Advice on the Academic Job Search

This is the time of year when many advanced PhD students, recent PhDs and postdocs are in the midst of applying for academic jobs.  The search process for a faculty position is spread over several months and the interviews themselves are 1-3 days long.   In addition to being a scholar with an exciting research project and strong teaching experience another tool to have in your toolkit is good information.  At one of our recent Faculty Conversations, Professor Susan Margulies, SEAS, encouraged those on the job market to look at these resources:

  • The University of Michigan Handbook for Faculty Searches and Hiring which includes a Candidate Evaluation Sheet.  It gives a sense of the kinds of questions candidates may be asked.
  • Stanford University’s Dual-Career Resources can help “complex” hires, meaning those who have a significant other with job/career issues that may affect the candidate’s decision making.

Additional resources on work-life balance and dual career couples can be found on the Career Services website at

Other advice from Professor Margulies and Professor Justin DiAngelo, Hofstra University to keep in mind:

  • Candidates should look up those who will interview them and know something about them.
  • When you give your seminar or job talk, know your audience.  At a teaching-focused institution it may not include people in your field because there isn’t anyone in your field there.
  • Keep in mind that everyone you meet at the interview, including students and the person who walks you from one place to the next, matters.  Their input on your candidacy will be sought.
  • As you put together your start-up request, think about what you’ll need for 3-5 years.
  • When the interview is over, make sure you know the next steps.  If no one tells you, ask.
  • Negotiating offers usually takes place over the phone.

Students and postdocs who are preparing to interview for faculty positions are encouraged to talk with a graduate/postdoc career advisor and schedule a mock interview.  Career advisors can also be a resource for negotiating offers.

Exploring Outside the Pre-Health “Bubble” — Philadelphia’s College of Physicians

The Mütter Museum's "Soap Lady"
The Mütter Museum’s “Soap Lady”

We know how much time pre-health students spend on the beaten path between libraries, labs and lectures, which is why we’re calling your attention to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia located at 19 South 22nd Street in Center City.  Not only is it the home of the Mütter Museum where you can learn about medical history while gawking at the giant colon (look up: Hirschprung’s disease), one of MANY truly impressive specimens in the collection that will challenge your mind and stomach, but the College is also home to four lively special interest “sections” devoted to Medical History, Medicine & the Arts, Public Health & Preventative Medicine, and Medicine, Ethics & the Law.  Recently, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz MD/MPH spoke on the status of public health in Philadelphia and Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at the US Department of Health & Human Services, shared his insights on “Using Open Data to Improve Health.”  Most of the lectures are free, open to the public, and listed on the website’s calendar of events.

If attending a lecture is the last way you want to spend your free time, you might enjoy visiting an art exhibit, hearing a reading of play addressing medical ethics, or attending a film screening like the upcoming showing of the Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011) on February 25.  You can also volunteer at The College of Physicians, which co-sponsors several public health initiatives in Philadelphia such as Hip2Know tackling STD’s and the Memories project addressing gun violence.  If you are interested in public health and/or the arts you may be able to give your time in a way that is intellectually engaging and creative.  Or, you may be able to use the College’s resources for another project.

Taking a little time away from campus, exploring how your interests connect with the city and history, or mingling with professionals outside of the classroom, keeps you fresh and motivated.  The College of Physicians is an excellent stop “outside the bubble” when you need to come up for air.

Career Exploration Parallels to Downton Abbey


Like millions of Americans, I’ve been completely seduced by the intrigue, romance, verbal sparring and fashion of Downton Abbey and am so excited that season three is finally here. And when you work in career services, you can’t help but see parallels between just about any show you watch and the job hunt. And apparently, this time I’m not alone since PBS has just launched a “Which Downton  Abbey Job is Right for You?” quiz, which is actually quite well done.  This quiz obviously plays off of one of show’s strongest themes: Finding one’s appropriate role in an ever changing society. downton3Since I lack Lady Grantham’s gift for barbed wit, I’ll refrain from attempting any cute one-liners in this post but this is a struggle that most of us share with the characters of Downtown Abbey.

Most Penn students and alumni I see want to find careers that are rewarding but many don’t know where to start. A great first step is thinking about your values–what’s important to you in a workplace or job as well as your own personality traits and strengths. Do you favor an environment which depends upon you to be entrepreneurial and have creative spirit or are you happier in a more structured and traditional environment? Today we are very fortunate to live in a world where you have many more options and choices than the characters of Downton but that can also be overwhelming. Here are some other lessons learned from Downton Abbey that also will help you find a career path that is right for you.

Continue reading “Career Exploration Parallels to Downton Abbey”

SP2 Career Plans Surveys – You might just get inspired!

Are you exploring career options related to your School of Social Policy and Practice degree? Are you in need of some inspiration and advice from recent graduates? Look no further than the Career Plans Survey reports on the Career Services website. These reports are compiled each year and offer information on the post-graduate plans of recent Penn graduates.  Reviewing this information can be a helpful starting point if you’re wondering how or even where to begin your job search.

Why not check out where other SP2 graduates have landed? You may learn of organizations that you were not aware even existed. You may also get ideas if you plan to move to a different area of the country. Are you interested in a less traditional career track? You will find that alumni of SP2 have paved the way. Even beyond salary and employer information, the SP2 Career Plans Survey reports summarize the valuable advice of these same outgoing students. You will find tips on networking, job search strategies that worked for others, as well as words of encouragement. I recently met with a School of Social Policy and Practice student who benefited from these reports just by reading the job titles listed. She was able to cast a wider net in her job search with a better understanding of some of the types of positions available to new MSW graduates. The survey information also confirmed her salary expectations. From here she’s researching organizations and plans to schedule informational interviews – all from reviewing the data available on our website. Why not give them a try?

Day in the Life: Adviser in Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr and the Martin Luther King Day of Service, we’re kicking off our 2013 edition of @PennCareerDay with a focus on public service careers.  On Thursday, January 24th we welcome, Lex Ruby Howe, who will tweet about her career with the Australian government.  To learn more about Lex, read below, and don’t forget to follow her on the 24th!

alumpictureLex Ruby Howe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Gender Studies with the Class of 2007. As a student, Lex won recognition for her undergraduate leadership, receiving the R. Jean Brownlee Award of Leadership, and the PennGALA Student Leadership Award, both senior honour awards. After graduation, Lex took a role in Penn’s Alumni Relations Office, and went on to become the Assistant Director of the Penn Traditions & Young Alumni Program for Alumni Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on class unity, leadership cultivation, and strategic planning for continued engagement.

As an alumna, Lex has stayed involved and served as the Co-Chair of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alumni Association (PennGALA), as well as a member of the Alumni Board of Governors for the Sphinx Senior Society, and now serves as the Penn Alumni Australia Co-Chair.

Lex recently returned “home” to Canberra, Australia to take up a role as an Adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet in the Cabinet Secretariat Division.