It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It

If you find yourself in the throes of interview preparation….if your suit, bright smile and great handshake are in heavy rotation….as you consider full-time positions, internships, research roles, graduate or professional schools, or other opportunities…..I encourage you to take your interview prep just one step further than the standard and think not just about what you plan to say, but about HOW you will say it.

A steady pitch, pace, modulation and volume to your voice helps you to be perceived as well prepared and poised.  Working to eliminate um, uh, like, and other such filler words, while sometimes hard to completely remove, will undoubtedly help you to sound more articulate, mature and thoughtful.  Avoiding words of ambivalence, such as perhaps, maybe, and sort of, will ensure that you sound confident in your skills, your experience, and yourself.   And lastly, eradicating “uptalk” (the rising inflection at the end of a sentence, that makes statements sound like questions?), will lend a great sense of credibility to the words you are saying.

Listen carefully, and you’ll be sure to hear these little speech pitfalls all around you -especially that last one!   And if you are guilty of one of the above in your own speech, don’t despair.  It will take a little time and effort to apply these strategies to improving your own communication style, and the staff of Career Services is more than happy to help; schedule a mock interview with your career counselor, where we can give you feedback on all aspects of your self-presentation, or use our InterviewStream software to listen to and observe yourself.  Recognizing your own speech patterns, and practicing how you speak, will surely provide you with one more key to interviewing success.


What Is Work?

by Beth Olson

Philadelphia is known for its Mural Arts Program. This project, initially begun in 1984, has shifted from an anti-graffiti effort to a creative array of educational, artistic, and community programs. Reorganized as the Mural Arts Program in 1996 to “create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives,” this organization boasts an extensive array of core values from teamwork to creativity to fair compensation. Over 3,000 murals have graced Philadelphia, and mural tours are high on the to-do lists of residents and visitors.

Currently the Mural Arts Program is hosting a series of forums inviting people to tell their stories of what work means to them. These stories will be used in the design of a new mural project throughout the city—offering views of what work means and celebrating all of us who work in Philadelphia. (There are two more forums—open to the public—scheduled for December 1 and 5. Check their website for information.)

I am curious about this extensive project and look forward to viewing the results. What does work mean for Philadelphians? What does work mean for the UPenn community? From my vantage point as a career counselor, I anticipate a plethora of assumptions and opinions.

For many, work is inextricably linked to monetary compensation. It’s what fuels the needs of our lives by enabling us to pay for our food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare.

For some, work is life’s calling—regardless of remuneration. It’s the passion, the purpose many find in their art, their research, their music, their teaching, their exploration, their service. They cannot not do it. It is not always one and the same with an income-generating job.

For some focused and lucky people, it’s both of the above—doing what they love and earning a living while doing it.

I expect that many of us are at neither end nor in a balanced center, but somewhere else along the scale—viewing work as an income, an obligation, a chance, a potential, a step, an end, time, a commitment, an achievement, a frustration, elusive, fulfilling, unfulfilling, prestigious, a resource, power, an opportunity, and on and on.

I can’t wait to see what the new murals communicate. In the meantime, to temper my curiosity, I invite you to provide your own take on “work” in a brief survey. If there are enough responses, I’ll share them in a future blog.

Now get back to work!

Philadelphia on a Half-Tank by Paul Santoleri Located at Penrose Avenue and Platt Bridge. © 1999 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

5 things you can learn from Thanksgiving to help you in your job search

Dr. Joseph Barber

1)      Don’t use pepper spray…, ever. No matter how much you want a job – pepper spraying the other candidates will not help you get it. You might have heard about the Wal-Mart incident. There will always be highly qualified candidates applying for the job you want, but it is not worth thinking about these people too much. You can’t do anything to about their qualifications and experiences; you can only maximize the effectiveness of your own. Make sure the way you describe your experiences speaks to the requirements of the position. If you want more information on this, then read some of these posts.

2)      Keep your focus. Who knows why this newscaster did what she did – but she assumed that the camera was not watching and that her gesture would go unnoticed. Whether you are attending a social function during an on-campus interview, or chatting with friends in a café after meeting with recruiters as part of OCR, don’t let your professional guard down. Read this post for more on this.

3)      Ignore silly names and labels. After Thanksgiving we have “Black Friday”, and then “Small Business Saturday”, and then “Sunday”, and then “Cyber Monday”. It is all a little silly, if you ask me. However, it does give me the opportunity to talk about the benefits of thinking about your career in terms of what you are doing rather than at what company or institution you might be doing it. Job titles and company names are just labels – what you do on a day-to-day basis may be much more relevant. There are some of you who think you might like to work for a big company, be it a consulting firm or investment bank, but who might enjoy using your skills in a similar way for a smaller-scale organization. This could mean working in a start-up rather than for a more established company. This could mean working for a non-profit instead of a corporate giant. This could mean working for yourself rather than for someone else. Your career path is yours to choose, to a certain extent, and if you can gain satisfaction from the application of your skills and knowledge in a variety of different settings, then you might find many more opportunities out there.

4)      There’s always a sale at Macy’s. Has anyone else noticed this? I’m not complaining, mind you, but the constant sale does seem to play a significant role in Macy’s business model. Perhaps they had an even bigger sale over the Thanksgiving period, but chances are that anything you missed out on during this time (if you are afeard of shopping during this heinously busy time like me) you’ll be able to find on sale at some other random point in time when it is much less busy. Depending on the careers you are interested in, you might find that there can be seasonal fluctuations in the number of job opportunities available. Let’s say you want to apply for academic jobs as an assistant professor, then applications are often due starting from September – depending on your discipline. By January and February, the number of open positions may be significantly less. Does this mean that you should stop looking? No. Set up email alerts on some of the job aggregator sites (e.g., for academic jobs take a look at;;, and you’ll always be informed of openings as they arise. More importantly, keep a dialogue going with people in your network who might hear of opportunities as they arise. It is possible that a search committee will not be able to agree on a person to hire for a full-time position, and will find themselves scrambling to fill a more temporary position for the year before they conduct the search again. This could be a great opportunity to get a foot in the door, and search committees may often look more favorably on people they know (i.e., internal candidates, even in visiting professor positions) than on unknown entities when it comes to filling the full-time position. So, keep your eyes out for sales outside of the traditional sale periods – you never know what you might find.

5)      Be thankful whether or not it is Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to thank those people who have helped you in your academic and professional careers – this can be a great way to get back in touch, and people always like to hear how their actions may have contributed in some small way to any successes you have had. Also, keep the people you have in mind as potential reference letter writers updated on your professional comings and goings. It is hard to write a good letter of reference for someone you have not thought about for five years. It is almost impossible to write one for a student who took your course in the past, but didn’t say or contribute much, and who expressed no obvious enthusiasm or passion for the subject being taught either during or after the course. Maintaining your network of contacts is very important throughout the year (especially during the summer!), as these posts affirm.

Happy Thanksgiving

From all of us at Career Services, we wish you and your families a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Our office, including the Career Services library, will be closing at 2pm on Wednesday, November 23 and will re-open on Monday, November 28th.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember that even while we’re closed, the Career Services website and this blog contain lots of valuable information that is at your disposal over the break.

Have a wonderful holiday.  We look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Giving thanks (and nurturing your network) in the digital age

By Kelly Cleary

As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, hopefully most of us are finding a quiet moment here and there to reflect on what we are thankful for, including the people who have positively impacted our lives. I was prompted to formally write this kind of list last week when I was creating a “career network map” of people who influenced my career path while I was preparing for a career and major exploration workshop.  As I filled in the names of family members, teachers, coaches, supervisors and colleagues in the circles on my little map, I realized that these people not only influenced my academic and career plans, but they also helped make my life more interesting, fulfilling and fun. Of course, this overlap of personal and professional isn’t surprising since most of us spend the great majority of our waking hours at school or at work.

While self-reflection and taking stock in what is important to you is a worthwhile exercise in and of itself, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reach out to the important people in your lives to let them know that we appreciate them. For those people you aren’t in contact with very often, it’s also a chance to give them an update on what’s going on in your life. In our fast-paced world it’s easy to lose touch with people. Certainly Facebook and other social media have made it much easier to know what friends and acquaintances are doing or thinking about (and letting them know you “like” whatever it is they posted), but how often do you make the time to have meaningful connections or conversations?

I’m not necessarily recommending you write a panegyric to your favorite high school teacher, but a quick note to say, “Remember me? I really enjoyed your class in 10th grade, and it’s proven to be really helpful in getting me through my writing intensive course this term. In fact, I’m thinking about declaring an English major. I just wanted to send a quick note to thank you for being such a wonderful teacher,” could really make their day.

This is also a great time of year to reconnect with supervisors and colleagues from past internships or jobs to let them know that you’re still benefitting from what they taught you during the time you worked together and to give them an update on your latest academic or career interests and plans. It might also prompt a conversation that could open doors to new opportunities for you. It’s also a good time to reach out to alumni who’ve taken the time to do informational interviews with you in the past. Again, it doesn’t have to be a long letter, just sending a couple of sentences to express your gratitude will brighten someone’s day, and perhaps prompt them to offer some you some words of wisdom or valuable tips for your upcoming job or internship search.

It’s easy to put off writing thank you notes, but here are just a few suggestions for quick ways to say thanks to the people on your “I appreciate you” list:

  • Post a personalized message of thanks on their Facebook page.
  •  Tweet your thanks and praise (if the subject of the praise is a fellow Tweeter.)
  • Write a blog about them …I’ll have to find a way to forward this post to Mr. McCarthy whose voice I still hear when I’m reminded of Silas Marner, Caesar, or the experience of being exhilarated in a classroom learning something new from a great teacher.
  • Write a recommendation on their LinkedIn page.
  • Send a short, or long, email (or a handwritten letter) to let them know how they’ve helped you and why you appreciate them.
  • Pick up the phone! We spend a crazy amount of time talking, texting, and listing to music on our phones. Next time you find yourself walking across campus, take the time to call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. If you’re pressed for time, it’s ok to say, “Sorry this is short, but I was thinking about you and I just wanted to say, thanks.” You’ll probably just get their voicemail, but it’s still a nice way to make a connection and brighten someone’s day.

And THANK YOU, our Penn & Beyond readers. I greatly appreciate having the opportunity to meet with and advise Penn students and alumni on their careers and to work alongside my exemplary Penn colleagues. Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!