“Careers” for Alumni

by Beth Olson

Many of us—of any age—recall playing the board game Careers in one of its many versions. The goal is to obtain points in three areas—fame, fortune, and happiness. Players determine their own proportions of each for their individual “success formulas” at the beginning of the game.

In our real-life careers, these proportions are constantly changing as our priorities shift. To complicate matters, our very definitions of these goals also change. My current definition of “happiness” may bear some resemblance to what it did when I was fresh out of college, but it is also quite different now. All of which means that identifying desired career fields and searching for job opportunities within them is an ongoing and changing process throughout our lives—whether we are 24 or 48.

Game buffs might already know this, but this board game included an innovation unusual for its time. The game Careers—as in real life—has more than one objective. (See Larry Levy’s article from Counter magazine.) As we proceed down our individual post-graduation roads, our lives become more complicated and diverge from any preconceived “norm.” As our objectives change and multiply, who we are and how we describe ourselves also changes.

Not only do we change, but the landscape changes around us. There is not a single path or right answer to our pressing career and job-search questions. When we seek our next job, we must reacquaint ourselves with the expectations of our hoped-for employers, and we must reacquaint ourselves with the job-search process itself.

If you are a recent graduate seeking a second job in your current career field, you know what it took to find your first job. You are already familiar with the steps that may lead to job-search success: how to network, with whom, where, how to introduce yourself, resume formats, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, interview protocol.

Alumni who are looking for a job in a different field will need to research all these steps. How are jobs advertised in this field? Are they advertised or shared by word of mouth? What are the strongest professional associations in this field? What is the industry “lingo” for the skills needed in this new profession? How should you format your resume?

And alumni who are returning to the job market after many years will find that the job-search process itself has changed. Resumes in our fast-paced world should be focused and streamlined. Social media play a major role in the game now, and online profiles may be as important as resumes. Employers will often not respond to your online application (due to the sheer volume of online applications). Being focused on what you want next is at least (if not more) important than what you’ve done.

Career Services has many resources and suggestions for students in their initial job searches, and much of this information is applicable to alumni. Review the information on our website at: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/alumni/. This page includes articles on

Remember that you’re the expert on explaining who you are. If you’re staying in your current field, you’re an expert on that field as well and have access to information, people, and resources specific to your field (and perhaps more applicable than the broad range of general resources at the Career Center).

Networking is still the name of the game, and you are better situated to do this now than when you were a new graduate or just entering the workforce. As a graduate of Penn, you have the benefit of access to other Penn alumni—a great way to learn about different career fields, meet people, and explore options.

Some job-search skills are the same for anyone—students, alumni with experience, alumni reentering the job market. Critical strategies for all include thoroughly researching and understanding the career field of interest to you; networking with people in that industry; being able to articulate what you want in a focused and concise statement; creating tailored documents (resumes and cover letters). There are strategy resources at http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/findingjobs.html and job postings at http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/pennlink_jobseekers.html.

Just like students who don’t yet know what they want to do, alumni in transition who haven’t identified a career field and are still determining what they want to do next should focus on career exploration. Check out the tips at http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/discovery/ and begin your research to determine what type of job/career field you’re seeking.

Regardless of where you are at in your career game and what your “success formula” is, Career Services has resources to help you in your job-search process.

Buon viaggio!

by Sue Russoniello

By the time you read this blog post, I’ll be in Italy for the first time.  Usually my preparation for a vacation means rushing around at the last minute, throwing in everything I think I might need, which means I over pack and/or forget something vital.  I have vowed that this trip is going to be different.  Since we’ll be traveling by train and carrying our own luggage from place to place, I’ve checked the weather, carefully considered the activities we’ve planned, and tried to line up a minimal collection of the right clothes and accessories.

As I started making a list for my trip, I thought of other aspects of life where I (and you) should make a concerted effort to plan ahead.  For instance, maybe your search for a summer internship, full time job or graduate school applications could use some tweaking. Perhaps you approach important things in your life the same way I pack for vacation — on the day of an interview you throw on a suit, grab your resume and rush out the door thinking you’re ready.



Even now my palms begin to sweat when I remember one particular interview I had many years ago.  When I got out of bed that morning, I discovered that it was snowing, and began to panic.  I not only had to dress more carefully than usual, but also had to find my boots.   Once I got out of the house, I discovered that traffic was horrendous, parking in the city a challenge; I arrived late, rushing up to the receptionist who was waiting for me.  She had to wait even longer while I awkwardly exchanged boots for dress shoes and attempted to smooth my hair, feeling discombobulated rather than calm and prepared.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that the interview went terribly.  I was so rattled by then, that when I was asked what my then boss would say about me that would make the interviewer want to hire me, (not a terribly difficult or unusual question) I totally froze.  Instead of having the composure to carefully promote myself, the few ideas I babbled about just emphasized my lack of readiness and self confidence. I was embarrassed and just wanted it all to be over.  On the way home I beat myself up with a dozen things I should have said, and tried to incorporate them into my thank you note.  But of course it was too late.  In these situations you don’t get a do over, and needless to say, I did not get the job offer.

So what should I have done differently? Why didn’t I plan ahead — listen to the weather report, lay out my clothes (including my boots and gloves) the night before and set an earlier alarm?  I should have anticipated the slow traffic and arrived with enough spare time to be able to organize my thoughts as well as my appearance.  Setting aside some time to review the job description, my resume and sample interview questions would have helped my chances of landing the job.   If only I had scheduled an appointment with a Career Counselor which would have armed me with the self confidence I needed to put my best self forward.

I encourage you to learn from my mistakes.  Career Services is open all year, even during the summer, so please call us for assistance with your job or internship search, or graduate school admissions process.

I realize that advance preparation for events, whether it’s a vacation or a job interview, is well worth the time and effort invested.  It usually leads to a better outcome, better feelings about yourself, and a much more relaxed and enjoyable journey.


Who Are You?

by Anne Reedstrom


Whether this phrase immediately brings to your mind the classic sounds of The Who, the world of CSI (Las Vegas version), or simply sessions with your therapist, it is an important question to ask yourself when preparing to write a personal statement for your application to a health professions or law school.

Your personal statement is a chance to answer this question and give admissions committees insight into your personal qualities, abilities, characteristics, and skills which might be relevant to your field. I don’t mean that you should write an autobiography along the lines of “My name is Anne, I am X years old (I’m so not going to tell you the actual number), I grew up in Minnesota and studied Modern Languages as an undergraduate.” That’s not particularly helpful to anyone and will likely make you sound like a much more boring person than you are. That sentence certainly doesn’t do me any justice!

Dig a little deeper and provide the reader with more than a list of facts or accomplishments; these are the kinds of things that you can showcase on the actual application or the résumé you submit. Give them something they can’t get from your other application materials – you can’t really convey compassion, determination, meticulousness, organizational or communication skills on a résumé. But you can in a personal statement if you relate an experience, something in which you were an active participant, which demonstrates how you developed or used those qualities in a real-life situation.

When I talk to people about this, some know immediately what they want to write about – either the qualities they want to emphasize or the story they want to tell. Others struggle a little more, I think, for a couple of reasons. You have been doing a specific kind of writing since you came to college and only rarely has it been expressive or personal in any way. We’re actually taught to remove ourselves from academic writing and it can be a challenge to now be faced with a situation in which you are the subject of the essay. Some of us find it difficult to write about ourselves in an overtly positive way or even to identify positive traits we have – after all, our mothers taught us not to boast or be conceited (some were more successful than others).

These are the reasons that Peter, Todd, Carol and I are here to help you. We’re happy to help you reflect on your experiences, read what you’ve written and fill the pages with red ink. No, wait, that last one’s just me. Seriously, we are an excellent resource and hope that you will let us help you answer one of life’s great questions:

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)*

*Words and music by Pete Townshend

A Day in the Life: Healthcare Venture Capitalist

Next Tuesday, April 19th follow @PennCareerDay on Twitter to learn about another path in the wide world of venture capital – healthcare.  Ambar Bhattacharyya (SAS ’03) will contribute and talk about his career at Bessemer Venture Partners.   If you’re interested in healthcare or venture capital – follow Ambar next week! Read more about Ambar below.

Ambar Bhattacharyya is a senior associate in BVP’s Cambridge, MA office. He focuses on investments in early- and growth-stage healthcare companies and has been involved in Bessemer’s investments in Verastem and On-Q-ity.

Prior to joining Bessemer, Ambar worked as an associate at Bain Capital Ventures. There, he helped make investments in companies such as Ameritox, Accelecare, LinkedIn, iPay Technologies (acq. by Jack Henry), TargetSpot, and VMLogix (acq. by Citrix). He also served as a board observer for VMLogix, TargetSpot and EyeTel Imaging (acq. by Neurometrix).  Before Bain Capital, Ambar was the assistant to the CEO at MinuteClinic, a company that runs health clinics staffed by nurse practitioners inside retail settings and was acquired by CVS.  He began his career at Bain & Co. where he worked on projects across various industries, including healthcare, business services and technology, as well as for non-profit clients at The Bridgespan Group.  After attending business school, Ambar interned with the City of Fremont, CA, where he helped the city develop its clean-tech strategy.

Ambar holds an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in economics and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated magna cum laude.  While at Penn, Ambar co-founded the Philadelphia chapter of Asha for Education, a non-profit focused on improving education in India.  Ambar is on Twitter at @AmbarBh and regularly blogs on his own site and at The Healthcare Breakfast Club.

Tips For Finding An International Job or Internship

By Kelly Cleary

In the past couple of weeks I’ve talked with several students who want to work or intern abroad either short or long term this summer or after graduation. Career Services offers many resources and programs to help students navigate an international job or internship search.  My Go Abroad Young Man (or Woman): Working Abroad to Advance Your Career blog from last year highlights some of the reasons why I almost always encourage students to pursue international opportunities if they have the inclination.  

If you are considering this path, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Clarify your goals – the clearer your intentions, the easier your search will be.
  • Start early — Finding opportunities and sorting out visa requirements takes time so the earlier you start looking the more likely you’ll find an opportunity that best fits your interests and goals.
  • Think about what is most important to you: location or type of work. If you absolutely have your heart set on working in London, you may want to be more flexible about the type of work you do. On the other hand, if you know you’re committed to international public health issues, there may be many international locations with interesting positions.
  • Familiarize yourself with visa requirements for the location(s) of interest to you. To successfully find work overseas, you will first need to understand and fulfill any visa requirements. More information on visas can be found on our web site and in the GoinGlobal country guides (available through our Online Subscriptions page.)

 Here are a few resources to help you get started:

 A “Consumer” Note:

When searching for job and internship opportunities in PennLink or elsewhere, please keep in mind that employers are generally able to enter their own jobs into our system. You should use your own judgment when applying for opportunities. For example, with so many teach abroad options out there, it’s hard to know which schools and programs are the best bet for you. This article from Transitions Abroad, “Teaching English Overseas: Don’t Be A Victim” and the related articles on the page should be a helpful primer. You should always feel comfortable asking to talk to an “alum” of the program or someone who taught there in the past.