here to THIS particular situation and the job search or to how Career Services can help you get into medical school or prepare you for life in the real world would only be tortured, and not really useful at all.

So instead, I’ll take a page out of Harry Kalas‘s book and burst into song… (okay well I won’t actually do that, but I’ll copy some lyrics down and link to a video):

When you are down lift your head off the ground
There’s a lot to be learned so look around

Once there was a silly old ant
Thought he’d move a rubber tree plant
Everyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he had high hopes, he had high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So when you start to feelin’ low
‘stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Hoop there goes another rubber tree plant
Hoop there goes another rubber tree plant
Hoop there goes another rubber tree plant…

(Wow, some of those fans are nearly as tone deaf as I am!)

So actually HERE is where I’ll make the aforementioned tortured analogy.

Considering life after college or graduate school and contemplating the “real world” can be incredibly daunting. I remember being not at all certain I could handle finding a job, starting that hypothetical new job, paying my own bills, keeping track of health insurance and dentist appointments and having time to make dinner and have a social life outside the comfortable confines of school. But, here I am, 5 years later and it hasn’t been so bad at all. I look around and all of my friends from high school and college are thriving, pursuing drastically different career paths but all having so much fun establishing themselves professionally and personally. I certainly felt like that fabled ant during college attempting the impossible, but my friends and I all DID move that rubber tree plant. You will, too.

Hopefully HK’s words can bring you some solace, as they do for me when I consider the challenge that’s ahead for the Phillies tonight. Let’s go, Phillies!

Getting in the Loop: Crafting a Letter of Interest

By Sharon Fleshman

This semester, I’ve talked to a few students who are interested in particular jobs that they’ve seen posted, but wonder whether it’s too soon to apply since they’re not graduating until May. Maybe that’s your dilemma. Or perhaps you know that you have your heart set on working at a particular organization, but at the moment, there is no position posted that matches your skills and interests. What to do? You may assume that correspondence with a potential employer has to be in response to a given opportunity. Not so! In both cases, you can send a “letter of interest,” a type of cover letter that will allow you to express your enthusiasm about a given organization or position.

Let’s start with the first scenario I mentioned. You see the posting for an ideal job, but suspect that the position would need to be filled sooner than your graduation date. Of course, your letter would highlight your interest and qualifications, but it can also include something like “I was excited to see that you had an opening for Position X. I will be graduating in May 2011 and I hope that you will consider my application for this position. However, I realize that you may need to hire someone sooner. If that is the case, please consider me for any future similar opportunities that arise.”

In the second scenario, let’s say that you simply want to pursue an opportunity with a given organization but there are no current job openings relevant to your background or career interests. You should include much in your letter that focuses on what attracts you to the organization itself. After you bring attention to how you resonate with the organization’s mission and core values, be sure to identify your skills and qualifications as it relates to particular areas and functions of the organization which interest you. As I already noted, you can request that the recruiter consider you for any future opportunities. In addition, you may want to inquire about the possibility of an informational interview.

To get started, check out the resources on the Career Services website on how to write cover letters. Once you develop a draft, feel free to make an appointment with a Career Services advisor who can help you tweak your letter and networking strategy.

I Have an Offer! Now What?

By Barbara Hewitt

Many Penn students have begun to receive offers through the on-campus recruiting process. If you are one of these students, congratulations!  It is gratifying to see that your hard work has paid off and resulted in an offer.

Although receiving an employment offer is a happy experience for most students, it can also be stressful.  You may not be ready to accept the offer, but could be receiving pressure from the employer to quickly make up your mind. After all, recruiters usually want to wrap up their recruiting and finalize their hiring as quickly as possible. In a tight economy, employers don’t have the liberty of over-hiring, so need to manage their candidate numbers very carefully.  If they wait too long for a candidate to mull over an offer and then the candidate decides not to accept it’s likely the employer will have lost out on other potential new hires in the process.  Unfortunately, this is a case where the best path for the candidate and the best path for the employer are often not in alignment, which can make it a difficult negotiation for both parties.

Be sure to stay in contact with recruiters....

So….what’s the best way for a candidate to handle this situation? In two words, tactfully and with enthusiasm.  Given that you might ultimately end up working with the employer (either immediately after graduation or perhaps in the future) you don’t want to leave a bad impression by coming across as demanding or unreasonable.  However, the only way to get additional time to decide on an offer from an employer is to ask for it.  As most of you know, Career Services requests that on-campus recruiting employers give students until November 1 to decide on offers (if they were summer interns at the particular employer) or until December 1 if the offer was received during the fall on-campus recruiting process.  If you need the time, by all means tactfully bring up the subject with the employer.  By tactful, I mean that it is important to express gratitude and enthusiasm for the offer and try not to come across as demanding.  Indicate to the employer that you understand that they would like a response as soon as possible, but that you want to make sure that you are making the right choice and that you feel you need a little more time to finalize your plans. Give the employer a date that you think would work for you.  While you may ask for the December 1 deadline, it is unlikely that many of you will need that much time, so you might consider requesting a shorter timeframe.  Before accepting an offer, reach out to other employers with whom you have interviewed, if you have not yet heard from them.  They may still be considering you, and you should clarify your status with all your prospects before committing.  You should also check to see what their timeline is for conducting second round interviews and extending offers so that you will have a clear idea of how much time you will realistically need to finish up the process.

One of the worst things you can do is to simply stop communicating with the employer in the hopes of avoiding the discussion.  A frequent complaint we receive from recruiters is that students stop returning phone calls or replying to  emails, giving the employer very little insight into where the student is in the decision process. This is extremely frustrating for recruiters, and also demonstrates a lack of professionalism on the student’s part.

Please feel free to visit Career Services to speak with a counselor if you would like guidance on negotiating a timeline for deciding on an offer.  We are happy to discuss your specific situation with you.  While we generally suggest that students reach out to prospective employers for the initial conversation, if an OCR employer seems unwilling or unable to abide by our offer policies we are certainly happy to reach out to them to discuss the situation and negotiate on your behalf.

The HORROR of Not Having a Job Yet

By Claire Klieger

Remember getting caught up that build up to prom night fervor of “I must have a date!” because you’re pretty sure that your social future as you know it depends upon not looking like the loser that no one wanted to take to Prom? Perhaps (though probably not) even now you have the occasional Carrie-esque nightmares?

Left: Hooray! I'll be gainfully employed. Right: My life if I don't have a job offer by Thanksgiving.

For many seniors I’ve recently spoken with, it seems like the job search, especially during the OCR season, produces similar levels of anxiety. It may feel as though every person you know is telling you that you need to have a job and in a tough economy, pickings may be slim. You may have noticed frenzied-looking individuals resembling Penn students except for their oddly formal dress darting all over campus (sometimes the sea of stressed dark suits reminds of me zombies who instead of  mumbling “brains, brains, brains” chant “jobs , jobs, jobs”) or you might be in the midst of that tidal wave, yourself.

The on-campus recruiting process is very intense and it moves quite quickly –you go through all of these rounds at lightning speed and before you know it you (hopefully) have an offer and you think, wow, how did I get here? And, it’s wonderful (and safe) to feel like you have an offer and don’t have to worry about your future after graduation.

But I’m here to tell you NOT to play it safe. That doesn’t mean if you get a job offer through OCR that you’re thrilled with that you should say no because there might be something better that comes along. By all means, if getting that phone call causes you to literally jump for joy and the idea of seeing their business cards with your name on them makes  you salivate, accept and congratulations to you. However, if your reaction to an offer is more along the lines of well, it’s nice that somebody wants me; at least I’ll have a job (á la, at least I’ll be going to prom), think long and hard about whether or not you should say yes.

Again, let’s think back to those painful high school years. Were you so worried about having a prom date that you said yes to the first person who asked you even though you weren’t so excited about the offer? So, secretly you hoped that someone else better would come along and ask you. And, maybe someone did and you ended up having to crush the heart (and ego) of the person who had originally asked you. In the end, while not as drastic or ridiculous as in the film 1970s classic Stephen King horror film Carrie, there was probably lots of drama. In the job search, the stakes are actually higher. There are real and potentially severe consequences to reneging on a job offer later.

So, if you get an offer that you’re not sure you’re excited about, do not say yes just to have “something” for when you graduate. In the long run, you and your potential employer will be far better off waiting for the right proverbial prom date offer.

Welcome to Family Weekend

From Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

Friday marks the beginning of Family Weekend, and many of you will have your family visiting.  Enjoy your time with them.  (Disclosure: I just returned from my son’s Family Weekend a few days ago; don’t underestimate how much your parents are looking forward to seeing you, and learning more about your life at Penn.)

If your parents arrive by Friday afternoon, please bring them to our Career Services Open House, which runs from 2:30 – 4:00 here in our offices (Suite 20, McNeil).  You and your family will have the opportunity to meet our staff, and learn how we can help you define your career goals and take the steps necessary to achieve them.  From 3:00 – 3:30 I will be making short remarks and taking questions in Room 287 McNeil, right off the elevators on the second floor of the building.  I will be giving a sneak peak at the results of our class of 2010 Career Plans Survey.  Find out how successful last year’s seniors were in finding employment and getting admitted to graduate programs.  (Hint: they had an easier time than the class of 2009.)

If your parents aren’t here, that’s okay.  Stop in anyway, either during the Open House, or at a time convenient to your schedule.  Schedule an appointment with a counselor.  Check out the resources in our career library.  We’re here to help you, regardless of your career ambitions or level of uncertainty about the future.    While this may be Family Weekend, every day is Student Day in Career Services.  We hope to see you soon.