Toast for the New Advisor Serving Penn’s Grad Students and Postdocs

Andrew Karas has joined Career Services as an Associate Director on the advising team that works with graduate students, postdocs, and alumni of graduate programs. Before joining Penn’s Career Services, Andrew taught introductory writing courses at Yale and Harvard. He holds an AB in literature from Harvard and a PhD in English from Yale. As an introduction, we decided to ask him a few questions:

What did you enjoy most about your PhD program?
I feel very lucky to have attended the program I did. Yale’s English department, and its graduate school more generally, is a collegial, stimulating, and well-resourced place.  A real standout for me, though, was my teaching experience. Working with eager, engaged students on interesting material: I’m not sure it gets much better than that. And it’s precisely that kind of personal engagement that I look forward to carrying over to my new position.

What drew you to work as a career advisor for graduate students?
I believe that the skills and experience acquired while obtaining a PhD or other advanced degree are applicable to a wide range of career options, limited only by an individual’s interests and passions. As part of my own career search, I undertook a number of informational interviews (and even some job interviews) in diverse fields. I ultimately decided that I wanted to remain a part of the academic community, and this position clicked as a way to build on my experiences and take on a new challenge.

In what ways has your background prepared you for this work?
My teaching experience is mainly in introductory-level writing courses, where I made extensive use of one-on-one conferences with my students to identify goals for their writing and concrete steps they could take to achieve those goals. Although the context and the audience are different in Career Services, the one-on-one engagement with bright, motivated people remains the same. Also, as I mentioned above, I’ve done a fair bit of both academic and non-academic career exploration myself, so I’ve “walked the walk” in that respect!

What have you enjoyed so far, as you have gotten familiar with Penn?
I’ve enjoyed getting to know my new colleagues in Career Services. They’re a really dedicated group, and together they bring a vast amount of experience, knowledge, and sensitivity to their work with students from across the university. I’ve also enjoyed learning some of the particularities of Penn’s unique culture (though I’m sure there are plenty more things I’ll pick up along the way). For example, my partner and I have tickets to a Penn football game later this fall, but I just recently learned about the tradition of throwing toast on the field after the third quarter. That sounds like something you really have to see to understand!

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
Besides throwing toast onto Franklin Field? I am looking forward to meeting a lot of interesting, passionate people, hearing about their experiences and aspirations, and assisting any way I can as they take their next steps.

Coffee Chats

By: S. David Ross

Anyone who knows me well realizes that I’m not a coffee drinker. I would much rather have a nice cup of tea. But in recent years, employers have offered coffee chats for prospective hires – in essence providing students with opportunities to meet firm representatives in a one-on-one setting. These coffee chats have increased in popularity as students clamor for the chance to have face time with professionals working at places of interest to them. I encourage job and internship seekers to incorporate a similar strategy into their search – consider arranging your own “coffee chat” for networking purposes.

Over time, changes in technology have made connecting with others from a distance much easier. This has led to several online resources that are commonly used during job and internship searches. You can find information through Google, browse LinkedIn profiles or search an alumni database to identify individuals to contact by phone or email. But why not arrange a time to meet briefly in person opposed to communicating electronically? While you may identify many people you would like to speak with that are far away or easier to connect with virtually, do not overlook any opportunity you may have to meet a local contact in person.

Coffee chats are great because they can be fairly brief opposed to a more formal meeting or lunch. Individuals may be more willing to meet with you in person if there is not a long time commitment. Coffee shops or other similar establishments have many locations so they can be very convenient venues. The relaxed atmosphere of a coffee shop may also be more conducive to holding a conversation which may put both parties at ease. If you do plan a coffee chat, come prepared with a handful of questions that focus on your interest in a particular company, industry or position. If you arrange a coffee chat with an alum, consider asking that person about their transition from college and what they found helpful during their time as an undergrad. Regardless of what you discuss, meeting with a contact during a coffee chat may provide you with valuable information or leads that are helpful in your search.

You’ve attended that recruiting event. You’ve submitted that job application. Now what?

In this busy season, some of you may be attending so many career fairs or employer presentations that your head is spinning with information. As some of these events are crowded, it may be a challenge to have a substantive conversation with a recruiter, but even a brief exchange can be helpful if you are able to walk away with business cards with contact information. Meanwhile, you may be applying to multiple positions on websites and wondering where your application will land.  Whatever your situation, follow up has an important role in your job search, so having a systematic way to track your applications and interactions with recruiters is key; using a simple spreadsheet for this purpose is fine.  Below, I have re-posted a previous article that offers additional guidance.

Warming Up to Cold Calls: Follow Up Strategies for the Job Search
By Sharon Fleshman

So you’ve just come back from that career fair or employer presentation and you’re staring at a bunch of business cards. Or you’ve completed the application for that position on the company website and you hit the “Submit” button.  Now what?

Find ways to connect. Email those who spoke with you at a given recruiting event, making note of what you appreciated about your conversation and highlighting your most relevant qualifications. If you’ve applied to a position online, you can send a concise and thoughtful email a day or two later, indicating that you have already applied, but want to reiterate your interest in the organization and the position.  If the online application did not allow for a cover letter, you can attach one to the email, along with your resume.

Start with email.  Using email for follow up (at least to start) gives you a chance to think about what to say and how to say it.  It also allows recruiters, who tend to be out and about, the flexibility to respond to you at their convenience.  If you eventually make a phone call, a previously sent email will give you a handy point of reference.  However, there are times when you can’t track down an email or even the name of an appropriate contact person.   Assuming the job description doesn’t say “NO PHONE CALLS”, it may be time for you to pick up the phone, even if it’s just to ask for a name and email address of the most appropriate person to contact.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for phone follow up:

Be professional and polite.  Make sure you call from a quiet place without distractions. Initially, you will likely reach the “gatekeeper” of the office and will need to ask to be connected to the right recruiting contact, whether by phone or email. Not only should you be courteous, but you should also try to pick up on cues. For instance, if you sense that the person to whom you are speaking is swamped, ask if there is a better time to call or if email is preferable.   If the person is reluctant to provide the recruiter’s contact information, graciously inquire whether he or she can forward your message to the recruiter.  Regardless of the outcome, thank the person for his or her time.

Be prepared and purposeful.  For the most part, you need to be able to introduce yourself and your reason for calling as concisely as possible. Don’t call to ask questions for which there are answers easily found on the organization’s website.  Make it apparent that you have done your preliminary research before your inquiry.   If you reach someone’s voicemail, you will need to leave a clear and concise message; write a script ahead of time if necessary.  You also want to be ready in case a call turns into an impromptu interview. Have your resume on hand so that you can discuss your qualifications on the spot.

If you’d like to discuss follow up strategies further, remember that advisors at Career Services are available to help.

Plan Ahead!

PlanAheadI love September. The cooler air but still warm days, the hint of coming autumn, the beginning of a new academic year—all of these invigorate me. My favorite part, however, is the return of you! Yes, you, the students. I work here at Penn because of how interesting and intelligent you are.

Each of you brings energy and passion to your studies as well as your activities. That’s why you’re here. You also demonstrate diligence in preparing for your career, which is why the lines are sometimes out the door the week or two prior to our career fairs, such as last week’s CareerLink and Engineering Career Day. But I’m always disappointed when, the week following a career fair (or the start of a recruiting season or a networking event), you disappear. The lines for walk-in sessions and the calls to schedule career-advising appointments dwindle—even though there is still work to be done: cover letters, career exploration, resume updates, company research, self-assessment, networking, follow-ups.

So here’s a dare: Plan ahead so you’re ready before the next career deadline. Avoid the long line to have a resume critiqued just before a career fair. Do your best to submit internship/job applications before they’re due to avoid online systems that sometimes crash in the last hours prior to a deadline. Start exploring the internship possibilities that fit your skills and interests instead of waiting until your parents ask what you’re planning to do next summer. Find out how and when the employers in the career field of your choice hire, so you won’t worry that you’re behind your friends as they find jobs.

We’re still here, and we look forward to meeting many of you and helping you plan and take steps to meet your career goals. Check our website to schedule an advising appointment or find out when we have walk-in sessions.

See you soon!

Career Link is Here!

Join us on Tuesday, September 10th & Wednesday, September 11th for Career Link 2013, Penn’s annual University-wide career fair. Enhance your search for full-time postgraduate positions and/or summer internships by taking the opportunity to speak with and distribute resumes to a wide variety of employers. Many of the recruiters will return to campus later in the year to conduct individual interviews with students. Dress is business casual. Career Link is a two day event! Students are welcome and encouraged to attend both days.

(Accounting, Financial Services, Real Estate, and Finance Related Positions)

(Consulting, Communications/Marketing, Consumer Products, Education,
Insurance, Manufacturing, Nonprofits, and Retail)

Both days will be 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM at the

Career Link is open to all students (and alumni) enrolled in degree programs in the following schools: Annenberg, Arts and Sciences, Biomedical Graduate Studies, Engineering, Education, Design, Nursing, Social Policy and Practice, and Wharton Undergraduates and PhDs. Please note the fair is not open to the general public or Penn MBA or law students.

You can find out information about which employers will attend and the positions they are seeking to fill by logging into PennLink in early September. (You can also hear an audiocast of career fair tips to help you prepare for Career Link by clicking here.)

Questions? Please feel free to email Barbara Hewitt.