O.C.R. = Overly Confusing Recruiting?!?

It’s that time of year again, when Career Services welcomes recruiters to campus to conduct exclusive interviews with Penn students.

We understand that On Campus Recruiting can be a difficult process.  The anticipation of  getting an interview, figuring out the best things to say during an interview, wondering about second rounds and offers – these things can all be stressful, but what we sincerely hope is that OCR itself is not confusing.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the basics of On Campus Recruiting, so now seems like a good time to point out that almost all the information you need can be found on our website.

First and foremost, you should watch the On Campus Recruiting Orientation video. This narrated Power Point will take you step by step through the process of OCR, from logging in to uploading your resume to accepting and scheduling interviews.  This is a NOT TO BE MISSED video!  Think of it as the must see movie of the season!

If you have a very specific questions, the first place to check is the On Campus Recruiting FAQ page, where you can also search for questions by topic.

The OCR section of our website should be a “one stop shop” for your all of your recruiting needs.  Besides the orientation and FAQ, you’ll find printable forms from Add-Ons, our Cancellation Policy, Recruiting and Offer Policies and more.

You can also check out this video where graduating students offer advice on navigating the OCR process:

On Campus Recruiting Advice from Graduating Students from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.

Still have questions?  Stop by and see one of the career counselors for your school during walk-ins or call us to make an appointment!  Good luck!

But I’m A Paralegal: Will A Legal Internship Help Get Me Into Law School?

by Todd Rothman

As a pre-law advisor, I probably hear this question from at least one advisee every week.  And at this time of year, with all eyes on what to do over the summer, this concern seems to crop up daily.  The seemingly obvious answer to this question is “Yes, of course it will!  It’s relevant experience!”  However, the more accurate answer is actually “Not necessarily.”  Here’s why.

Since law schools are looking to fill their incoming classes with students who possess diverse interests, expertise, and passions, admissions officers are excited by applicants with experience in a variety of fields and settings.  In the same way that law schools do not have any pre-requisite courses or preferred majors, there is no pre-requisite internship that is valued more highly than others.  Though this may seem counter-intuitive – after all, shouldn’t first-hand exposure to your intended profession be important and well-regarded? – the underlying rationale is rooted in the belief on the part of law schools that it is primarily *their* responsibility to indoctrinate you in the study and practice of law.

If you think about it, other components of the admissions process to law school are actually reflective of that overall belief as well.  Rather than a statement of purpose – in which the applicant is asked to articulate her career goals and describe how her academic background and professional trajectory has specifically qualified her for their intended field – law school applications require an intentionally open-ended personal statement.  This essay is essentially a “Tell me about yourself” exercise and effective law school personal statements can be wholly unrelated to the legal field.  In fact, many of the best personal statements that I’ve read are self-reflective and engaging, but never even come close to mentioning the law whatsoever.

Now, this is not to say that law schools disapprove of law-related internships or paralegal work either.  But here’s the (poorly-kept) secret about the majority of entry-level paralegal positions for undergraduates: they’re almost entirely administrative in nature and a fairly dry and unengaging experience.  The truth is, the most common activity done in legal internships is what is euphemistically referred to as “document production” (read: photocopying and collating).  And law school admissions officers know this all too well.  There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and legal internships at smaller law firms (where the attorneys on staff actually need more help) can often be those exceptions.  Ironically, the largest, most prestigious, and most well-known law firms usually provide the least substantive experiences for interns, simply because the lawyers there are already well-supported by full-time support staff and first- or second-year associates for the more engaging projects.

So, here is the good news for pre-law students!  When you’re thinking about your next internship, the most important consideration should be this: What would I find the most stimulating, challenging, and relevant to my unique interests?  And the even better news is that this is not only from an educational and professional perspective, but also from an admissions perspective.  If the answer is working as a paralegal and seeing how law firms work, then that’s great!  But if your passions, skills, and interests lead you towards apprenticing a curator at an art museum… or teaching English abroad… or contributing to a psychological research study… or working at a biotechnology firm, then that’s great too!

Believe me, no law school admissions officer will ever review a strong application from a bright, engaged student and think, “Well, he’s a great candidate… but if only he was a paralegal.”

I want my post-bac, post-bac, post-bac….

Your roommate says she isn’t applying to dental school this year, she’s going to “do post-bac.”  Your mother says you should talk to your cousin because he “did post-bac” after working for a couple of years.  Or, you know you want to “do post-bac,” but don’t know where to start with your planning.  What IS post-bac?  A dance?  A yoga practice?

Baby back ribs -- not post-bac. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sacasea

“Post-bac” is short for post-baccalaureate and it refers to academic coursework undertaken after completing your undergraduate degree.  More school?!  Why would a person do this?  There are two reasons if someone is planning to go to medical, dental or veterinary school:  either he wants to improve his GPA and academic profile before applying or she didn’t complete the required coursework as an undergrad.

For example, Perry Pre-med completed his requirements and feels his GPA is not where he would like it to be before applying to medical school.  Perry might decide to take post-baccalaureate classes in the sciences to raise his cumulative undergraduate GPA.  Perry could either enroll in a post-bac “academic record enhancer” program (awkwardly named, but accurate in that he wants to give his transcript an appealing makeover) or take upper level science courses at a college or university as a non-matriculated student (meaning he is enrolled, taking courses for a grade, but not working towards a degree).  Alternatively, Perry might consider a “special master’s program” (SMP) in which he takes first-year medical school courses to demonstrate his academic readiness for medical school.  An SMP will not affect his undergraduate GPA, but it will demonstrate his ability to handle the work in medical school if he does well.  A master’s in public health is not likely to help Perry with his goal of gaining admission to medical school as the graduate courses will not affect his cumulative undergraduate GPA, nor will they show his ability in basic science courses.

Paulina Pre-dental, on the other hand, did not take any of the required coursework as an undergraduate.  Before she applies to dental school she can complete her coursework through a post-bac “career changer” program (even if she doesn’t have a career to change) or as a non-matriculated student.

So, how will Perry and Paulina decide whether to do a program or not?  If Perry wants to do a post-bac program, how will he choose one?  And who cares about Perry and Paulina?  What about YOU?

If you are deciding between a program and taking classes on your own, you may want to come in and speak with a pre-health adviser about your options.  We have worked with graduates who have taken both routes with success (and both routes without success…post-bac work doesn’t guarantee admission to graduate school, which is a good reason to consider it thoroughly before beginning).  Here are some important points to consider regarding post-bac:

  • Post-bac programs are numerous and varied.  Most of them can be found in the AAMC’s searchable database.  You will need to be proactive and research the programs.   Read the websites and call admissions offices with your questions.
  • Programs offer more and less flexibility in terms of the pace of your coursework and the time of day classes are offered.  If you are working at the same time, this could be important.
  • Some programs are specifically for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds or groups underrepresented in medicine.  The University of California Post-bac Consortium is one such program.
  • What, if any, support is given to students enrolled in the post-bac program in terms of advising, committee letters, MCAT preparation, or research and clinical opportunities?
  • What is the cost of enrolling in a post-bac program vs. taking courses as a non-matriculated student?
  • What is the minimum GPA for admission to a program and are there other requirements and deadlines you need to know?
  • Does the post-bac program offer linkage with specific medical schools?  Linkage means that you can apply to the medical school before you have completed all of the coursework in the post-bac program.  Applicants admitted to medical school via linkage are strong applicants, nominated by their program, so you cannot assume that if the post-bac program offers linkage that you will be admitted that way.
  • If you have completed some of the requirements for medical school, but not all, are you a good fit for a post-bac program?  You will need to call them and find out and you may be better served picking up the courses on your own.

Choosing a post-baccalaureate path can be a difficult process as there may not be a “right” or “best” way to proceed.  Researching and considering all of your options is a great idea and your pre-health advisors are happy to meet with you to discuss your plans.

A Day in the Life: General Counsel of a Non-Profit Corporation

Read Brandon Fitzgerald’s archived tweet feed here: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/BrandonFitzgerald_Feed.pdf

Next Tuesday, February 8th, we kick off our Spring edition of @PennCareerDay on Twitter! Brandon M. Fitzgerald (SAS ’93) will post throughout his day as the Vice President, Secretary & General Counsel of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA).  If you’re interested in a career in law, life at a non-profit corporation or diversity issues, then follow @PennCareerDay on the 8th!  Learn about Brandon’s background below.

Brandon Fitzgerald (SAS '93)

Brandon joined MCCA in March of 2008 and he handles all legal matters for MCCA including those related to its internet presence and MCCA’s Diversity & the Bar® magazine.  MCCA’s mission is to advocate for the expanded hiring, promotion, and retention of minority attorneys by corporate law departments and the law firms that serve them. Since its founding in 1997, MCCA has emerged as a thought leader on diversity issues in the legal profession, and its expanded platform addresses diversity management issues involving generational diversity; women; the physically challenged; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lawyers; and lawyers of color.

Brandon spent the first portion of his legal career as an associate in the DC offices of several large, national law firms– including Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.  In private practice, his focus was on corporate transactions, securities, and finance.

Brandon has also served as in-house counsel to several multinational companies where he reported to the General Counsel and worked directly with senior management.  His focus in-house was in the areas of finance, copyrights and trademarks, and corporate governance.

He is also the co-chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Corporate Counsel Association’s Diversity Forum and is one of the originators of WMACCA’s Corporate Scholars Program.  The Corporate Scholars Program began in 2004 and provides paid internships at WMACCA member corporations to diverse students attending law school in Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Richmond, Virginia.

Brandon received a B.A. in History from the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. from the University of Virginia.

How Will You Lead the Way to Make a Difference?

By Peggy Curchack

We hear from so many of you that it’s really important to you to “make a difference” or “have influence.”  But what does this really mean?  And how do you get there?

Some of us get our greatest satisfaction from having very immediate impact on people:  doctors, lawyers, counselors, financial advisers, nurses, teachers, and all manner of artists – get to be there for the “that was spectacular” or the “aha” moment, or the “thank you, that makes me feel better.” We often see the result of our work quickly – in the reactions of our students, audiences, or clients.

Others want to have more influence on the “big picture” – we make our mark by being in positions to cause change to happen.  CEOs, Executive Directors of non-profits (like Penn), the Chairman of Walt Disney Studios (Penn alum Rich Ross!) – people in charge of departments or functions – get satisfaction from being in a position to steer an organization or influence outcomes.  Rather than working directly with a client (or audience or student), the work generally involves overseeing the work of others, planning, making key decisions.

The point is to play to your talents, and figure out what provides you with the most satisfaction.  This may change over the course of your career.  You may start out as a teacher, and end up as a Superintendent of Schools, or you may start out as a doctor, and end up as a medical administrator.  Or, you can go the other way:  at some point in your life you may find that managing is less gratifying than providing direct service.  Lots of academics, for example, start out in and ultimately return to the classroom, after serving in Congress, in the Foreign Service, as Provosts or even Presidents.

For those of you who are in the process of trying to decide how you want to make a different, visit our Career Exploration page for advice and resources for assessing your values, strengths, and skills and figuring out which careers might be a good fit for you. And visit our Networking and Mentoring page to connect with alumni who can guide and inspire you.