Tis the Season: flu and interview. What to do?

What should you do if you are sick on the day of an interview?
Recently I chatted with representatives at a career fair on what happens if candidates are sick the day of a scheduled interview.  I don’t mean “on your deathbed,” but generally feeling unwell due to the average flu or cold.   Canceling a Career Services appointment is one thing – I appreciate when students get in touch when they are really sick and stay home, rest, and reschedule for a later date or call-in for their appointment instead (yup, we do phone appointments).   However, an interview with a potential employer is much more “high stakes” – you are trying to show professionalism, and there are a limited number of opportunities to do so in a job search.

Overall, given the conversations I had with employers, my advice is that it is best if you show up for the scheduled interview, but it might depend where you are in the interviewing process.  If you have made headway and have already had an interview round by phone or in person, it might be okay to ask if you can reschedule an upcoming in-person appointment. However, the overall message I heard from your potential interviewers is go through with the interview, even if you don’t feel well, rather than cancel, reschedule or otherwise not show up.   One recruiter said that when she hears from people who call to say they are sick and wanting to cancel or change the date, she might not entirely believe them.  Conversely, she suggested if you show up, even if you are sick, people will be “more understanding.”
Other recruiters also suggested doing a phone interview might be a good alternative (especially for a first round interview). That mode of interviewing has its limitations compared to being face-to-face with your interviewers, but we have some tips for managing phone interviews here and in another blog post.

My colleagues (other Penn career advisors) had a few more points to add in the way of advice. You will note there is not complete consensus on the issue of handling a mild illness when you are interviewing, except for the last suggestion – prevention:

  • “Cancellation, except in the most dire of circumstances, is seldom a good option… do everything possible to prevent excessive nose running or coughing by taking appropriate (but not sleep-producing) meds, maybe drinking hot, herbal tea.  Certainly, the candidate should be prepared with tissues, hand sanitizer, and be sensitive to how s/he manages his/her tissue disposal, coughing, etc.    For example, one should make sure that s/he has VERY clean hands before the handshake and then offer hand sanitizer to the employer.”
  • “I would suggest that students might even mention to the recruiter if they are feeling under the weather just so employers will realize they are not at their best on that particular day, but still took the time to show up.”
  • “While it’s fine to disclose that you’re ‘under the weather,’ it should just be stated matter-of-factly, without the expectation of excessive sympathy or a ‘free pass;’ also, there are limits to how much information you should actually disclose about your illness” (in other words there is such a thing as TMI)
  • “I believe if you are really sick, you need to see a doctor then cancel by phone/email if necessary.  Otherwise, students should show up and do their best.”
  • “I am not an advocate for disclosing that you are not well.  If your symptoms (coughing/sneezing) are obvious, you can mention that you have been under-the-weather.   When you start a job and you go into work, you wouldn’t be announcing to your boss that you are sick, unless they ask, or if your symptoms are obvious.  I believe the candidate needs to follow through with the interview to show they are truly interested in the job and will do what needs to be done to complete the process.  Just like at work.”
  • “This is one of those ‘professional’ and adult life lessons – sometimes you don’t feel like doing something, certainly, but when the stakes are high, you must do your best and focus on the positives!”

Finally, and most importantly!

  • Prevention is key~  Try “practicing good health habits like getting plenty of sleep, washing hands frequently, getting fresh air, eating well, and all the stuff our mothers told us in order to avoid getting sick in the first place.”

A New Pre-dental Resource: Go!

Are you considering dental school in your future?  Do you know the difference between endodontics, periodontics and prosthodontics?  Have you considered a research opportunity at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health (NIDCR)?  The American Dental Education Association launched a new website this fall — GoDental — that provides a nice overview of the profession as well as links to helpful resources, a timeline for applying to dental school, and informational videos (yes, DentTube).

The website is a nice starting point and emphasizes the importance of finding organizations and mentors to help you launch your career.  Pre-dents may not be the largest pre-professional group on Penn’s campus, but they need not feel alone.  Alumni, professional organizations, and current dental students are often willing to provide insight and help to those eager to learn more about their profession.  Try PACNet to find Penn alums in the field or consider joining the American Student Dental Association as a predental member and/or the Penn Pre-dental Society.  Penn predental students who are interested in connecting with alumni of Penn Dental Medicine can express their interest in obtaining a mentor here.  As always, your pre-health advisors are happy to speak with you about your interest in a dental career and hope you will come see us!

A Day in the Life: Product Marketing at LinkedIn

To wrap up our week on Careers with Startups, as shared by alum Adam Levin and our Penn in Tech Panel: The World of California Start-Ups, we’ll be focusing on post-startup life.   We welcome Ada Chen Rekhi to @PennCareerDay on Wednesday, November 9th.  Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about her experience in the startup world, and her new role at LinkedIn.   This is also a great follow up to her recent blog:  Should I Join A Startup? Examining the Pros and Cons.  Read more about Ada below, and check out her posts from November here on our Twitter resource page.

  Ada Chen Rekhi is co-founder and head of user growth at Connected (http://connectedhq.com), a startup based in San Francisco which provides contact management without the work. Connected was recently acquired by LinkedIn, and Ada is now on the Product Marketing team there. She is a recent Penn alumna who graduated in 2006. You can connect with Ada on her blog at http://www.adachen.com or on Twitter as @adachen.

Have You Thanked Your Family Today?

By Barbara Hewitt

It was wonderful to see so many families on campus last weekend. Hopefully you had a chance to enjoy some time with yours and show them around your “home away from home.”

As I saw how many parents and other family members made the trek to Philadelphia (in miserable weather, I might add!) it made me reflect on how dedicated many Penn parents are and how many sacrifices they often make to send their sons and daughters to Penn. Of course, even with the terrific financial aid Penn is able to provide, the tuition bill itself presents a challenge for many families. However,  beyond the financial support, families provide so many other types of support on a daily basis (the moral support during a tough week with multiple tests or papers, the driving of students to and from campus on a regular basis, the willingness to fill out the long financial aid forms….the list could go on and on….).

Perhaps the most important thing our families often provide, however, is a deep conviction that education is important and that you, their son or daughter, deserve a college education and can indeed excel at an academically rigorous institution such as Penn. I think back to my own family background. My father was a New York State Trooper and my mom a homemaker.  Since neither attended college, they didn’t really understand the college application process or get terribly involved with the selection of which colleges to consider. (One of my fondest memories from high school is when they handed the keys to the car over to my twin sister and me for a week spent travelling around visiting numerous colleges on our own. It was great fun and a wonderful chance to navigate a small part of the world with no parental supervision.) Even though my parents didn’t provide very much guidance on where to go to college or what to study, they were tremendously supportive in always letting us know that college was definitely an option and that somehow they would find the way to send us if we wanted to go. With five children, all of whom went to college…and three who eventually obtained graduate degrees…this was no small feat. Their support and belief that we could do it launched us all into productive lives and careers, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Take a moment today to think about the many ways that your family has shaped and supported you in your career and academic goals….and then take another few minutes to make sure they know how much you appreciate it!

No Call, No Show

by Kamila DeAngelis

College can be challenging.  A full schedule of classes, extra-curricular activities, athletics, exams; my head is already spinning!  These responsibilities can become overwhelming and it can quickly become easy to start missing a meeting here and skipping a study session there.  Eventually, this trend of behaviors can lead to poor life habits that could lead to a serious problem: the no call no show.

In most cases, the no call no show in a work setting will lead to your immediate termination.  It also shows an overall lack of respect for the organization and the people who hired you; not a good place to be in (especially when these people may be providing references for future positions).  This is a busy world we live in and time is precious to all of us.  Try to stay on top with your appointments and develop a healthy routine.  Take advantage of technology to help organize your calendar and set reminders.  These are essential skills to develop now and will help prevent future problems; especially when that problem might get you canned.

Life happens.  If you need to miss a day of work or an appointment take the time to call and let those involved know.  Otherwise, the no call no show will come back to show you the way out of the office.