How to spend all day looking for a job

I recently took a ten-week break from work to take care of our newborn baby.  During this time, I was mostly at home with no schedule but with a lot to accomplish and work to do around the clock. Day ran into nights. Weekdays ran into weekends. I missed work because those days lacked structure.  I felt like I was getting nothing done.

If you’re like me, and you’re looking for a job having just graduated or left another job, your days might feel like this. On the one hand, you know that it’s common for students to land their internships and jobs in the summer. On the other hand, you find it hard to honestly devote huge chunks of time to the job search without a schedule of classes to go to and an imminent deadline to make.  So, rather than making a phone call to a contact first thing in the morning, you push it off until later. When you get all week to send out a cover letter, you might take a whole week to write it. And maybe you spend too much time perusing online job boards because it’s easier than writing that cover letter or making that cold call.  If this sounds familiar, I sympathize with you.

So, how can a job seeker actually spend a full day job searching when you’re home and can be watering plants, doing laundry, and surfing the web? How can you follow that often-heard advice to treat the job search like it is a job? I don’t have all of the answers, but let me offer two suggestions based on what I’ve learned in the last three months.

Schedule. For many people seeking discipline, it is important to establish a regular schedule. For a job seeker, your day might involve getting up at 7 am, going for a run, sitting down at 8:30 am to read up on industry news and post one relevant thing to LinkedIn or Twitter. Since you feel most social in the morning, you then make some phone calls to companies or contacts, maybe do an informational interview. Afternoon might be quiet time. Perhaps you write your cover letters then. In the evening, you go out and meet a contact for coffee or volunteer at a gathering of your professional association.

Of course, above is just an example, and you have to figure out what kind of schedule fits you. You can multi-task if that’s your style or consciously vary your routine. Or you might join a job club, volunteer a few hours each day, etc. The point is that having a schedule will save you time and prevent you from surfing the web for job listings all day.

Space. During my maternity leave, I talked with many telecommuters and self-employed people in the neighborhood and their strategies for getting work done from home are applicable to the job search. One thing they stressed was the importance of having a separate space for working. You need a place to go to everyday to carry out your routine. This can be a desk, the basement home office, the dining room, a coffee shop (though not recommended for making phone calls to contacts). Having a dedicated work space will help you concentrate, discourage disruptions from others, and keep your home and work life separate.


Not everyone needs a schedule and space to do their job search productively, but if you are having trouble focusing during the day, I would take a look at these two things first. And don’t forget to give yourself a break, too. Spending a few hours in fresh air might be just what you need to reenergize your job search.

10 Ways to be a Successful Intern– Tips from a fellow student

Guest blog by Alex Glass, Class of 2012 (Psychology)

Alex Glass, Class of 2012

Over the last four years I have had the privilege of interning at three incredible companies,, and, and during that time I have learned some invaluable tips on how to be a successful intern. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most out of your internship.

1. Be Positive.  Tackle every project that your boss assigns you with a positive attitude and enthusiasm. It is not uncommon for interns to start out with grunt work (filing papers, entering data, getting coffee, etc.). The fact of the matter is this stuff needs to get done one way or another. It is not an easy task to wade through large amounts of tedious work with a positive and motivated mentality. However, if you patiently wade through the boring stuff and prove yourself to your boss, chances are more exciting and interesting projects will be sent your way.

2. Listen Carefully.  Without a doubt, the best way to learn and get things right the first time is to listen carefully to your boss.  Make sure to always have a notepad at the ready to capture every important detail. Not only will this make you more adept and proficient in doing your task, but when your boss comes to you a month and half later and asks you to do the same project, you will have all of the steps right there. In fact, it may be a good idea to keep an organizational guide of everything you do. You may be surprised at how beneficial it can be for the company, especially if they hire someone else to do your job after you leave.

3. Manage Your Time.  The obvious first step here is to get to work on time. Once you have that down you will likely need to prioritize, especially as the projects begin piling up. In many situations your to do list may be overwhelming. To make life easier, create a list of all your action items and decide which tasks need to be dealt with first. It will likely be useful to set up a weekly meeting with your boss to go over any important information and to provide updates on your work.

4. Don’t be Afraid to Speak Up. People always worry about asking dumb questions, and interns are no different. As it turns out, interns are expected to have tons of questions. Always remember that it is better to ask than not ask and make a mistake. In other words, a “dumb” question is always better than a “dumb” error. Keep in mind that your boss chose to hire you which means your boss wants to hear what you have to say. If your question or idea is great, excellent, if it’s not, learn why and move on.

5. Be Proactive. If you are sitting around twiddling your thumbs, stop. It is difficult but essential to be able to ask your boss for new work if you find yourself empty-handed.  An easy way to initiate this discussion is to tell your boss that you would like to take a second to make sure you are on the same page and doing everything correctly. The resulting discussion will likely get you the work you were looking for and it doesn’t hurt that it shows initiative as well. If you still find yourself with little to do, make an effort to learn as much you can through company files or search relevant articles and blogs for information.

6. Meet Your Coworkers. You will be spending a good amount of time at your internship, and nearly all of that time will be in the company of your coworkers. Make an effort to get to know them. Ask them questions about what they do at work, where they went to school, or anything else that comes to mind. Not only will this make your internship more enjoyable, but your coworkers will also be more willing to help you out when you run into any snags (which you inevitably will). Also, don’t forget about the networking opportunities.

7. Find a Mentor. One of the best ways to really learn your trade is to have a mentor to show you the ropes. A good mentor is typically either someone you are working with directly or someone in the same department you are in. Figuring stuff out on your own is great, but having someone who has been there before giving you suggestions will make the whole process much smoother. Sometimes a mentor will fall into place naturally, otherwise find someone with relevant experience who is willing to help you and form a relationship.

8. Work Hard. This may seem obvious, but it is much easier said than done. Working hard generates a cycle of positive benefits, beginning with the fact that it will impress your boss. This will encourage your boss to give you more responsibilities and bigger projects. And this will be incredibly beneficial, for not only will you feel more accomplished, but when you finish your internship and ask your boss for a reference letter you will likely get great results. Who knows, maybe you will even get asked to come back next year.

9. Remember why you are there. Maybe your parents made you, maybe you needed the money, but in the long run you are in it for the experience. It is increasingly difficult to get an internship and if you are one of the lucky few to get hired, make the most of it. Try to learn as much as you possibly can, not only about the department you are working in but about the entire company and even the industry as a whole.  Make an effort to truly understand what you are doing and how it affects the entire company.

10. Stay in Touch. Once you finish your internship, there is still work to do. Make a genuine effort to keep contact with your boss and/or your coworkers. Shoot them an email asking how the project you were working on is doing or how things are going in general. Don’t be hesitant to provide an update on your whereabouts either. The people you worked with provide an incredible opportunity for references, networking, and even future jobs.

Sit. Stay. Good Job!

This Friday, June 24th is the 12th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day.  Employees across the nation will collectively bedazzle their furry best friends with tours of their cubicle, the water cooler and perhaps even the view from the corner office. If your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi-friendly company culture, how would you know where to look for work?    To find a good fit with your next position and organization (no matter what your priorities happen to be, pet-friendly is just one example), take advantage of Career Services’ resources to help current students and alumni learn more about the places that they might work.

Researching employers with Career Services’ online resources

Researching potential employers is a critical element of every job search.  It is extremely important at the beginning when you need to identify your options, and necessary during the application and interview stage, to help you communicate the match between a prospective employer’s needs and your relevant skills, values and accomplishments.  Before you are called to interview, do your best to find out the following about the organization:

Mission; product/service (i.e., what is the purpose of this company/organization?)
Sector: non-profit, private (for-profit), public (government agency)
Structure and management
Financial health
“Clients” and competitors  (i.e., who receives the services of this company, and who else is targeting this group with their services
Company/organization culture
The hiring process

Career Services offers several online resources through our library subscriptions pages to help you research potential employers.  You must log in with your PennKey and password to access the subscriptions, which are listed alphabetically.  For those interested in exploring industries such as consulting, healthcare, and investment banking, and are particularly useful.  These reference resources allow you to read overviews of various major industries, discover the “major players” (i.e., biggest, influential companies), and learn more about typical position types within each industry.

We also subscribe to ReferenceUSA, which provides contact information as well as specific company data for United States businesses in particular (as well as some Canadian and other international businesses).  If you use the advanced search option, you can get information on credit ratings, company histories, executives’ names, and even the company’s local “competitors”.

For international students, GoinGlobal and H1VisaJobs offer databases which can help you identify the companies who have applied to the federal government in 2010 for H1Visas (this gives you a head start if you know a company is willing to hire international candidates, or is familiar with H1 Visa hiring procedures.)

Use networking as a tool to find out employer or industry information you can’t get through your online research.  If you are a current Penn student or alumnus/a, be sure to use PACNet (our online networking database) to identify alumni who can give you the “inside scoop” on a particular organization or field.

Once you use these resources to research an employer, you will be better able to:

Connect your accomplishments to the performance criteria that the organization is looking for.
Identify the most important skills, qualifications and experiences that are in demand in a given industry.
Assess an organization’s potential workplace needs and how you can contribute given your work style.
Show how your goals match those of the company (given its mission, size, structure, and market specialization).
Understand how your values match those of the organization; and how the environment will help you be productive.

Employer research makes for a more effective job search, and in fact for a better fit once you land an offer and start your new position.   You (and possibly your pet) will be glad you put the effort in.

Post Script:  How would you know where to look for work, if your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi friendly company culture?  While there are plenty of  websites focused on pet-friendly employers –  unfortunately it seems the number of corporate pet friendly employers is pretty limited, with rating as one of the top.

Be Like Rory

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

Last week’s U.S. Open Golf Tournament was thrilling to watch, especially for those looking for new, young stars. There was Patrick Cantlay, the UCLA freshman, an amateur who played the championship in even par, something only 21 others could manage. And Kevin Chappell, a tour rookie, who at 24 tied for third, and was the top American finisher. But the week belonged to 22 year old Rory McIlroy, who won in record-setting fashion at 16 under par.

McIlroy, from a working-class background in Northern Ireland, was humble and approachable throughout the tournament. Yet he exuded confidence with his every shot. How different from his experience this spring at the Masters, when he blew a big lead in the final round, and finished well off the pace.

What happened after his humiliating defeat? McIlroy didn’t hide from the press, or the public. He took time to analyze what went wrong, and resolved not to repeat his mistakes in future tournaments. And then he let his Masters defeat, and his public embarrassment, go. He didn’t dwell on what might have been. He didn’t get down on himself. He moved on. (In fact, he participated in a humanitarian visit to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. As he said upon his return, no one died at the Masters.)

We all can take some lessons from Rory. First, be confident, regardless of age or lack of experience. Any number of young people have achieved greatness at an early age. So may you. Second, face up to your mistakes. Even the horrible public embarrassing ones. Learn from them. Figure out what to do so as not to repeat them. And then third, let them go and move on. Do something for someone else. Don’t wallow in your disappointment. Life is too short.

We all can’t win the U.S. Open, but we can all be like Rory if we try. He’s one sports hero who is truly worth emulating.

An Alum’s Mentoring Memoir

The last three years have been a flash and here I am just a year away from graduating! I keep telling myself I can tackle anything that is ahead but the uncertainty of what is ahead is making me all too nauseous.

Guest Post by Nisar Amin, GEx ’03

I have never been so anxious before. The last three years have been a flash and here I am just a year away from graduating!   I keep telling myself I can tackle anything that is ahead but the uncertainty of what is ahead is making me all too nauseous.

I remember this feeling like it was yesterday, but actually this was back in 1995. It was just one year prior to the completion of my undergraduate studies.

The temptation to go into the workforce was high for me, yet I had a yearning to pursue higher education at the same time.

I was lucky enough to have met an alumnus of the chemical engineering program in which I was majoring.  He had been in the workforce for over 10 years and we struck up a good conversation focusing on my dilemma of either entering the job market or continuing my education.

My mentor and I had numerous conversations over the next six months. What made him a great mentor was that he challenged me to come to a decision on my own. He never told me what to do, but rather gave me plenty of examples from his own professional career.

He always made the effort to meet up with me or have a telephone conversation when I needed to talk about my career. I am sure this was difficult to do since he had a full time job and a family as well. I was amazed by his dedication to help someone who was in need without expecting something in return.

My decision at the end was to enter the work force and gain some valuable industry experience.  My plan was to work in the industry for minimum of five years and then gauge my interest for higher education.

I am not sure if I would have made this same decision on my own if I didn’t have my mentor at the time. For me, my decision was the right decision. I matured as a person in the work force for those five years and appreciated a higher education much more when I entered University of Pennsylvania to pursue my Master’s degree.

Today I have the distinct privilege and honor to be a mentor to aspiring students at the University of Pennsylvania. I try to listen to the student’s need and see if I can guide them to the best of my ability. I hope one day all of the students that I have mentored will continue the cycle and make a difference in someone’s life.

Nisar Amin is an alumnus of the Executive Masters in Technology Management program, co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and The Wharton School.  In addition, he holds dual Bachelor degrees in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry from the State University of New York Buffalo and Fredonia, respectively.  Nisar currently works for BASF Corporation as a Manager of New Business Development in the chemical intermediates division.  Nisar is an active member of the SEAS Alumni Society, and has long been a mentor to 1st year SEAS students through the Penn Engineering Mentoring Program.

Part 3 of a series on mentoring programs and opportunities.

One of the best ways to prepare for life after Penn -or to help you make the most of your time at Penn – is to find a mentor.  Use the Career Services Networking and Mentoring website as a great starting point!