How is this year different?

Another start of another school year. What is different this time? Aside from the fact that we are starting a week earlier, the obvious answer is that you (in fact all of us) are a year older. We should be wiser, we should be more mature. Second, you are that much closer to graduation, and your future. If you will be finishing up in 2014, you should be thinking about career matters. You may be focused on finding a job, getting into a good graduate or professional school program, getting a prestigious fellowship, or if you are a doctoral student, perhaps finding a post-doc. Even those who will be graduating at a later time may be starting to think about internships for next summer.

This is all well and good. Things here get off to a quick start. Our employer presentations begin tonight. Our workshops have already started. You can’t say, as you may have in years past, that Career Services is for another time. Now is the time for many of you. Take advantage of all we have to offer, now and throughout the year.

So get going, but at the same time, relax. If you are like your Penn predecessors, you will do well, regardless of your path. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, you are not competing with your classmates. You are competing with young people throughout our country, and others well beyond our borders. You may also be competing with new technologies that are changing the nature of many jobs. Cheaper labor abroad can do many jobs more cheaply, even professional level jobs requiring graduate training. Sophisticated computer programs, using enormous data sets, have reduced the need for people in some positions or fields. Think about where you can make a contribution in this global economy. Don’t be afraid to dream. And don’t worry too much about where you start: a first job is a first job, the first of many you will hold.

Second, don’t go about your career preparation with sharp elbows. I am reminded of last spring’s commencement address at Syracuse University, where the author George Saunders urged the graduates to be kind. It’s worth saying even before graduation: be nice to each other. (The text of the speech is available on the New York Times site, but it’s been hacked. Take a minute to find it if you can; it’s a great speech.) As Einstein is reported to have said, “everything that counts cannot be counted.” Being kind really counts. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s important.

On behalf of everyone in Career Services, all the best for a great semester.

Author: Patricia Rose

Patricia Rose is the Director of Career Services at the University of Pennsylvania.