Spring is Inevitable

by Sue Russoniello


Spring is almost here!  While I was doing yard work on Saturday and it began to snow, I was also listening to the birds sing while they frolicked in the trees, which is definitely a sign of spring. The end of winter and arrival of spring is inevitable.  It happens every year, even though right now we wonder if it ever will be warm enough to put away the winter coat.

Another inevitability is that as the semester winds down, students have turned their focus to finding summer and full time jobs.  A student I know said to me this morning that her second round interview for Friday is a “last ditch effort” at finding a job for the summer.  No, I told her, don’t give up.  There are jobs out there to be had.  Not everyone has lined up something yet.  Look at the student survey results on our website; you’ll see that many students find their jobs and internships in April or May; some even later, though it might seem like you are the only one still looking.  Keep an open, positive focus on finding an interesting thing to do this summer, or a full time opportunity if you’re graduating.

I know you’ve heard it before, but take the advice to heart.  Continue to attend our workshops and programs, and stick around to speak with the alumni and other people on the panel or leading the workshop.  Network with alumni, friends and family.  It’s inevitable that you’ll make connections, hear about interesting opportunities, talk with someone who is very willing and able to help you with your search.  Even if a contact doesn’t pan out for the immediate search, you never know when it’ll be helpful in the future, so make a note of their name and contact information and stay in touch with them.

Look around you.  Talk with people to whom you don’t usually reach out.  Go to places where you might see and meet new people; talk about different things you’ve done and are interested in, even with people you think you know well, and you’ll be surprised what a small world it is.  Meeting a friend’s new girlfriend, you discover that her mother knows your mother.  Or that her sister studied abroad in the same program at the same time as your brother.  An applicant for a job in our office turned out to be a friend of my soon to be daughter-in-law. Honestly, that gave him a leg up on the other candidates, and worked out well for both of us.  With a bit of careful directing of the conversation, and prudent follow-ups, these connections might lead to job opportunities we would not have found otherwise.

So as inevitable as it is that winter leads to spring, it is also inevitable that you smart, hard-working Penn students will find great jobs.  Some may take longer than others to find them, and you might not find your “dream” job right away.  But keep looking.  Keep a positive outlook. Keep reaching out to people, and the inevitable will happen.


Breathe: Self-Care in the Helping Professions

By Sharon Fleshman

Many students are juggling coursework, extracurricular activities, a social life, an on-campus job, and perhaps a job or internship search.  However, students preparing for careers in the helping professions really have their work cut out for them.  The typical nursing student also has day-long clinical rotations.  On any given day, an education student may be rushing from his student teaching site to class.  Social work students are heading to field placements three days a week.   If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, self-care is vital to your success during your time at Penn and beyond.

When the issue of self-care comes up, I’m reminded of the common illustration of oxygen masks in the safety presentation given on an airplane.  The flight attendant points out that if the air pressure in the cabin drops suddenly, the masks will drop down.  Passengers are further instructed that “if you are with a child or someone else who needs your assistance, secure your mask first.”   However, there is a potential flaw with applying this analogy to self-care.  You shouldn’t wait until you are in a semi-crisis mode, like experiencing a drop in cabin pressure, to think about self-care.  You need to be intentional and plan ahead so that caring for yourself is part of your day-to-day life.

Begin with the basics.  Eat healthy food.  Get sufficient exercise and sleep.  Make sure you get regular physical checkups.  These steps are obviously important, but often so easy to neglect.

Debrief with others and with yourself.  Process your experiences from a given day on your field placement site by speaking with a mentor or peer and journaling your reflections. Such debriefing can allow for shared insight and the closure to put the events of the day behind you, especially if they were stressful.

Turn down the volume.  Most helping professions require a lot of talking with and listening to other people.  For you, winding down might mean establishing a space where there is less chatter.  I’ve heard some students speak of prayer, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing as ways to do this.

Enjoy creativity in its many forms.  Whether you are on the giving end or the receiving end, creativity can have an energizing impact.  Listen to music that inspires you.  Learn how to knit, crochet or quilt.  Take up pottery, woodwork or photography.  Check out an art exhibit at a local museum.

Maintain a solid support system.  It is ironic that those in helping professions can be reluctant to get assistance for themselves.  Don’t hesitate to get additional help from other helping professionals, such as counselors, as necessary.  Keep in touch with family, friends, mentors, advisors and others who have your best interest at heart.



Can you be a freelance scientist?

Dr. Joseph Barber

There are many venues to do scientific research, including the obvious ones: higher education institutions like universities, pharmaceutical companies and start-ups, and government facilities. But is it possible to be a freelance scientist with the flexibility to work on multiple projects as part of different collaborations all dictated by your own goals and schedule? A colleague of mine from graduate school makes the argument that, depending on the type of research you are doing (or are interested in doing in the future), it is possible. Indeed, this type of approach could be part of a changing trend within higher education as a whole. Read her article here, and then read up on how self-promotion is important to marketing your skills and abilities to different audiences.

The Path Towards an Education Career has Many Routes

by Elizabeth Leonard

Anyone who regularly reads the New York Times will tell you that law schools have gotten a bad rap recently. It seems like every week there’s another article about how law school is overpriced, graduates have very few “real world” skills and a JD is no longer a fool-proof path to a lucrative career. I disagree.

As someone who practiced law for a measly two years after graduating from Penn Law, I seem to be a walking example of everything that’s wrong with law school. But, I argue (once a lawyer, always opinionated!) that Penn Law taught me a wide range of skills that are useful on a daily basis as I develop The Blue Bridge Project, a small educational company that provides service learning opportunities for high school students.

I started Blue Bridge Project because it is obvious that students who have international exposure are better prepared for professional success. Many high schools are integrating internationally focused classes into their curriculum like “Modern Islam” or “Comparative Political Systems” but classroom attention is not enough. Students who have the opportunity to travel develop a range of skills that cannot be taught in the classroom like: how to exhibit cultural sensitivity; how other people view the American lifestyle; and how political processes impact everyday people. Blue Bridge’s mission is to expose students to these issues so that they develop a more nuanced and well-rounded view of the world and start on the path to becoming global citizens.

  1. Confidence – A significant part of starting my own business was having the confidence to leave the security of a full-time job and quite literally, follow my dreams. In the first week of Civil Procedure, I was asked “what kinds of cases do federal courts hear?” At that point—and I am not kidding—I didn’t know the difference between the federal and state court systems! Despite not knowing the answer, I survived. Plowing through the toughest days of 1L year and enjoying the remaining two years of law school (yes, it’s true, I liked law school!) gave me the confidence that I could build this business. I continue to tap into that confidence during the most challenging times when I feel defeated and frustrated. There is a real emotional component to running a business and I developed an emotional endurance in law school that has really helped me.
  2. Critical thinking – Law school taught me how to thoughtfully sort through a lot of information and quickly distill key points. As an entrepreneur, I utilize this skill daily. On any given day I am thinking through the pros and cons of various insurance packages, writing web content, negotiating with service providers and drafting business contracts. This is not dissimilar from the experience of preparing for class during all three years of law school. I spent hours at the library sorting through cases and concepts; in order to preserve my sanity (and maintain a social life!) I learned to efficiently synthesize all of this material. I could not get through my to-do list every day if I hadn’t honed those skills in law school.
  3. Crisp writing and concise speaking– Law school taught me how to write clearly and speak concisely. I practiced these skills during legal writing seminars, mock-trials in clinical settings and on issue-spotting exams. I use these skills daily in my work as an entrepreneur, whether I am drafting a one-sentence blurb for BBP’s homepage or on the phone with a parent. The ability to clearly and concisely express yourself is critical to disseminate your message and this applies universally, whether you are advocating on behalf of your client in a mediation or making a presentation to parents about summer programs.

While my path towards building an education organization is untraditional, I have acquired so many skills along the way. Each person’s decision to pursue a graduate degree is highly personal and I am certainly not advocating that law school is the perfect choice for people who don’t want to be lawyers. But for me, I have no regrets about my JD and use it to my advantage on a daily basis.


JDandEducationElizabeth is the Founder and President of Blue Bridge Project (www.bluebridgeproject.com). BBP is the first international travel program to partner with local non-profits and offer post-trip guidance to help high school students apply their summer experience to their individual goals and future endeavors. Elizabeth has worked in high school student travel for over 8 years and has led students on trips around the world. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in International Relations and Spanish, and Penn Law School where she pursued public interest law. Elizabeth was the first recipient of the Penn Public Interest Fellowship and used her funding to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities as an attorney at Disability Rights Advocates.