A Day in the Life: Postdoctoral Scholar

Starting the week of September 26th, the Grad & Postdoc team kicked off their annual event, the Academic Career Conference, for the graduate students and postdocs here at Penn.  The whole week, we have been highlighting resources through our social media channels on the academic job market.  To shed additional light on life in academia, we’re excited to have alum Stephen Schueller, Ph.D, contribute to @PennCareerDay on Twitter on Thursday, October 6th.   To learn more about Stephen, please read his bio below, and remember to follow him on the 6th!

Stephen Schueller (Ph.D. in Psychology, Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences ’11) is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco in the Department of Psychiatry.  He started his graduate work at Penn in 2005 after receiving his bachelor’s in psychology from the University of California, Riverside. During his undergraduate, he worked as a research assistant studying happiness from a psychological perspective. At Penn, he trained as a researcher and clinician while working towards a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Through his research and clinical experiences, he became convinced that psychological treatments reach far too few and that expanding the reach of psychology would involve not just training more psychologists but creating innovative interventions. These interests brought him to UCSF Medical School. As a clinical researcher at UCSF, he has the opportunity to conduct research in an applied setting. He provides individual and group therapy in the public sector at San Francisco General Hospital. His current research studies the use of the Internet and health information technology to provide interventions that promote psychological health and behavior change.

By the Book: New Titles Across the Board

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

September marked the start of a new school year, which is always a booming time in the Career Services library.  We’ve been adding titles to our collection every week this month, on subjects ranging from cover letter writing to graduate studies in Europe.  Here’s a look at just three of the most interesting new additions.

Life is What You Make of It by Peter Buffet.  Buffett, son of the much-in-the-news Warren Buffett, and an accomplished composer, penned this New York Times Best Seller about forging your own path in life.

This is a good, quick read for students who are at the start of their career decision making journey.   Without pretension, the author suggests ways of determining your purpose and seizing oppertunities.

Endorsed by such luminaries as Bono, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, the book focuses on staying true to yourself and holding on to your values over economic prosperity – specifically making money just for money’s sake.

Alumni thinking about making career path changes will also find this, and other titles we have on the subject, helpful.  You can find it in the Career Decision Making section of our library.

The 12th Guide to German Biotech Companies compiled by BIO Deutschland and the Eurpopean Biotechnology Foundation. This extremely unique (and extremely specific) book was recently donated to the Career Services Library by a student who interned in Germany this past summer.  This beautifully put together edition is a directory of every major biotech firm in Germany, complete with contact information and in-depth company profiles.  If you are interested in working in either biotech or pharmaceuticals on the international level, this guide is a great jumping off point.  Written in English, with the American job-seeker in mind.  Located in the International section of our library, with other books on working in Europe.


Cracking the New GRE 2012 by The Princeton Review.  This guide is just one of four new GRE study guides we have purchased for the 2011-2012 school year.  As recently noted by our own Peter Stokes in his blog, the GRE completely changed its format starting in August of this year.  All of the guides in the library contain tips and practice tests to help you prepare for the new exam.  The Princeton Review edition also came with an informative DVD, which you can watch in our library on your laptop or at our video computer station.  Students interested in watching the DVD much make arrangements by sending an e-mail to Carol Hagan.  This book, as well all of our GRE study guides and practice tests, can be found in the Graduate Study section of the Career Services library.

Remember, the Career Services library is for reference only.  Books may not be checked out, but we invite you to spend time in our comfortable reading room. Photocopying is available.  The Career Services library has extended hours during the school year: Monday-Wednesday, 9am-6pm and Thursday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Interviewing for Medical and Dental School: Empathy for your Interviewer

The prospect of interviewing for medical or dental school may be throwing you into a manic fit.  We know it’s tough, but think about the position of your interviewer.  He or she has only a short time to get to know you and determine if you have what it takes to care for patients.  Do you seem honest?  Mature?  Prone to fits of anger or crippling anxiety?  Are you applying to make your parents happy?  Will you stick with a career in health care?  Do you know yourself and what you are getting into?  Thinking about the interview from the other person’s point of view can strengthen your interview skills.  Instead of “performing” or “passing a test,” think of yourself as helping the interviewer learn what is interesting about you.

For example, many applicants worry about answering questions about their research because they fear not knowing or forgetting the scientific details of their work.  To alleviate their anxiety, they prepare a long monologue detailing the basic science of the investigation and launch into it without any comment about the general scope of the study or their personal connection to the work.  Having conceived of the interviewer as an all-knowing persecutor, they haven’t considered that the other person may not share their understanding of their research.  Or, perhaps your interviewer would like to hear if you can explain your work to someone outside of the laboratory, demonstrating your ability to teach.

Alternatively, you could answer at a more general level and go into detail if asked to do so.  What is the research about?  What is interesting about it for you?  What have you learned?  What has been challenging about it?  What was your role on the research team?  Answers to these questions will tell the interviewer more about you personally and convey things that cannot be found in your written application.

Recognizing that your interviewer is a human being who would like to learn more about you will bring out your ability to empathize and communicate with other people.  Really listen.  If she asks about something that is on your AMCAS, you might not say, “That’s on my AMCAS.”  If he interrupts you, think before saying, “Hold on, let me finish.”  Be professional, but consider the advantages of being flexible and communicative in the interview.  Imagine what you would want to learn about an applicant and think about how you can do your part to convey that information and those qualities. 



The O Words

by Anne Lucas

Lately, whether greeting a student for an appointment in Career Services or watching the news, I’m reminded of the same “O” word–Overwhelmed.  Seniors especially are overwhelmed by classes, assignments, leadership roles on campus and now—oh no!—a job search too.  It’s understandable.

Our economy is overwhelmed by unemployment, a housing crisis, a frenetic and frightening stock market—and oh so much more.  Truly, it can feel overwhelming to confront these challenges and to develop and execute a winning strategy to become employed or remain employed.

So what’s a person to do in these overwhelming, uncertain times?  Okay, I can’t help myself.  I feel my Pollyanna Anne surfacing as I choose a different “O” word for our times—Optimism!  It seems to me that the time has come for us to remember and practice the old adage of looking on the bright side.  If you can just ignore recent political debates, I promise you that there is a bright side to 2011!

First, you are a student, perhaps an alumnus/a, of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the best schools in the country and in the world.  Your Penn education can open doors for you.  Because you are affiliated with Penn, you must be smart and capable, with a pretty good work ethic too.  Throughout the decades I have been affiliated with Penn as a career counselor, I have witnessed so many students and alumni accomplishing amazing things—on campus and beyond.  You are next.

Every once in a while, the media even brings us a happy, positive story.  On September 23 Morning Joe interviewed Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, the entrepreneurial founders of Method.  They started Method in 2001, in the midst of a recession and, despite entering the extremely competitive field of laundry detergent and cleaning products, they have achieved wonderful success.  These two young, upbeat young men actually explained that they took “advantage of the recession to do things differently…focus and innovate.”  Clearly there still are plenty of success stories, even in difficult economic times, and you can be one of them.

So how do you begin to change “overwhelmed” to “optimistic?”  Rather than getting bogged down by—and perhaps even feeding—those nasty negatives, it’s important to seek and proclaim the positives in every day.  In fact, I currently have a contract with someone who has promised to text me every day citing two positive aspects of his day—one work-related and the other personal.  Sometimes he has to dig deep to find something.  It might be a compliment from a customer when he’s worked hard to solve a problem.  On a personal level it could be an exhilarating run in the park. It’s all about attitude, and I vote for Optimistic over Overwhelmed every time!

Once we get into the habit of deliberately identifying the positive situations in our lives, we’ll increase our levels of optimism.  As you probably know, Penn is home to a very famous professor associated with optimism—Dr. Martin Seligman.  Check out his homepage, “Authentic Happiness” at:


Let’s unite to make Optimism the Penn way.  Finally,  in case you need further inspiration, enjoy Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Accentuate the Positive:”

Interviewing Basics: What Employers Want to Know

By Kelly Cleary

Tomorrow is “opening day” for on campus interviews so many seniors are busy preparing, doing their best to keep their nerves in check. One of the best ways to manage this stress is to take the time to (over) prepare, and an important first step is to fully understand the task at hand. The purpose of an interview is relatively simple. The employer is trying to assess the candidate’s an aptitude for and interest in the position, and whether or not that candidate would be a good fit for the organization and department where the position resides. It is the candidate’s job to demonstrate his or her aptitude, interest, and fit for that specific position within that particular organization.


  • Do you have the skills and knowledge to succeed in this position?
  • What distinguishes you from other applicants?

As you head into the interview, keep in mind that it is your job is to prove to them that you are the most capable candidate – that you have the skills and knowledge to do the job. But that’s not enough. By using specific examples from past experiences, you need to prove to the employer that your skills, qualifications, or background distinguish from other candidates.


  • Why do you want to work for them?
  • Why are you interested in the position? 

Employers also want to know why you are interested in working for their organization, and why you are interested in this particular position. A common frustration we hear from recruiters is that the candidate did not seem to know very much about the employer or the nature of the position.

With aptitude and interest in mind, it’s a good idea to reflect on what distinguishes you from other candidates. I recommend coming up with at least three reasons why you are the best candidate based on the job description and what you know about the organization. These can be a combination of technical skills or professional knowledge, as well as “softer” skills like being highly organized or having strong interpersonal skills. Use the position description as a guide for selecting the skills and qualities you’ll want to highlight. And then keep several specific examples in mind so you can use them when the opportunity comes.


  • Will you fit in with the office/ department culture?
  • What kind of colleague will you be?

And finally, sometimes most importantly, the employer is looking for someone who will fit in with the organization and department’s culture and will be a great colleague. Along those lines, while an interview will certainly consist of a series of questions and answers, the goal is demonstrate that you’ll be a good fit by reaching a point where the interview feels more than a conversation than an inquisition.

Career Services has many resources to help you prepare for interviews. Our Online Interview Guide offers tips and resources. We also offer students access to InterviewStream an interactive interview preparation website where you can record and review yourself answering questions. You can access Interview Stream by logging into PennLink.

The On Campus Recruiting page includes videos of students offering advice for a successful on campus recruiting experience and a comprehensive OCR/PennLink FAQ that answers many common questions.

Good luck with your interviews!