Perhaps you’ve received an invitation to a friend’s wedding recently, or are planning to attend an upcoming graduation party. When you attend these events, do you let the host or hostess know of your plans to attend? If your plans change, do you then let him/her know you no longer plan to be there? While the setting may be different, the same etiquette applies to professional commitments and events, such as a Career Services appointment or workshop. RSVP etiquette extends beyond weddings and formal gatherings.
Take a Career Services appointment for instance. If you have committed to an appointment time and then are a “no show,” you have taken an opportunity away from another student who may have gladly scheduled that time. You also have a counselor who has blocked out time specifically for you in his or her day. Throughout the academic year, Career Services hosts workshops and panels, some of which require a response for attendance. The individual planning one of these events may want to ensure proper headcount if outside speakers will be present or if space is limited. If an RSVP was requested, it is best to notify the individual who extended the invitation that you are no longer able to attend if your plans change. The same goes for giving Career Services a call when you anticipate that you will miss your scheduled appointment.
While busy schedules can certainly distract us from fulfilling obligations that are no longer priorities, courtesy still applies. Many times, this simple gesture will allow a fellow student to take your place. It may also ensure a speaker does not present to an empty room. Even more, your professional reputation will remain solid.
Professionalism and etiquette go hand in hand. It can be easy to overlook, but a little communication can go a long way in creating a positive professional image. Next time, avoid “no show” status. If you decide you can longer go, then say so.
By Kelly Cleary
The merits and inadequacies of a liberal arts degree are common topics of conversation this time of year as sophomores declare majors (“What are you going to do with that?!”) and seniors navigate their way through the post-grad job search. I overhear these conversations on Locust Walk and read them on the blogosphere and in the news. But every day I meet with Penn students and alumni who debunk those myths and demonstrate the reasons why a liberal arts degree is one of the best ways to prepare for careers in today’s knowledge-based, global economy with its labor market that relies so heavily on creative, analytical problem-solving, innovation, and effective communication across cultures and platforms.
The trick is for liberal arts majors to be able to recognize and build on their strengths, and persuasively communicate those strengths to prospective employers.
Every year the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys employers who hire recent college graduates and publishes the “Top Ten Skills for Job Candidates” as part of its annual Job Outlook report. As you look through the list below, it should be a clear reminder that a degree from the College at Penn, combined with electives and extra-curricular activities, provides students with countless opportunities to practice and develop all of these skills—and indeed prepares students extremely well for success in their future careers.
Top-10 skills and qualities employers seek in their job candidates:
- Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
- Ability to work in a team structure
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems
- Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell or influence others
Source: Job Outlook 2013, National Association of Colleges and Employers, “Top Ten Skills for Job Candidates”
For seniors, as you continue to write and submit job applications and practice for upcoming interviews, think about which experiences during the past four years helped you learn, apply, and excel in these various skills– and prepare yourself to tell those stories to demonstrate your qualifications to prospective employers. Underclassmen should also think about how they can build on those skills and fill in any gaps they might have through future major courses, electives, extra-curricular activities, research, volunteering, and internships.
The Career Opportunities for Liberal Arts & Sciences Majors page includes information about the myriad of careers College grads pursue and advice for marketing your liberal arts degree.
When career services asked me to write this blog post, my first thought was: who am I to give career advice? I’ve worked for a total of 5 years and a few summer internships, and am still very much on the long path to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was just the person to talk to college students and recent alumni. First, I am a student myself, in my third year of graduate school. Second, at 29 I am not so far away in age that I can’t relate to anyone at the beginning of their careers. Third, I’ve been lucky enough to have many experiences and jobs in different places, and the time to reflect on what has worked and what has not. I have by no means figured it out, but I put together some advice that I hope will be useful.
1. Nothing matters as much as your health, so protect and nurture it!
Many of the ideas for this blog post came from a twelve day, 220-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail that I took between my summer internship and the beginning of this academic year. When my knee started to hurt on the second day of the trip, and the pain began to dominate my every thought, I reflected on how much we take our health for granted. As simple as this may sound, guard your health carefully, eat well, and take care of yourself. Career success means little to nothing if you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor.
2. Time is more important than money
Before you go off to become an investment banker or a management consultant, and commit to 80-hour workweeks for the rest of your 20s, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Jobs that consume most of your time and energy can be meaningful, challenging, and for some people, very enjoyable, but if you are planning on working primarily for the money, I would urge you to think again. It is much more enjoyable to have time for friends, family, hobbies, travel, and adventure now when you’re young, than to have that time later, when you don’t have the energy or freedom. Work hard, by all means, and save for the future, but remember to strike a balance.
Perhaps you’ve seen posters around Philadelphia for the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, or you’ve been lucky enough to attend one of their events. The ads for the “Time Travel Plaza” have captured my attention, and I keep wondering about what I would like to see and do—and the people I would want to meet—if I could actually travel through time.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how your great-great-grandparents lived? I think it would be fascinating to see how and where they lived, what their relationships were like, their awareness of the events of the day, and how they made a living.
So let me invite you to create your own time tunnel! To explore how people made a living, jot down who in your family’s history did what—as far as you know. Ask your parents or review any family documents you have.
Then add more details to your list. Ask yourself not only what they did, but why they did it. Where did they do their “work”? How did they complete their tasks?
If you know the person or have heard stories, can you ascertain anything about their psychological make-up? Did their personalities affect their career success? Positively or negatively? How did they define success? (Or did they?)
Add the circumstances of history. What was going on in the world at that time? How did most people live and how did they provide for themselves and their families? Did they work on their own? For someone else? Voluntarily? Where and how?
Consider biological implications. How did gender affect the livelihoods of the people on your list? Race? Health? Did they have choices or limitations based on their physical being?
As you populate your time tunnel, add historical or fictional characters to your list—especially to fill in gaps regarding certain eras and/or certain types of work. Have you included someone from the 1950s? The 1920s? The 1990s? Or even the 1750s or further back? Are there individuals on your list from work in industries as diverse as medicine, business, education, entertainment, government, agriculture, manufacturing, childcare, law, journalism, science, social work? Are there artists? Leaders? Laborers? People who worked within the systems of the day and those who worked outside them?
Then, walk through your tunnel and observe the work lives of the people in it. Does anything startle you? Impress you? Dismay you? Challenge you? Motivate you? Educate you? As you gain insight into what work meant for these people in your time tunnel, do you glean any new perspectives on what work means now in the twenty-first century? Perhaps you’ll formulate questions about what work might mean for you that will help you choose a career, change a career, or move ahead with confidence and determination in the career you’ve selected. Bon voyage!
With deference to and acknowledgement of the 2013 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, and Professor Jim Larkin’s Penn class on “Self, Role, and Expectations in the Workplace.”