Quaker to QuickBooks: The job search isn’t as easy as an alliteration, but things eventually pan out

by Rohini Venkatraman, C’10

Through college, the “next step” in my life had always been pretty clear-cut. I’ve sort of always had a vision for myself – goals, wishes, motivations – and there was usually just one option that made sense. Most of the time, there wasn’t much of a choice anyway. School for example. “Graduating” 8th grade only meant the start of high school. And well, college wasn’t exactly optional after attending a college preparatory school.

I’ve heard that a majority of students change their major at least three times during college. I changed it once: from Undeclared to Psychology. While college is a time for social and academic exploration, my academic exploration was within the limits of foundational and sector requirements. And throughout my four years, I took pride in the fact that you can really do “anything” after having studied something like Psychology.

Well, you sure can do “anything” with a major like Psychology, which is why I spent a majority of my senior year panicked about “my future” and “the rest of my life.” I felt like my peers, especially those in Wharton, were on a concrete career path. Some had jobs lined up before senior year had even started and others were swept up within the first month. Hell just the fact that they were running in and out of Huntsman wearing suits was enough to remind me that they (seemingly) had their lives together and that I didn’t. But I didn’t try to actively change this early on. I spent the entirety of my first semester and even some of second trying to identify my “dream job.” My plan was to identify it, then apply (and hopefully get offered the job). Needless to say, this myopic lense was exactly how not to approach the job search.

My panic attack hit somewhere in February when I suddenly realized that my sophomore and junior friends were being offered summer internships and I still didn’t have a fulltime job.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting at a table at Saxbys with an all-too-large cup of coffee poring over PennLink. Any opportunity that seemed even remotely relevant to my course of study or passions (Psychology, writing, technology) became an option. I began emailing out my resume like crazy. Resume spam would be the best way to put it. I couldn’t even give you a list of all the companies to which I applied (not ideal, if I had to go back and do this, I’d probably, in the least, maintain a list).

Several weeks after this episode, I received a call from an unknown number. It turned out to be an HR representative doing an application screener for a rotational program at Intuit (the maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and now Mint.com) based in Mountain View, CA. My job is just to make sure that your general interest in the opportunity fits she said. I was only barely listening as I racked my brain trying to remember any details of the opportunity. A couple rounds of interviews later, I found myself employed.

Fast forward to today, I am an Associate in Intuit’s Rotational Development Program, a full-time 2-year rotational program with a focus on developing key functional and leadership skills. My specific focus is in Marketing and Product Management. In addition to six-month rotations in each, I will also have the chance to explore areas like Design and Corporate Strategy & Development during my time in the program. So no, I didn’t find one perfect job. I found four. I graduated from Penn over 12 months ago (where does the time go?!) and I’m still figuring things out. And the weirdest thing is that this is completely normal.

The beauty of Intuit’s rotational program, and well, the post-college world in general, is that it allows you to explore the vast array of opportunities that exist out there. The lack of structure is a blessing in disguise. It allows you to determine your interests and strengths (you’re even allowed to fail once in a while). Don’t think you need to know what or where you want to be coming in, because the truth is, nobody does. You’ll find yourself standing at more and more forks in the road and each time, you’ll learn a little more about yourself.

Last Wednesday evening, I was sitting on an Intuit patio enjoying wine (yes, fun still exists in the real world!) with coworkers who have years of experience on me. I told them I was still trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life, to which one responded, “You know, so am I. I don’t think anyone ever knows. You just sort of fall into roles and then they take their course.”

To throw out some numbers, I applied to around twenty positions, heard back from five, had interviews at three and got offers from two. Don’t spend your senior year of college worrying about your future (think about it, just don’t worry about it). You have the rest of your life to do that. Drink college to the lees. Realize how privileged you are to have world-class professors standing in front of you everyday sharing breaking research findings. Appreciate the fact that the people you have grown to love over the past four years are always just a stone’s throw away. And remember that with an open mind, determination, and a stamp like “University of Pennsylvania” on your resume, things will eventually (and always) fall into place.

It’s Engineering Career Day!

Attention Engineering Students!



Head over to the University City Sheraton Hotel on Chestnut Street today for the 2011 Engineering Career Day!  Employers from across the country and around the globe have come to campus to recruit you!

Dress sharp and bring lots of copies of your resume!  Don’t forget to bring your PennCard so we can print you a name badge!

A full list of employers coming to the fair can be found here!

A career fair is a unique and exciting opportunity, with its own etiquette and rules.  Be sure to visit our website for tips about preparing for a career fair!

See you at the fair!

Today: Career Link II

Career Fair week continues with Day Two of Career Link!  Head over to the University City Sheraton on Chestnut Street between 10:00am and 3:00pm to meet over a hundred different employers!  Dress smart and bring plenty of copies of your resume as well as your PennCard.

This event is open to current University of Pennsylvania students and alumni only.

To see a listing of today’s employers, click here.

Today: Career Link I

A career fair

Don’t forget, the first career fair of the year, Career Link (Day One) is today!  Everything is taking place at the Sheraton Hotel on Chestnut Street from 10am – 3pm.  Bring your PennCard and a stack of resumes and dress sharp for the occasion!

A complete list of employers attending today’s fair can be found here!

The event continues tomorrow with a second group of employers for Day Two!

Connecting Effectively At Career Fairs

By Claire Klieger

With three days of career fairs this week, it is important to have a game plan for connecting with recruiters at these events. It’s kind of like speed dating (complete with the awkward pauses or but hopefully not inappropriate questions)– You have a very short amount of time to make a positive impression and unlike during a job interview, you will be expected to initiate and possibly steer the conversation. Clearly, this means taking some time to prepare  (and possibly practice) so that you don’t have do one of those awkward moments where you walk up to a table, open your mouth, have your mind go blank, and merely walk away. Here are some tips for making the most of your experience at any career fair:

Career Fair Tips from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.

1. Have a game plan. Since each of these events is quite large, it can be easy to get overwhelmed merely by the large number of tables in a room. You can see the list of which employers will be attending all of these career fairs on PennLink. Figure out which employers you’re most interested in seeing so that you can budget your time accordingly.

2. Do your homework! Do a little research on each employer of interest. Be familiar with their mission and services so that you are asking good questions when you meet them. Nothing is less impressive than someone who walks up to a table and says, “So, what do you do?”

3. Prepare questions in advance. You will sound (and feel) much more confident if you know in advance what you plan to ask. Employers will be impressed that you took the time to learn about them and that you are interested enough in them to ask targeted and specific questions.

4. Practice your elevator pitch. Since recruiters may not have much time to talk to you (and there may be a line of students waiting for their chance to interact), you have to get good at telling your story and highlighting your strengths quickly. Now, this doesn’t mean talking like one of those cattle auctioneers who speak so fast they sound like they’ve invented their own language. Rather, you should have a few key points that you want to get across. Start by introducing yourself (with a smile and firm handshake) and stating your year and major. Then you should say (briefly!) why you are interested in their industry and what skills and experiences make you a good fit. For example

Hi my name is Sallie Spirit and I’m a senior majoring in Anthropology. I’ve become really interested in marketing through my involvement as recruitment chair for my sorority where I’ve learned the importance of effective branding and promotion. This experience required me to be very organized and developed my communication skills. I’m particularly interested in your _____ position because….”

5. Dress Appropriately. Business casual is the appropriate dress for a career fair. For men that means slacks and a button-up or polo shirt. For women it means a skirt (knee length or longer) or slacks and a professional looking top (button-up, blouse or dressy sweater/sweater set) and nothing low-cut.  You want to look sharp but really want to be remembered for what you said, not what you were wearing.

6. Be respectful of the recruiter(s)’ time. Since you will probably want to see lots of different employers, you will need to budget your time and not spend too long at any one table. If there are other people waiting to speak with a recruiter, it’s especially important to be mindful of how long you speak with an employer. Ideally, a conversation with a recruiter shouldn’t last more than five minutes (and could be less).

7. Don’t lead with your resume. You should definitely bring copies of your resume to any career fair you attend but it’s a little presumptuous to start a conversation with your resume, especially since some employers won’t be collecting them at the fair. Wait for an employer to ask you for it or you can inquire at the end of your conversation whether or not they are accepting resumes and present it then.

8. Ask for business cards. You’ll be meeting a lot of people at these events and will be hard to remember conversations, let alone names, so ask for a business card when you speak with someone. Then, before you walk on to the next table, find a quiet and unobtrusive spot to jot down a few notes on the back so you can remember what you talked about. To build on your first meeting it’s a great idea to follow-up with the recruiter after the fair by sending a quick thank you email with details to remind them of what you discussed when you met. Here are some other tips for following up after a career fair.

9. Beware the grabby hands. We all know the allure of free stuff for college students and, let’s be honest, there can be some really cool giveaways at career fairs. However, you should NEVER walk up to a table and simply take something off of it without talking to the employer (about their positions, organization, etc—not just to ask about the giveaway) first.