Spring (Break) Fever: Connections through Socializing

You can feel it—spring break fever is in the air. Whether you have plans to ski the slopes, soak up the sun on the beach or simply enjoy the comforts of home, this well-deserved break is a great time to recharge your batteries. It can also be a great opportunity to advance your career prospects through networking. If you’re going to be home, browse the Penn Alumni Network (PACNet) to identify and contact Penn Alums who have specifically volunteered to serve as mentors. Or, take time to update your LinkedIn profile and join groups, including the Penn Alumni Group, which has over 27,000 members. This is an excellent chance to try and arrange informational interviews.

Networking can also occur in the most unexpected of circumstances. You never know who will be sitting next to you on the plane, train, or chair lift. Start conversations with those around you and do not be afraid to discuss your own interests or ask about the work that they do. Most of us are fairly narcissistic and enjoy talking about ourselves. Over the years I have heard countless stories from students and alumni about having developed connections “randomly” through chance encounters while traveling. If you have a good discussion, ask for a business card or other contact information so that you can follow-up with a thank you email once you return from break.

So enjoy your break, rest up and have a good time but don’t ignore potential networking opportunities!

Working in the Complaints Department

Last week I went to a comedy show in Old City where the comedians and most of the audience were in their 20s, perhaps some in their early thirties.  One comedian, riffing on the strange habits of co-workers, began his set up with this question to the audience: “How many of you don’t like your jobs?”

Guess what? There were about 3 people, including myself and my friend (a law professor) who indicated we were happy with our work.  I imagine this crowd of Millennials isn’t exactly a random sample; but with all these dissatisfied employees, needless to say there were some good implications for MY job as a career counselor.  Clearly there will be a demand for the kind of service I provide from the upcoming generation.

And so I began to wonder, what was going on?  Was this about the economy and the lack of opportunity for 20-somethings?  Was this about the contagion of emotions, so if you work in a place with a negative atmosphere or are surrounded by friends with discontented attitudes you too may adopt the negative mood? Is it just plain cooler to complain?

I admit I don’t yet have an answer to the questions posed.  I could see that there may be some positive value in being collectively disgruntled, a strength in feeling that if things aren’t “right” at least you can commiserate.*  But my reaction is to consider the opposite approach: that finding what you like in work gives you the energy to address problems or make changes and a sense of purpose and satisfaction.   For example, there I was on my time off, finding the opportunity to think a little more deeply about my work while listening to the audience laugh at the pitfalls of a comedian with a coworker who blamed the office printer for the flatulent noises coming from his cubicle.

Few individuals find their work life perfect, but each can make the choice of focusing on what they do enjoy.  Like today’s Millennials, I graduated from college into a recession, and along with many other young people landed two part time jobs doing entry level work that was not very intellectually engaging.  Even so, I found that I enjoyed a feeling of professionalism, because I knew the employers I worked for needed my efforts, I liked helping people, getting recognition for my work, and organizing and implementing my own projects.  Eventually I chose my profession, returning to school for a graduate degree in counseling based on the insights I gained from my administrative positions.

You can find your work in the “complaints department,” perceiving your experience as bad if there are elements you don’t like, but even a job with clear limitations – one that is frustrating or “dead end” – can give you something positive in the future including an ability to face challenges, know yourself better, and at the very least make a memorable joke.

* There is a fair amount of information out there about how negativity affects the workplace. See this article on complaining in the workplace and note Wharton Professor Sigal Barsade’s work.  (Also see: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1708.)

This Week: Sustainability, the Environment and Your Career

This is an exciting week for Penn students with interest in sustainability and the environment!   

First, on Wednesday February 27th, we’ll have several distinguished graduates presenting as part of the “Careers in Cleantech” alumni panel, open to all UPenn students with an interest in sustainability and related career paths –  click for more details on the panelists and to reserve your seat!

Wondering what is “Cleantech”?  Cleantech covers fields as diverse as materials, biofuels, energy, recycling, transportation, water, nuclear, solar, and wind, among others, and roles within Cleantech organizations range from business to technical.  The term itself refers to new technology and related business models that offer competitive returns for investors and customers while providing solutions to global challenges.

Second, on Friday March 1st, Penn will once again be partnering to bring you the All Ivy Environmental & Sustainable Career Fair!  Now in its 10th year, this fair is the premier event through which Ivy League students and graduates can meet with representatives from organizations in the private, non-profit and public sectors across a multitude of industries focused in sustainability and the environment.  A sampling of represented organizations includes but is certainly not limited to:

  • Anchor QEA
  • Arcadis
  • CleanEdison
  • Department of Environmental Protection
  • ENVIRON International
  • L’Oreal
  • MTA NYC Transit
  • Peace Corps
  • Sefaira
  • Terra Cycle
  • Tetra Tech
  • United Wind
  • and more!

For full details on all organizations as well as several related educational programs that will be represented at the All Ivy Environmental and Sustainable Career Fair please visit http://allivyfair.ei.columbia.edu/

Lastly, candidates interested in researching careers in this space and others would be very well served to check out the multitude of resources offered not only through the Career Services Resources-by-Field-website, but also the Lippincott Library’s Research Guides – with access to highly relevant and valuable information (like the expansive Cleantech site, a comprehensive resource for alternative energies including research reports, companies, investors and more, under the “Energy” Research Guide) as well as info on other industries and career areas.

Career-related blogs to look at before the next asteroid arrives

Dr. Joseph Barber

There is so much information on career-related topics discussed on various websites that it can be overwhelming trying to find the answers to your unique questions. Not all information is appropriate, correct, objective, or useful, and so how do you tell the good from the bad? Well…, one way is to develop a professional relationship with the person giving that information. After all, the more you know about that person, the better sense you will have about whether their advice will be relevant to you. And if you are looking for a way to get an in-depth perspective on someone without the hassle of actually getting to know them in person, then blogs are a good way to go. Some bloggers are only too happy to reveal absolutely everything about themselves, and this makes it very easy to put their career advice into context and then follow and ignore as appropriate. Even without the drama, though, most blogs offer a personal perspective that you might find refreshing in the mostly anonymous information-stream of the internet. Here is a small selection of blogs you might want to take a peek at as you are pondering your career next steps – you know…, before the next asteroid/meteor crosses our paths again.

1) The Undercover Recruiter: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/
“The Undercover Recruiter is the #1 recruitment and career blog in the UK & Europe. We aim to please recruiters, HR folks, jobseekers and anyone in the career industry”

2) Lindsey Pollak – next generation career expert: http://www.lindseypollak.com/blog
“Lindsey Pollak is a corporate consultant, bestselling author, keynote speaker and recognized expert on next generation career and workplace issues. She is a Global Spokesperson for LinkedIn and the author of Getting from College to Career

3) Fumbling Towards Tenure: http://scientopia.org/blogs/drbecca/
Career advice, resources, and an honest look into the long, convoluted, and sometimes frustrating process of applying for tenure-track faculty positions and working within academia

4) Career Rocketeer: http://careerrocketeer.com/
“Career Rocketeer is one of the industry’s leading career search and personal branding blogs, welcoming ambitious career entrepreneurs of all ages and professions who are driven to “launch” their careers to greater heights”

5) Ms. Career Girl: http://www.mscareergirl.com/
“I hope Ms. Career Girl provides you with real stories you can relate to, the modern career advice you are seeking and a bit of entertainment along the way.  The content on this blog will help you figure out how to achieve YOUR career goals, whatever those may be”

6) Pearls of Wisdom: http://theprofessorisin.com/pearlsofwisdom/
“I post once or twice a week on Pearls of Wisdom on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process”

Day in the Life: Postdoctoral Scholar in Penn Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology

Learn about life after a PhD program as a Postdoc thanks Dr. Lorena G. Benedetti, who tweeted for @PennCareerDay. To learn more about Dr. Benedetti, read her bio below and read her story from February 27th, 2013 on our Storify page.

lorenabenedettiDr. Lorena G. Benedetti is a second year postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Pharmacology of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Benedetti investigates mechanisms of malignant transformation in normal breast cells due to the overexpression of proteins of the Protein Kinase C family.

She earned her doctorate in Biology as well as her undergraduate degree at the University of Buenos Aires. During her PhD at the Fundacion Instituto Leloir she studied the role of an extracellular matrix protein in breast cancer metastasis. She always knew she wanted to study Biology and make small contributions to the knowledge of cancer biology.

Before coming to Penn, she also worked as Laboratory Supervisor at the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa where she helped Biotechnology and Bioinformatic’s students to give their first steps in Science and the research field.

In addition to her laboratory studies, Dr. Benedetti is also a co-chair of the Career Enhancement and training Committee at the Biomedical Postdoctoral Council at UPENN.  As co-chair she is involved in activities to enhance postdoctoral professional development.

In the future she would like to be involved in a more translational research where she could apply all her knowledge to the improvement of human health. She is an active person, always trying to learn new things and willing to share her experiences with others.