Happy Thanksgiving

From everyone at Career Services, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving break!  Enjoy the rest and spending time with loved ones.

We will be closing at 2pm on Wednesday, November 27th.  We will see you after break, when we re-open at 9am on Monday, December 2nd.


The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI): Interviewing the Speed-Dating Way

by Mia Carpiniello, Associate Director

If you’re considering applying to medical or dental schools, you’ve probably heard of the Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI). As an increasing number of schools adopt the MMI format this year, it’s important to understand the new format and be prepared if you are invited to an MMI interview.

What is the MMI?

The MMI is a health professions school interview format that originated at McMaster University’s medical school in Canada over ten years ago, and aims to more accurately predict an applicant’s future clinical performance as a physician (as compared to a traditional interview format). In the MMI format applicants respond to a series of scripted questions at timed interview stations. If you have an MMI interview, expect to rotate between 8 to 10 stations. At each station you will be given a set amount of time – usually 2 minutes – to read a passage and formulate a response. Then, you’ll be given an additional amount of time – usually 8 to 10 minutes – to respond before moving on to the next station. At each station you will encounter a different interviewer who will score you based on your response at that station.

Interviewers may be physicians, medical residents, lawyers, nurses, hospital administrators, or even patients – reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of health care teams in today’s world. The questions are designed to address specific skills, such as problem-solving, cultural competency, teamwork, empathy, professionalism, interpersonal skills, ethics, and stress management – not necessarily scientific and/or medical knowledge. Because most of the questions ask you to respond to a situation or an issue, the MMI format provides fewer opportunities for you to talk about your own application and experiences. Although, one station may be devoted to a traditional interview question, such as “why do you want to be a physician?”

For more descriptions of the MMI format and why medical schools are adopting it, take a look at this New York Times article and this article from Stanford School of Medicine.

Continue reading “The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI): Interviewing the Speed-Dating Way”

Feeling a bit thinly spread – networking for researchers

Dr. Joseph Barber

Time is a funny old thing – we’re either wishing we had more of it, or wishing it would pass more quickly. We are never quite satisfied with what we have got. Time might be relative (and no, I don’t really know what this means), but we are relatively certain that it is also finite. The reason that I am thinking deep, philosophical thoughts this early on a Monday morning is that I just came across another social networking site for academics, scientists, and researchers. This one is called MyScienceWork (www.mysciencework.com). This one can be added to the list of those that try to cater to the scientific, academic, or research communities in one way or another (e.g., LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Vitae, Versatile PhD). The problem is, as this exciting list of social networking opportunities grows, the time available to use them seems to shrink (is that relativity?) There is certainly not enough time in any day to do study, complete research AND have a complete and updated profile on every single social networking site that pops up. This can leave people feeling a little guilty that they are not reaching their fullest networking potential. However, spread yourself too thinly, and you run the risk that you don’t get the most out of each platform you might use. So, my next few posts will take a brief stroll through some of the social networking sites that are especially relevant to academics and researchers. Let’s start with the biggest fish.


Still the biggest, and many would probably argue the best. This is very commonly used for research students at universities as they are making use of the alumni networks available to them. Researchers within industry (e.g., biotech, pharma, start-ups, life science consulting) also tend to use this site a lot. There are university faculty members on LinkedIn, but many represent more junior members of a department who are more familiar with social networking in the virtual world. There are certainly some faculty who actively shun LinkedIn and all it represents. I have heard of one faculty member who stated to a student that anyone who has a LinkedIn account would immediately not be taken seriously as someone who wanted to pursue an academic job as a tenure-track professor. That’s a little extreme, pretty short-sighted, and will certainly be a perspective that becomes the minority view over time.

LinkedIn has gotten a little more researcher friendly over time. You have been able to include publications on LinkedIn for a long time. However, it was only possible to list yourself as the first author for a long time (i.e., your name would always appear first in the list). Given the importance of whose name comes first in scientific circles, elevating oneself to first author would be very controversial! The good news is that this issue has been addressed. You can now position your name appropriately in the list of other authors – so go ahead, add a selection of your publications! There are also places throughout your profile where you can link to papers or upload documents. This can make it easier for people to access your work.

You can also go into more detail about some of the research projects you are involved with by actually listed them under the “Projects” category on your profile page. This way, you can provide a broader overview of your work in the “Experience” section, and a more in-depth summary of your unique research elsewhere. Combined with information you can add on your patents, courses taken, and the list of skills and expertise you have, you can get a lot of information across about your academic experience and research know-how. As for those skills that people can endorse you for, they are really a bit of a mixed kettle of fish. You can certainly list some great keywords that might help people find you on LinkedIn. Recruiters do search for people with hard-to-find skills and expertise, so if you have some of these, then mention them. The problem is that people will endorse your skills without even having any experience of you using them. It’s not a bad problem – it makes your skill look more effective when you have lots of people saying you have it – it just feels a little vacuous. What is worse, though, is people coming up with new skills that they think you have. I would not list “statistics” as one of the skills that I have, so please stop suggesting that I add this to my profile.

There are extra whistles and bells you can add to LinkedIn through third-party applications, but there seem to have been several recent changes to the profile page that integrate these more fully into the LinkedIn platform. If you want to share your last presentation, then you can upload this via SlideShare and link it to a particular experience or project on your profile page. There isn’t really anywhere obvious to list conferences or symposiums attended, or presentations or posters given, but with some creative use of the sections available to you, it is possible to get the most important information you want to share on your profile. Leave the rest of your conference-related experiences on your CV – they are probably not essential to your brand anyway.


LinkedIn lets you create a bit of a brand when it comes to presenting your work and knowledge. Your brand is the “you” that you want everyone else to see – your potential, your achievements, the length and breadth of your combined knowledge and experience. It can be hard to create a single brand that is equally attractive to the different people you might want to visit your profile (e.g., the search committee from a university, or consulting/biotech/science writing employers), and so you will lose a bit of the benefit of tailoring how you want to present yourself when you are keeping your career options open.


The other benefit of LinkedIn comes in terms of the huge amounts of information you can gather. For example, there are 30,000 members who have proactively joined the Penn Alumni LinkedIn Group. When you join groups, you can search the membership by keyword to find specific types of people you might want to connect with to help you answer your questions. You can even join in conversations and ask your questions to the whole group. Over 100,000 people are grouped together by LinkedIn as having the “University of Pennsylvania” written somewhere in their education section. There is plenty that you can do with this population by using the “find alumni” tool. Both these approaches will help you gather information about the types of positions/employers that might be relevant to you based on where people with similar academic experiences have gone with their careers. If you are in the exploring career options phase, then this type of information can be extremely valuable.

You can actively “follow” organizations, and this will help you to keep updated on news and current affairs about a company that might help you with either your continued networking or even your applications or interviews. Whether you are interested in industry postdocs or full-time non-faculty positions, you can find lists of opportunities under the “careers” tab on most company pages. You might even see the names of some HR/recruiting staff listed, together with people you might know who are associated with that organization. Combined with industry insights you can gain by following “channels”, “publishers”, and “influencers”, there is an endless supply of information you can expose yourself to each day, and this can be a great use of your time. I’m not saying there is enough time to actually digest any of it, though, but it is there for the taking…, especially if you don’t need to sleep.

Time…, it’s a tricky thing. Perhaps it is not a thing at all…, which in my mind just makes it even trickier.

Seasons and Career Transitions

By Sharon Fleshman

Leaves in Fall Color on GroundMy favorite seasons tend to be spring and summer. There is something gratifying about the warmer weather as well as seeing the sprouting of new life and the manifestation of trees and flowers in full bloom.   However, I am particularly drawn to autumn this year.  As I walked behind Steinberg-Dietrich Hall last week, I noticed the beauty of a stream of leaves floating to the ground, almost like raindrops in slow motion.  In the past, I have focused on the falling leaves as a loss of sorts, and it is.  Yet there is also the sense that seemingly barren branches have made room for something new.  And so it goes with seasons.

As seasons and transitions go hand in hand, careers can experience a similar dynamic as well.  If you are conducting a job search with a particular goal in mind, you may need to make room for a different result than anticipated.  You could be exploring the possibility of a new role, industry or context, whether by choice or necessity.  Perhaps you are simply seeking a new paradigm with which to do your current work in a fresh way. Whatever transition you are contemplating, you can facilitate the process in a number of ways — reflecting on past experience, casting vision for the future, conducting informational interviews, speaking with mentors, or meeting with an advisor at Career Services.

The Complexity of Career Planning

puzzlepiecesI’m currently studying complexity theory, the way “patterns emerge through the interaction of many agents.”* Because the actors and issues and environment continually change, patterns also change as they emerge, stabilize, and then perhaps dissipate. Observation and flexibility are the keys here.

This seems particularly applicable to planning and navigating careers. Since everything is in flux—organizations, technology, economies, the environment, politics, relationships, and YOU—we’re aiming at moving targets. Preparation for a career can take years as we study, develop skills, and gain experience. When we finally get “there,” the “there” has likely changed.

So in order to prepare for the evolving and complex landscape of the future, developing the skills of observing, learning, and adapting is critical. “Probing” is key. Your liberal arts education at the University of Pennsylvania provides a foundation for this perspective. I encourage you to observe, question, discuss, and engage as often as possible. In the realm of career planning, this means opening up to a range of options. If you have already identified a career goal, plan for it and pursue it while simultaneously continuing to learn about other opportunities and how they are similar to or differ from your initial focus. If you are exploring career options or haven’t yet begun to do so, jump in and learn about career possibilities in every setting. Pay attention to the work that people do and ask them questions about it. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, do it! And talk to others who also do it to see if/how they’ve used their skills in professional settings.

The best tactic, the one that will help you adapt to how the future unfolds, is to explore.


*From Kurtz, C.F., Snowden, D. J. “The New Dynamics of Strategy: Sense-Making in a Complex and Complicated World,” in IBM Systems Journal (42:3), 2003.