by Susan Russoniello

suepumpkinOctober 30, the Eve of Halloween. This holiday has its roots in Christian and pagan rights and celebrations.  Wickipedia goes on for many paragraphs on where it came from and what it stands for, but I always thought of it as an American holiday, focusing for the most part on our children.  It was always a fun event for me and my friends, excitedly planning our costumes, getting help from our parents with their creation.  Sometimes friends got together to make coordinated costumes such as Batman and Robin, Dorothy and the Tin Man, our favorite television or sports characters.  Some costumes were so incredibly clever, I was amazed.  I would find myself thinking of what I would be NEXT year before this year’s costume was even completed.

The day would start with us trying to get through the morning at school before we prepared for a parade during lunchtime which all our parents took off from work to come watch, followed by a party in the classroom with apple cider and donuts, games and scary stories.  Then we’d rush home and try to focus on homework, if any teacher was tough enough to assign any!  My mother always tried to feed us a healthy dinner before we rushed out the door to meet up with our siblings and friends as we marched from door to door reciting “Trick or Treat!” in unison as we rang numerous doorbells.  I think part of the excitement was being outside after dark on a school night, along with everyone else in the neighborhood.  Some people decorated their house with lights and played scary music; some answered their door in costumes. One year my little sister was so frightened by the “monster” who roared as he opened his door, that she threw her bag of candy in the air and ran all the way home screaming in fright.

Continue reading “Boo!”

Tough Inteview Questions: Why Should We Hire You?

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

Ah, the dreaded interview question – “Why should we hire you over everyone else we are interviewing today?” I have asked this question during many mock interviews and students have been very curious to hear more about how to approach this question. While there is not a universal answer that will impress all interviewers, consider the following as you contemplate how to answer the question:

How you express your answer can be as important as what you say. Think about what makes someone believable – how a person expresses a point can be very influential. If someone has strong eye contact, speaks eloquently and delivers a coherent response, that projects confidence – a trait that recruiters consider when making hiring decisions. Conversely, if someone has poor communication skills, seems hesitant or nervous, any valid points may be taken with a grain of salt. If you are not confident in yourself and your abilities, why would a recruiter want to take a risk on hiring you?

Avoid using general, trite adjectives. These will vary depending on the position you are interviewing for, but saying that you have strong communication skills, pay attention to detail are a team player and a hard worker will not differentiate you from other applicants. I would suggest thinking carefully and critically about the position you are interviewing for and what makes that position different from other opportunities. For example, if your position involves working with clients, think about your skills and attributes that may be an asset for that particular aspect of the job – perhaps you have an engaging personality that helps you build rapport and earn trust. In essence, the more detailed you can be about your reasons as they relate to the position you are interviewing for, the better.

Avoid lengthy answers and tangents. The potential danger with this interview question is not knowing when to end your answer and elaborating too much. When I have asked this question during a mock interview, I have seen interviewees start off focused then go off on a tangent and ultimately deliver a very long-winded response. Attention spans are short so remain focused in your reply.

Summarize with examples. Depending on the points you want to make, think about creating a succinct reply supported with specific experiences or examples to make your claims more credible. It’s one thing to say you have the requisite skills to be successful but another to provide evidence to substantiate your statement.

If you approach the “why should we hire you over everyone else we are interviewing today” question with these ideas in mind, you can create a strong answer to a challenging question.

#keywords #resumes #gettingnoticed

I don’t know about you, but lately I’m feeling #hashtagged2death. Despite its social media inception being as far back as 2006, it seems that the hashtag recently overtook not just the Internet at large, but pop culture in general. It is everywhere – T-shirts, television shows, bumper stickers – and when paired with some of the social media acronym trends, mediums like Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and Instagram posts can sometimes seem like a whole new language. (I will admit I Googled #yolo when it first took over my social hashtagyourlife-1024x768media feed and I once asked my 14-year-old niece what #tbt meant on Instagram. It’s hard to keep up!)

Admittedly though, hashtags are useful, in that they cleverly group together a myriad of thoughts and musings from different people centered on a single topic. I’ve been known to use them in my own postings, but more often use them to gather information. When Superstorm Sandy hit about a year ago and I was worried about family and friends at the Jersey Shore, I found myself compulsively monitoring my Twitter feed for any post that had #sandy attached to the end. When I participate in Tweet Chats for work, hashtags are a great way to communicate virtually and share ideas with other Career Services professionals all over the country. And I didn’t even have to watch this year’s VMAs to know that Miley instantly became the most popular Halloween costume of 2013 (#twerkortreat). In a sense, social media has turned into a series of keywords and I just have to pay attention, or at least be a good guesser, to find the information I want in one single feed.

Keywords, keywords…why does that sound so familiar? Ah yes! It’s the resume tip that we, as an office, stress to students #every #single #day. When you are applying for a particular job or internship, include keywords in your resume. We review mounds (literally mounds – just look at my desk) of resumes each week and, more often than not, students have not tailored their resumes for a particular job or internship. You must tailor your resume for a particular job or internship. Now, that’s not to say you should ditch your generic resume to guide you through each application, but when you have that specific position that interests you, your resume submitted should be geared directly to that role using keywords throughout the page. Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning your resume, so you want keywords that are highly visible and eye-catching.

Tip: Every single job opportunity gives you a “cheat sheet” right there in the job description. Make sure you take advantage! Keep in mind you’ll want to incorporate the keywords while ensuring accuracy and integrity in your resume (don’t just copy and paste line items from the job description and then hope you can explain your way out of your fabrication when you are called in for an interview – that would result in a definite #fail). But if a company is looking for a particular skill that may be buried deep in your resume, pull it out and make it front and center, even if it wasn’t a main component of your role. Recruiters are looking for evidence that you can do the job based on your previous experience.  In a way, think of keywords as hashtags – if you don’t “tag” it, your resume won’t get pulled into the recruiter’s “feed” and will instead just float out there in the black hole of cyberspace. (Disclaimer: Please don’t actually incorporate hashtags into your resume. I would like to keep my job.)

Don’t forget, Career Services is here to help you 5 days a week. In addition to appointments, mock interviews, our online resources and our Career Services Library, we do offer a resume critiquing service for FREE (for both current students and alumni), so please be sure to get your resume reviewed by an advisor in the near future. Contact the Career Services team that serves your school to set that up.

Good luck as you navigate your career path! #BFN (That’s “Bye for now!” – Googled that one, too!)

Finding an Internship Abroad

by Claudia Acha, CAS ’15


Finding an internship abroad can be difficult, but with the right approach you can make your search easier and more effective. First you have to figure out why you want to intern abroad. Is it to travel to a specific country, work for a specific organization, or get experience in a specific field? Once you figure out your objective, you can focus your search and start looking for opportunities that match your objective. Even though finding an internship abroad is harder than finding one in the US, the extra work is well worth it.

I wanted to spend this summer exploring my interests in marketing, Latin America, and the non-profit sector. Although there are opportunities to do this at in the US, the best option seemed like interning abroad.  I began my search on,, Pennlink, iNet, and I submitted more than 30 applications. I didn’t hear back from any positions I applied to until late April. Despite this setback, I was determined to spend my summer abroad so I looked for alternate sources. I met with the staff from career services for guidance, and with their help I was able to narrow and focus my search.

At Penn we are constantly reminded how important it is to utilize our networks, and this was my next step. I knew someone who worked at the Oxfam office in Washington DC and was able to get in touch with Oxfam’s offices in Latin America through him.  I reached out directly to the Oxfam office in Nicaragua and was able to secure a communications internship this way. Securing this internship took much effort and time, but it was definitely worth it. I was able to get everything I had hoped out of my internship. I got to work at an international NGO, explore my interest in marketing, and travel throughout Nicaragua.

Tips on Interning Abroad
The biggest difference I have noticed with internships abroad and in the US are the cultural differences in the work place. During my internship at Korea Leadership Center there was an unspoken rule that employees should not leave until the boss leaves the office. In Nicaragua the workplace was a lot more casual than in most US offices. Employees are not required to be in their office from 8 to 5, instead, they are given much freedom and are each responsible for finishing their work by the deadline. Make sure to do some research about the country you will be working in to avoid any misunderstandings.

Some students rule out an internship abroad due to financial constraints. However, there are numerous resources to find funding for internships abroad. Like some students at Penn, I did not have the luxury of being able to have a non-paid internship. I tried looking for research opportunities, scholarships, and other sources for funds to pay for my internship abroad. Luckily, during my scholarship search I stumbled upon the Steven Alloy Global Internship Grant sponsored by the International Relations Department at Penn. Thanks to the generous support from the International Relations Department, I was able to spend my summer just the way I envisioned it.

My advice for students searching for opportunities abroad would be: start early, be creative with your search, tap into all of the resources you have access to, and persevere. This investment will be well worth the effort.



The value of a different perspective: What I learned from two weeks in Germany

I just returned from an amazing two week Fulbright program for higher education administrators in Germany. The purpose of the program is to foster international exchange and educate Americans about the German education system. In addition to the amazing historical sites of Berlin, and eating more bread and meat than I ever had in my life, I also had the opportunity to visit seven universities, including one in Poland and another in France, and learn a tremendous amount about Germany higher education. Being exposed to the differences in our systems and cultures also helped me see aspects of our own American system in a new light. Of course, being abroad during the government shut down also was a good exercise in trying to explain how our government works (or doesn’t) to many different Europeans.ClairePretzel

From my own perspective as a career advisor, several things from these encounters struck me that will benefit students entering the work force today. The first is that having a global perspective and being aware of issues of importance in other cultures and countries will be very important to being successful in any career. Most Europeans I encountered on this trip spoke at least two languages fluently so being bilingual will be a big advantage on the global market place. To these ends, I strongly encourage all students to consider studying or interning abroad. These intercultural exchanges will be invaluable to your future career development, not to mention your personal growth.

German Parliament Building - Berlin
German Parliament Building – Berlin


The last and most unexpected “gift” of this experience was how much I also benefitted and grew from being around my fellow participants in the program, who were all in different kinds of roles and from different types of institutions all over the country. It’s a good reminder that diversity of experience and perspectives will enrich any conversation or working environment. So, as you volunteer, take part in student clubs, intern, or in your future jobs, get to know those around you in the work place. You never know what they may be able to teach you about the world!