Outreaching to Alums

Whether you’re a current student or a recent alum, one of the great things about being a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania is the broad alumni network.

The university provides several resources that you can utilize to connect with other alums.

You can find a database of Penn graduates who have volunteered to discuss careers through the Penn Alumni Career Network (PACNet). You can use it to interact with other alums about their careers and ask career related questions. (Please note that it should not be used to inquire about the availability of a job or for employment.)

You can find PACNet here:


Penn alumni also have access to the larger QuakerNet alumni directory, which can be accessed here:


Another great way to outreach with other alums is to join the University of Pennsylvania Alumni group.

There are also numerous subgroups by industry in LinkedIn that you should consider joining. You can find links to them all on our website at:


Career Services has created Facebook groups for Alums. These networking groups are categorized by various geographical regions. These groups are mainly dedicated to sharing housing resources for the major metropolitan areas in the U.S. among Penn students and alumni.

You can view the full list of these groups at the following link:


Additionally, if you have questions about connecting with alums, feel free to speak with one of our counselors in the office.

Tune out before you turn in

As many of us are pulled in various directions by life’s demands it can be challenging to find quiet moments in our day to recharge. The pace at which information is exchanged and available makes it all the more difficult to slow down without missing something! If you’re like me, when I do find a moment of downtime I begin to think, “I should be getting something done.”

The much-discussed opinion piece, “The Busy Trap,” by Tim Reider that recently appeared in The New York Times addressed this topic of busyness. Reider argues that being busy causes us to miss out on much needed idle time that is good for the brain. He goes on to say that this idleness “is necessary for getting any work done.” The article created quite a buzz, but it got me thinking. Do I typically benefit from taking a step back from a project or decision? Do I often return to the task refreshed and with new ideas? Yes.

College or graduate school is a busy time. You are immersed in classes, campus life, and decision-making on various levels. It can be a struggle to allow yourself the time to “just be,” let alone sleep. Add on the desire to figure out what you want to do with your life or even assess career interests, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything you have to get done.

However, I do believe it is important to find uninterrupted idle time. At the very least, as you wind down from your day, allow yourself the opportunity to find a quiet moment to recharge. Place your cell phone across the room. Close your laptop for a few minutes. It may end up being a “2-for-1.” You take extra care of yourself and, in turn, discover something (a new idea, interest, etc.) that you may have missed had you kept going and going and going….

Assessing your development…

I’ve been thinking about the idea of development recently – development in the career context in particular. What I keep noticing is that so much emphasis and attention is focused on individuals finding new and better job opportunities. Consequently, less time is spent evaluating how a potential job opportunity fits and aligns with an individual’s developmental stage.

There are several different theories and stages of career development – but the process of reflecting on your development can be very valuable regardless of developmental stage. For many people, it can be easy to focus on tangible, external information to assess if an employment opportunity is a good fit. Is the job a promotion? Does the position offer increased responsibility? While these can be useful questions that reveal important insights, they typically only provide an overall or general sense of the suitability of a potential job. More specific information can be garnered about developmental fit by examining your existing strengths and weaknesses and identifying the specific skill sets you are looking to develop. Consider the tasks and duties you already perform and think about your current competency level performing those tasks. Then, consider how a new job opportunity can provide specific opportunities for growth across a variety of areas.  Engaging in this process periodically may uncover some interesting and important revelations about yourself that can be very beneficial moving forward.

So whenever you consider a job opportunity or changing careers, be sure to ask yourself – where am I in my stage of my development?

You Can Do It

Well, summer is half over and what do you have to show for it?  Have you accomplished any goals you set out at the beginning of June?

Earlier this summer I co-wrote How New Graduate Students Should Spend Their Summers in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  My co-author and I discussed many things that graduate students who are in the early stage of their graduate student career could elect to do during the summer to get them ready for the next year as well as to help them think about long-term goals.  I believe in articulating one’s goals regularly and revising them periodically and, at the same time, I think it’s important to make them very realistic and as doable as possible.

I am someone who always keeps lists.  One is of things that need to be done right away, another lists what needs to be done this week and a couple others are things to do within the next 6 months or if I find the time to do them.  I have these lists in both my work life and my personal life, and they help keep me going.  Some are real goals and some are just what “needs doing”.   Although I don’t always do this myself, I encourage students to keep track of the goals they’ve completed so they can note their accomplishments.

So, look back.  What goals have you met?  Pat yourself on the back and tell a friend or family member about those you have achieved.  Now, look forward.  There’s still six weeks of summer which is enough time to edit your list to those goals that matter the most, to develop a timeline for accomplishing them and then, to carry that out.  You can do it.

Wordling the heat wave away

Dr. Joseph Barber

It is hot outside, if you haven’t noticed, and so it is a perfect time to wordle the day away in the cool oasis of an air conditioned room. OK, “to wordle” isn’t actually a verb. It is way to make one of those nice looking “word cloud” images, and you can do it right now by following this link. I’ve made my own word cloud for a chapter I recently wrote for a book about chickens. The larger the words in the cloud, the more frequently they appeared in my text. It shouldn’t take you long to guess the general theme of the chapter I was writing (hint: it was definitely about chickens, but also about their cognitive abilities, intelligence, and learning capacity within their social environment).

Thrilled as you might be (and should be) to learn about chickens, and to have a new toy to play around with when it is hot outside, you might be wondering why I am even writing about this. How could a word cloud help you seek out your next job or career? Well, one possible use for this approach is to see what common themes arise from your job application materials. Copy and paste the text from a cover letter, teaching philosophy, or research statement using the Wordle website, and you can get a glimpse at the type of language you are using to define yourself – the common terms that you use the most. Are these the types of terms and descriptions that the employer is looking for? Copy and paste the words from a job description itself, and from the “about us” page of the institution’s website, and you can create a corresponding word cloud that may point out the terms most frequently used by the employer. The goal in any job application is to try to describe your past and present experiences in the language used by your future employer so that they have an easier time imagining you working for them. What that could mean is that the most frequently used terms in your word cloud should overlap to a certain degree with their most frequently used terms.

OK, Wordle is not really a tool that is designed to compare your job application materials to job descriptions, and chances are it may not be as useful as I would like to imagine it could be. However, it always helps to get an objective perspective on the way you are portraying yourself to potential employers, and Wordle will give you an honest assessment of how frequently you use certain words to do so (you also might like to stop in for an appointment with an advisor – our offices are deliciously cool). Besides, it is certainly better than standing out in that insufferable heat. That is something that only mad dogs and Englishmen would do…, which probably means that I should get my coat and hat and find somewhere where I can get a decent cup of hot tea around here.