Travel Light and Hold on Tight

Anne Guldin Lucas

The title of this blog might suggest that I’m about to launch into a poem.  It’s tempting.  Spring and its beauty can certainly inspire songs and poetry in those talented enough to create such work.  Lucky for you I don’t possess those talents, so I’ll spare you any attempts at creativity.  So as I begin to type, I’m not sure what path I am following today.  Maybe that mystery actually speaks to the title and subject of this blog.

While your life to date may have been somewhat predictable—elementary school, middle school, high school, college, what comes next isn’t always a straight line.  For some it’s grad school—more tests, applications with mostly synchronized deadlines, acceptances, and an academic year.  For those seeking jobs or other post-graduation experiences, it’s seldom that simple.  Recently I’ve met with students who are rejoicing in job offers—and yet trying to juggle negotiations to buy time to see what other opportunities are presented to them.  Can they get a response from another employer in time to know their options for the summer or for next year?  Or will they say “yes,” withdrawing other applications, and never knowing what may have been…That happens a lot.  Ultimately you must make a decision and move on.

Speaking of moving, my daughter, who graduated from college in 2008, is currently planning her FIFTH move since graduation.  My husband and I are cleaning out the cupboards and closets of our home of over 28 years.  As you might imagine, our family is extremely focused on idea of “traveling light” right now.  Our daughter regrets buying that large and heavy bedroom furniture for her first post-college apartment, which was rather spacious.  It took the removal of windows from her bedroom to get the furniture into her current apartment, and the same technique will be required to get it out again in a few months.  The Number One requirement for her next apartment building will be an elevator—a LARGE elevator—along with strong movers–again.

She needs new living room furniture, and I’m recommending inflatable furniture in keeping with the goal of traveling light.  For those of you who are aspiring inventors, entrepreneurs, or investors, “plastics” may be returning as a buzz word.  Inflatable plastic furniture would be ideal for every young person who is entering the work world.  Between job changes and roommate changes, you will be on the move.  So travel light!  And if you need anything to get started wherever you land, please get in touch with me, and I’ll share with you some of the “treasures” that we have accumulated in the past 28 years (and perhaps even some things that my parents gathered even earlier and passed onto our attic).

As for the hanging on tight, I recommend to you that you hold on to people and relationships rather than stuff.  Nurture the friendships that you’re making at Penn.  Value your family.  There will probably be many phases of your life during which you will live far from your loved ones.  However, thanks especially to today’s technology, you can stay connected.  Be sure to talk on your cell phone or Skype, so that it’s not just texts and emails.  Even better, save your money and look for deals to travel to be together in person.  And when you’re together, get off those devices and really talk.  Sadly the art of conversation is dying, and I hope that you’ll help rescue it.

Enjoy  these lovely days of Spring.  Write a poem; sing a song.  And remember as you move away from Penn for the summer or for the rest of your life, to travel light, and hold on tight.

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Don’t Leave School Without It!

Graduating students, don’t leave Penn without setting up an Interfolio account through Career Services. This on line credential/reference management system offers you the opportunity to store letters of recommendation, and have them mailed whenever you apply for graduate school admission, jobs or special programs in the future.  This is the ideal time to ask current professors, your advisor, or others you have worked with for a recommendation.  Let the author of a letter know what your future plans may be.  Have a discussion with them to determine their willingness to write a recommendation for you.  More detailed information is available on the Career Services website:  How to Ask for a Recommendation.

Please go to www.interfolio.com. Follow the instructions for opening an account and learn how the system works.

Pre-Health applicants will continue to use the Career Services Credentials system.

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Penn Model Supervisor, Patricia Rose, or why good supervisors make for happy (and productive) employees

The Career Services staff is celebrating today. On Tuesday evening our director, Patricia Rose, was presented with the Model Supervisor Award at the University of Pennsylvania’s Models of Excellence program.

Helping the committee prepare Pat’s nomination last fall, and seeing her accept this much deserved award yesterday evening reminded me of just how important a supervisor is to a person’s day-to-day satisfaction with one’s job and career success. In other words, a supervisor can help (or prevent) happiness with work, the place where you spend the great majority of your waking hours.

When I interviewed at Penn five years ago, I remember being surprised and impressed with the continuity and commitment of the staff. At the end of my interview, I asked the committee what they liked most about working at Penn Career Services. They responded, nearly in unison, “working for Pat!” This collective response was followed by examples of the way she works tirelessly to make sure her staff are well supported, but never micromanaged; how she encourages innovation and building on one’s strengths; how she models and expects both excellence in our work as well as work-life balance; and the respect she shows for each person in the office. And clearly that respect is reciprocated– we all appreciate her smarts, high energy, wisdom, caring nature, honesty, and warm sense of humor. All of these qualities have helped create one of the most productive, fun, challenging, and rewarding work environments I have had the privilege to work in. I have never had a case of the Sunday Evening Blues while working for Pat Rose, and I know most of my colleagues feel the same way.

So, what I hope for our graduating seniors and underclassmen preparing for jobs and summer internships is that they are fortunate enough to have a supervisor like Pat. Early in your career you rarely get everything on your “ideal job” wish list (challenging/rewarding work, super salary/compensation, the right employer, dream location, fine colleagues, etc.), but having a great supervisor is something to seek out, rather than something to consider as an afterthought once you’ve received an offer. A great supervisor will teach you, push you, and keep those Sunday Evening Blues at bay.

Thanks for being a great supervisor, Pat!

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Summer Checklist

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

The semester is almost over; all that remains are final exams and papers and projects.  Regardless of what you are doing this summer (career-related internship, research, travel, beginning a permanent job, getting ready to start graduate school), think about these suggestions.  They can serve as your to do list.

  1.  Read a book.  So many students, even those with scholarly interests, confess that they don’t have time to read during the academic year.  Take advantage of whatever down time you have to read a book, or two or three, purely for pleasure.
  2. Try something new: a new sport, a new game (chess? backgammon?), a new volunteer activity, a new performance (opera? Reggae?), even a new food you have never eaten.  The point is to challenge yourself in ways large and small.  You may surprise yourself with your newly-found skills or interests.
  3. Try to broaden your career network by meeting people who are actively pursuing fields of interest to you.  You may be spending the summer in a new location, one that has more professionals in a particular field (marine biologists, publicists, producers) than does Philadelphia.  Take advantage of wherever you are by reaching out to Penn alums or other professionals who have a wealth of wisdom to share.  But remember, the onus is on you to make the initial contact.
  4. Do something fun every day, for yourself.
  5. Do something for someone else every day.  This could be as simple as giving up your seat on the bus, or offering directions to someone who is lost.  Kindness counts.
  6. Sleep!  Many of you are sleep-deprived.  Try to catch up.
  7. Think!  Turn off your electronics.  Escape the ever-present screens.  Give yourself permission – and time – to appreciate your own thoughts, your own reflections.
  8. Thank someone: a parent, a spouse or partner, who has helped you get through the year.  Let this person know you appreciate what they do.

Summer is a great time to re-assess, to re-charge, to re-commit to what is important to you.  Unfortunately, it goes by too fast.  Make the most of it, stay safe, and enjoy yourself.

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Pathways: Reflections on First Jobs

By Sharon Fleshman

I have always had a curiosity about people and how they see their place in the world. Perhaps that’s why I’ve landed at Career Services.  Twenty-two years ago, I was preparing to graduate from Penn and start my first “real” job, as some of you will do soon.   When I received my degree in Computer Science, I never expected to come back to Penn to work, or to be a career advisor.   I must say, though, that I have always had an interest in the world of work even as it relates to my family.  My mom is a retired social worker who touched the lives of her elderly clients.  My dad was a technician who envisioned how electronic components could come together to create useful tools.  My grandfather was a farmer who put his hands to the dirt and tractor to sow and reap. My aunt and grandmother were nurses who graced bedsides and operating rooms to care for patients.  A couple of my uncles were cab drivers who guided many travelers in the Bronx.  These jobs sound pretty concrete, right?  So what was my first job coming out of Penn?  A consultant.  Had my grandfather been alive at the time, his first question would have been — “What in the world is a consultant?”  All I know is that it seemed like a good gig at the time.

As time went by, I noticed a growing restlessness about my sense of purpose as it related to my career.   My church and community involvement was certainly a catalyst for my eventual transition to the non-profit sector as I had felt increasingly more fulfilled in my roles outside of work.  In spite of this, I have no regrets about my first job because I discovered a lot about what I want and don’t want in a career.  I liked certain elements of consulting.  I enjoyed helping clients in ways that required intellectual curiosity and allowed exposure to a variety of areas.   Consulting also challenged me to learn and adapt quickly and project more confidence about my abilities.    My colleagues were smart, friendly and motivated, but it was hard to forge strong collegial relationships given the need for consultants to move from client to client.   In retrospect, I realize that having a sense of community at work was and still is important to me.   When I found out about a Career Counselor position at Career Services twelve years ago, I was drawn to the opportunity to continue my advisory work in an environment that is more compatible with my work values.

All of this is not to say that one can only find meaning and purpose in a particular field or sector.  My point is that your first job will not define your entire career, but it can potentially be a springboard for cultivating self-discovery that will help you to progress in your development.  As you enter the next phase of your life in the world of work, make sure to take the time to reflect on lessons learned on the journey.

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