Reflections on Gratitude

By Sharon Fleshman

At a staff meeting last week, a colleague remarked that she was grateful for something. I’ll admit that I can’t recall what that “something” was, yet we were all reminded that gratitude for even the “little things” can make a difference in our outlook.  To that end, I thought that I would share a few perspectives and thoughts on gratitude that are worth pondering.  Happy Thanksgiving!

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” John Milton

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” G.K. Chesterton

“’Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” Alice Walker

“We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean… and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”  Michelle Obama

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 “Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” Lionel Hampton

 “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

A Question a Day

Dr. Joseph Barber

I am always surprised when people attend workshops, panel discussions, speaker presentations, and other similar events, and don’t ask a question. There are many good reasons you should ask questions when speakers are giving a presentation, and here are my top 5

1) Contrary to what you might believe, asking a speaker a question is a way of thanking them. If you have ever been in a situation where you have presented your work, or talked to a group, and no-one raises their hand at the end to ask a question, you know how disappointing it feels. You start to wonder, did they already know what you told them, and do they care? Do they know how long you worked on putting the presentation together and how far you came to give it? It is respectful to ask questions because it shows the speaker that you are engaged with the material, even if you are just asking for clarification on something that was said. It can also be good to thank the speaker for their presentation at the start of your question.

2) Asking questions will keep you awake. As a person dealing with the realities of two small children waking up at all hours of the night, I know it can be hard to keep your mind active during a presentation, especially one in a warm, dark room…, with soft chairs……, soft, comfy chairs…….., wait…, what? I’m awake! If you force yourself to ask a question at ever presentation you go to, you will find it is easier to keep your focus as you try to find something interesting to ask.

3) Asking questions helps you to network. We all know that networking is about getting to know lots of other interesting people, but the real trick with effective networking is ensuring that people know you. If you are at a conference, and take the opportunity to ask a question after a presentation, then don’t just be an anonymous questioner – be you. “Hi, I’m Dr. Joseph Barber, University of Pennsylvania. Thank you for this interesting presentation, I was just wondering whether….”. People often like to look at other people asking questions, and if you introduce yourself while you ask your question, you have a captive audience of people who will then suddenly know who you are. There aren’t many situations where you can stand up in the middle of a crowded room and introduce yourself to lots of different people at once, so take advantage of this one.

4) Asking questions connects you to speakers. Once you have asked a question after a presentation, you can then follow-up with the speaker, and you’ll find that you already have a shared history with them. You can introduce again as the person who asked the question, thank them for their answer, and then perhaps explain the reason you asked that particular question. Networking is all about building relationships, not just establishing them, and the more you find ways to interact with others in an active way, the more likely it is that relationship building will occur.

5) Asking questions provides you with information. Just like with the questions you can ask interviewers at the end of an interview, don’t just ask questions to sound smart, ask questions that give you information you didn’t have before. Ask questions that are meaningful and relevant to you. These are the questions that will actually make you sound smart. If you are going to sit through any presentation, then make sure you get as much out of the experience as possible by getting your questions answered.

So, take my advice and ask a question at every presentation you attend. Every time that you do, there will be other people who had the same question who wished that they had, because you sounded so smart when you asked it. Speakers won’t always provide the answers you seek, but they will appreciate the opportunity to try.

While we are on the subject, these are some of the elements of a bad question that you should try hard to avoid:

  1. A long rambling monologue that is either awkwardly personal in nature (it has to do with the questioner’s unique background and experiences), or completely off-topic, and that doesn’t actually involve any questions within the first 2-4 minutes.
  2. Any statement of fact that doesn’t involve an actual question, no matter how succinct the statement is.
  3. A 3-part question (i.e., three separate questions in one giant frankenquestion). I would recommended not even asking a 2-part question, as usually the speaker won’t address both parts of the question equally, and you only get half and answer.
  4. Any question that tries to catch the speaker out.
  5. A complex question that comes at the very end of the Q&A session when everyone is eager to leave. Take note of the time, and the body language of the audience, moderator, and speaker, and ask you questions early on to avoid this issue.

What’s your question for today?

Day in the Life: Sales Engineer at AppNexus

If you have a passion for technology and business, you’ll want to follow our next alum on @PennCareerDay, Andrew Lenehan.  On Tuesday, December 4th, Andrew will talk about his career as a Sales Engineer with AppNexus, where they are “setting the standard for excellence in ad technology and helping the largest and most innovative companies in online advertising build their businesses.”  Read more about Andrew’s background below and remember to follow him after the Thanksgiving holiday!

Andrew graduated from Penn’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology with a BS in Economics (Marketing / Finance) and a BAS in Computer Science. He moved to New York to join the consulting team of a digital ad agency called Rosetta (since purchased by Publicis), where he worked with a phenomenally talented team within their Healthcare vertical. While he loved his time at Rosetta, he aspired to eventually try his hand at his own entrepreneurial venture, and wanted to gain some first hand experience in helping to build a company. Two years ago, Andrew switched industries into the advertising technology space to work for a startup called AppNexus, which provides companies like Rosetta with the cutting edge technology necessary to thrive in today’s digital media industry.

Andrew’s career focus also changed, from solving strategic business problem, to complex technical ones as a Support Engineer. With a solid technical foundation to build on, he wanted to shift into a more client-facing role and moved over to AppNexus’s Sales Engineering team. A Sales Engineer is responsible for qualifying and amplifying deals with prospective clients, acting as somewhat of a technical advisor to all parties involved. It has afforded him the ability to speak with executives from hundreds of companies, from early-stage startups to household names, and accelerated his professional growth significantly in a relatively short amount of time.He has loved his experience at AppNexus so far, and look forward to helping this market-making company continue to evolve in the coming years.

Five Keys to a Meaningful Clinical Volunteer Experience

Most pre-health students and alumni know that it is important to volunteer in a health care setting before applying to medical or dental school, but it is also important to make that experience meaningful so that you offer your very best service and walk away with more knowledge and insight than you brought to the position.  Here are five points to keep in mind when choosing a clinical volunteer opportunity and while volunteering to have an excellent experience:

  • Choose your volunteer experience carefully.  If you already have a great deal of experience volunteering in hospitals, would another environment prove more engaging?  Would you prefer to work with pediatric patients, within a community clinic, or in a psychiatric treatment center?  Do you want to use a second language while volunteering or volunteer abroad?  Are there opportunities out there you may not have considered?  Good volunteers tend to be happy volunteers, and finding the right match for your interests and personality is important.  Sometimes this means finding something that isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind or what your friends are doing.
  • Think about when you would like to volunteer.  The earlier you think about when and for how long you might like to volunteer, the more success you are likely to have finding a satisfying opportunity.  Many positions require training or attention to application deadlines.  Some are quite compatible with an academic schedule while others are only possible during academic breaks.  It is never a good idea to look for clinical volunteer opportunities just before applying to medical or dental school.  Not only may you be unable to find one, it can appear that you did not make medically related service work a priority.
  • Commit yourself to being a dependable and responsible volunteer.  Quitting suddenly, not showing up for your scheduled hours, or not showing respect for your position won’t help you and won’t help others who wish to volunteer in the future.
  • Keep a journal.  Making notes and writing your memories and reflections about volunteering not only can help you clarify your thoughts about your future career, but can help you when you write your personal statement and prepare for interviews.  Use your powers of observation.  Many applicants when asked about their clinical volunteering have difficulty saying more than, “It was great.”  If you can share details about the things you noticed about the work environment, staff or patients as well as what you thought or felt while volunteering, you will communicate your interest in patient care in a personal and sharply defined way.
  • Remember that your service is important and valued.  You may be frustrated during times when your role feels small or not well defined or you’re anxious about academic commitments.  It means a great deal to staff to have a responsible person on the floor to free their hands for a heavy work load.  A cup of ice or friendly conversation can make a patient’s wait just bearable.  Even if you are doing nothing, you are learning something that will benefit somebody one day.  Perhaps as a doctor you will remember how boring the hospital can be for patients, what it’s like to live away from home to the rhythm of meal deliveries and medication doses.  Maybe you will be the dentist who welcomes pre-dental students into her office, taking a lively interest in the professional development of others.  No experience is ever lost and there is much to be gained in the time you give as a volunteer.

By the Book: Streamlining Our Library

If you’ve stopped by the Career Services library in the last week or so, you may have headed over to your favorite section only to discover…it’s not there!

Rest assured, we haven’t taken anything away.  We’ve just rearranged things a bit to make room for a new comfortable reading area and consolidate our collection into to better groupings on the shelves.  Some of our most popular items, such as the recruiter card file and medical school statistics, have been moved to the front on the library, while all of our general directories, guides and career decision making resources have been placed together.

Come by  and enjoy the library.  An updated map of where you can find our print resources is below.