What’s In a Name?

By: David Ross

While considering employment options, it can be very easy to focus only on opportunities at “brand-name” organizations. When you think about it, the reasons for joining a well-known, established company are quite clear. Working at such a firm carries a certain cachet which can be a source of great pride. Well-known companies may provide excellent training programs to prepare you for future opportunities. Or perhaps employment with a highly-recognized firm provides that “stamp of approval” that resonates in the eyes of future prospective employers.

While these are all benefits to working for a widely-known organization, keep in mind that today’s “brand-name” may not be tomorrow’s. We live in a world today with a multitude of company mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies. There are countless stories of well-known firms from years past that are no longer in existence due to financial troubles or corporate malfeasance. (Remember all of those stores you used to shop at when you were younger that are just a distant memory?) As much as these now defunct brands developed their reputations over a number of years, their memories could very well fade over time.

Thus, joining an organization primarily for name recognition can be a risky proposition. If working for a well-known company appeals to you that’s great. There are many amazing jobs and internships at world-renowned organizations. But carefully consider all of the other elements of the work environment and experience that are important to you – for some people that may be autonomy over their work product, a collegial atmosphere or perhaps a having a variety of duties. While everyone has different preferences and interests, focusing beyond the “name” increases the likelihood your experience will be beneficial both today and for your future.

Guest Perspective: How To Work Abroad

By Kate Thiers

This post comes from alumna Kate Thiers (Wharton undergrad 2000) who currently works in South Africa as a international healthcare recruiter.  She recently posted for @PennCareerDay on Twitter, for more on Kate click here and to read her Twitter Feed click here.

Working abroad is a privilege and something I have always wanted to do. Back in my junior and senior years at Penn, I would find myself sitting in front of my computer looking at jobs and trying to work out how it would be possible to work in London or Paris. I had no idea. It took me six years of working in Philadelphia before I finally made it to Oxford for my MBA, then to London to work with Siemens, and finally to Johannesburg to work with Africa Health Placements. I have learned along the way that it is easier than you think to get abroad: harder than accepting a US-based job but not the insurmountable feat it can seem when you are staring at job vacancies… again… on your laptop.

There are three main ways to get abroad. The first is the almost-accidental route I took – getting a second or advanced degree in an international university. Getting a visa to continue working in the country after graduation is usually relatively easy, depending on where you are. This route is pretty self explanatory and the school you are involved with will usually assist you. However, you should never completely depend on a second party to advise you on immigration rules unless it is an immigration agent. And they can be expensive. Your biggest challenge will be keeping on top of your personal visa situation and making sure you convert your student visa into a working visa. I did this upon graduating from Oxford in the UK – the rules have changed now but they are still accommodating to students with good degrees. The hardest part will be deciphering the process! But don’t be discouraged… it can be done with a good day’s worth of work, patience, and a dependable file of all your personal documents.

First tip: Always know your visa status and take complete responsibility for it.

Second tip: Keep an original copy (or certified copy) of your life with you. This includes birth certificate, passport, diplomas, transcripts, etc.

The second way to get abroad is to go and live in a country first; then look for work when you are there. This only admittedly works for some countries as you may not actually be allowed to do job interviews on a tourist visa. However, this is the route I took when coming to South Africa. My significant other is South African and we both decided it was time to make the move from London to Johannesburg. I showed up on a tourist visa, had a bit of a holiday (Johannesburg has the most amazing sunny days), and then looked for work. I found a job within three months and took complete responsibility for getting a residence visa and work visa once I had the offer. Sometimes your new company will help pay for your immigration paperwork but you will have to ask!

Third tip: Know the immigration rules of the country you would like to go to (i.e. is it allowable to interview on a tourist visa; will you need a residence visa as well as a work visa when you do find a job?)

The third way to get abroad is to find a job before you even leave the US. This is slightly harder as you have to research the job market for the country or countries you are interested in. Most companies will try to avoid the hassle of hiring a foreigner and dealing with their immigration paperwork. This is an unfortunate issue I faced in London once I started looking for work. The best advice I can give is to look for international companies specifically hiring for foreigners. Some global companies will have an international intern programme for example. Others will be hiring to gain the expertise of your home country, such as a company looking to expand to the US or looking to sell a new product in the US. Another option is to look for countries with a skills shortage in your area of expertise – although these will more likely be developing countries. Remember, when you write your cover letters or speak to potential employers, it is always a huge bonus if you have done your homework on how to get a visa. Contrary to what you might think, most employers will have no idea how the immigration process works for their own country.

Fourth tip: Look in a smart way for international jobs – don’t apply when it is clear they are not going to consider international candidates.

Fifth tip: Do your homework on your visa options before you even apply for the job.

The final issue to consider when you are thinking of working abroad is how you will live when you get there and what life will be like. For example, my younger sister was hired by a French company to teach in Paris for a year upon graduating from college. She had no idea how to evaluate what life would be like when she got there and most importantly, if she could afford to live on the salary they offered her. You can overcome these questions with a bit of research online. For example, look for flat advertisements on the London Gumtree website to investigate typical rental rates. Read up on normal living conventions: as an example, it is completely normal for Londoners to rent out a room of a two-bedroom flat. Who knew? It might seem like a weird setup for an American but it is a lot cheaper than renting your own flat. It is also completely normal in Johannesburg for people to have separate “cottages” on their properties and rent them out, also a much cheaper option than your own place. Once again, it requires you to do your homework and make sure that you are getting a good offer!

Final tip: Pretend you are actually going to live in your new city there next month. Find out rents and living costs online. What are typical and less expensive living arrangements? Where are the areas you should avoid? Expat blogs and online expat community sites are great for this kind of advice.

Visit our Career Exploration page dedicated to international opportunities for more information on ways to work abroad – http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/discovery/#global

Careers to be Thankful For

by Julie Vick

Like my colleague, Barb Hewitt, who wrote a blog post earlier this week, I am also grateful for many things.   In fact, thankfulness is an approach to life I adopted years ago and it has served me well.  I am always thankful for my husband, children, mother, sister and brother and extended family and the fact that, at the moment, we all seem to be pretty healthy.  And of course I’m thankful for my wonderful job at this great university where I get to work with terrific colleagues providing career services for interesting Penn graduate students, postdocs and graduate alumni.

But there are workers out there for whom I am also thankful but might not be so obvious…such as research scientists.  I am grateful that they make amazing discoveries that change our health and way of living whether they are Nobel awardees or postdoctoral fellows working under their mentor’s supervision.  A career in science is not for the fainthearted.  These people work so hard and such long hours and often their projects fail and they have to start over again.  In addition to college, a PhD program and 3-5 years of a postdoc they also write grants to fund their own work, train those who work in their labs, present their research in papers at meetings and articles in journals, and on and on.  Their dedication is incredible and can benefit all of us.

News reporters, particularly those who write for newspapers and news stations like NPR spend a great deal of time investigating issues and uncover crime, corruption and incompetence.  They are the ones who keep this country a real democracy by investigating and writing about issues other would like to keep hidden.  As one who lives in New Jersey and regularly takes the PATCO high speed train line to work and drives over one of the bridges to go to the theatre, museums and restaurants, I appreciate the Philadelphia Inquirer’s many recent articles on waste and misuse of public funds in the Delaware River Port Authority, the agency that runs PATCO and the area bridges.

At the same time I am grateful for many government employees at all levels.  While there are many public employees who do not do their job well, I know there are many more who are incredibly responsible, hardworking and talented.  I appreciate those who keep our planes flying, our traffic flowing, our water clean and provide assistance to citizens in need.

I am thankful for those young Americans who volunteer to serve in our military in a war that I don’t think we should be part of but who do the very best they can trying to help Iraq and Afghanistan take charge of their own nations.   My small thank you to them was the donation I made on Veterans Day to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Speaking of thanking, one morning this week I received two thank you messages.

A current graduate student applying for a position had gone over the fine points of his job hunting materials with me before sending them.  A few days later he wrote, “Just wanted to thank you again for sharing your time and expertise this Monday.  It was such a relief being able to run it by you prior to sending off the application.”

An alumna who graduated earlier in the decade lost her job more than a year ago.  I spoke with her a few times but hadn’t in several months.  She wrote to let me know that through a previous connection she had interviewed and gotten an offer for a new job.  She described the job and ended with, “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and offer your suggestions.”

My job is to help people and I don’t expect to be thanked beyond a thank you right before someone leaves my office or hangs up the phone.  But when I get an unexpected thank you like that, it makes my day.   And I will remember both of those people.  Taking the extra effort to thank people makes you memorable in a wonderful way.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Flipping through the Channels…

by J. Michael DeAngelis

Thursday nights always offer up a tough choice.  Do I watch 30 Rock or Big Bang Theory?  Did I choose to spend the night with Bones and Fringe or do I dutifully watch The Office?

Or maybe I should watch all those episodes of Psych I’ve got recorded…or just pop in an old Star Trek on DVD.

Sometimes, I wish everything I wanted to watch was just on one channel.  Today, we’re moving closer and closer to that with the ability to DVR and watch online – with media guides and search functions and TiVO algorithms that help us find exactly what we want to watch.

Here at Career Services, we’ve had the same idea – creating a Vimeo site that features our many career videos.  You’ll find interviews with current students and alumni, discussions with our career counselors, videos of past programs and helpful orientations to various services offered by our office.  Many of our videos are also viewable on your favorite mobile device!

You can check our the main channel or visit one of our specialty channels:

So tonight, when you’re flipping through the channels, why not click on over to Vimeo and see what’s playing on the Career Services channel?

Plenty to Be Thankful For….

By Barbara Hewitt

It’s that time of year again…Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Although we may be surrounded by turkey and pumpkin pie, this holiday also presents a time to reflect on those things for which we are truly grateful. Good health, family and friends all come easily to mind, but as I reflect on my life, I am also truly grateful for the wonderful education I have been fortunate to attain. The opportunity to learn about the world, develop new skills, and broaden my horizons are all aspects of my educational experiences I truly cherish. I’ve received degrees from a variety of institutions, including a small liberal arts school, a mid-sized public institution, and a large Ivy League school. Although the experiences differed greatly from one another, all were valuable and have helped me to pursue and reach my career goals.

There are many reasons why I consider an education to be a blessing, but perhaps one of the most practical is that it allows individuals more choice and freedom in their careers. In today’s increasingly complex and rapidly changing world, applicants for most jobs must demonstrate that they have (in addition to some very specific skills for particular jobs) a variety of more general skills, including the ability to continually learn, the ability to communicate effectively, and the ability to solve problems. Developing these high-level skills allows job candidates to shift between industries and jobs more easily in an ever-changing world because they are transferable and are necessary to succeed in a wide variety of work settings.

The skills developed in college can also really pay off in terms of job security. For example, in October 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher had an unemployment rate of just 4.7%. Of course, this is much higher than the 2% average back in 2007 for college graduates, but much lower than the current unemployment rates for those with some higher education but less than a college degree (8.1%), high school graduates (9.2%), or those with less than a high school diploma (14%). Although having a strong educational background does not guarantee that you will always be employed, it does increase the likelihood that you will be able to reenter the labor market in a new position if necessary, perhaps in a different functional area or industry.

A college degree also increases the choice of jobs open to you and allows more control over your career. A wider variety of career options will be available to you simply because you have earned a degree. For example, many jobs require applicants to have at minimum an undergraduate degree, but often the degree does not have to be in a particular field. Consulting is a great example of this. Consulting firms hire individuals with all sorts of academic backgrounds from Penn, but successful applicants have in common a broad skill set such as the ability to work in teams, excellent analytical skills, strong communication skills, etc. Your Penn education will open up many doors for you in the working world, not always because of your specific degree, but because of the fact that you are broadly and well educated. During the coming weeks as you write term papers and prepare for finals (in addition to eating turkey and pumpkin pie!), you may wonder if all your work is worth it. Be assured that it is….and be thankful for the opportunities your Penn education will present to you throughout your life.