Life’s a Journey, Not a Destination

As a student at Penn, at times it can feel like you’re expected to have your whole life planned out from the moment you attend your first NSO event. It seems like most of the other students you talk to go in knowing what their career path will be after graduation; they already know their top 5 employers by sophomore year, have already had their internships at high-profile companies by their junior year, and then already have at least 3 offers by the end of first semester senor year. Although many students at Penn do have a concrete idea of what they want to do after graduation, along with a plan of how to get there, this should by no means be considered the “norm”. Many students do not have a direct career plan until junior or senior year, and some may not have an idea until after they graduate.

With spring semester moving quickly to the half-way point, it’s important to remember that if you do not have concrete career plans (especially for juniors and seniors) it is not a reason to panic, or feel that you are doing something wrong. Instead, use this as an opportunity to explore different fields through internships or volunteering. What can be perceived as having no direction in your career interests may actually be that you have very broad interests, which would enable you to be a good “fit” in a variety of different organizations or positions.

If you know what you want to do after graduation, that’s great. But if you are still figuring it out, that’s great too! Remember, in the words of Aerosmith, “Life’s a journey, not a destination”.

“Career Planning Isn’t Like Drawing a Map”: Insights from Penn PhDs 8-13 Years After Graduation

Career Services’ interest in our students doesn’t stop at graduation. In fact, we’ve surveyed recipients of Penn PhDs awarded between 1998 and 2003 to find out where they’ve gone in their careers (both academic and non-academic) and what advice they have for current graduate students and postdocs. We recently analyzed a lot of our data and posted the results to our 8-13 Year Out PhD Survey website. All of it is worth a read, but here are a few tantalizing tidbits:

The best laid plans

  • When they entered their PhD programs, 47% of respondents expected to go directly into a faculty job upon graduation, while another 18% expected to conduct postdoctoral research in academia upon graduating.
  • Approximately 24% of respondents indicated they did not originally intend to pursue higher education positions, and their career plans included industry, public sector and nonprofit work.
  • Interestingly, while the majority had some idea of what they would pursue after their education, 5% had no plan in mind.
  • At 8-13 years after degree, 69% of respondents say that they are doing what they originally expected; 31% saw their original plans change.
    • TAKEAWAY: Attitudes about the various career fields open to people with PhDs can change over time—this is perfectly normal. You should take advantage of your time and the resources at Penn to explore different career fields of interest. Once you have done the background research on career options, it can be just as helpful to eliminate a career field from your list of possibilities as it is to add one. Career Services can help you to explore different careers, help provide you with approaches that can connect you with alumni in different industries, or support you as you aim for the career that you have always wanted.

Where in the world are Penn PhD’s?

  • About 56% of respondents report working in higher education (either as faculty or administrators). The next-largest industry represented is healthcare (11.5%), but there is great breadth to the career fields represented by the remaining 32.5% of PhDs.
  • PhD alumni who work as faculty report working in 40 of the 50 United States and 18 other countries.
  • 51% of the faculty positions held by respondents are located in six US states: Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, California, Virginia, and Florida.
  • Of respondents who are faculty in the US, 54% work in public institutions and 46% work in private, not-for-profit institutions.

If They Were in Your Shoes…

Respondents shared extensive advice for current grad students. Advice for those who aspire to faculty positions is currently posted; check back soon for advice on other industries. The major themes: (1) Publish; (2) Choose advisors and mentors carefully and use them as a resource for research and professional ambitions; (3) Cultivate and maintain relationships with faculty, Penn alums, and scholars and students from other institutions; (4) Get teaching experience; (5) Start thinking about your career plans now. You can begin by reviewing the resources available at Career Services and making an appointment to speak with an advisor!

Day in the Life: Associate Manager, Innovation Analytics at Nielsen

What’s life like at a leading global provider of information and analytics around consumer behavior, also known as Nielsen? Join alum, Sarada Bheemineni, SEAS ’10, on Tuesday, February 11th when she tweets for @PennCareerDay.  Learn about her career with Nielsen, advice for joining the field of consumer behavior and analytics, and understand what it’s like to be part of the Nielsen team. Did you know that Nielsen will be at the Spring Career Fair? Well, if you didn’t, this is a really great opportunity to help you prep for a visit to the Nielsen table, too.  To learn more about Sarada, read her bio below. Don’t forget to follow her on the 11th, either!

SaradaSarada Bheemineni is an Associate Manager, Innovation Analytics at Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around consumer behavior.  In her role, Sarada advises clients on their brand and innovation strategy using data-driven insights.  This involves consulting clients on category and marketplace trends, as well as drivers of global consumer demand.  Key clients include Colgate-Palmolive, Hershey, and PepsiCo.

Sarada has been with Nielsen since graduating from Penn in 2010, where she studied Materials Science and Engineering and Economics.  Sarada currently lives in New York City and in her free time enjoys running, exploring the city, traveling to other countries, and watching Mad Men.

What the Square Peg Learned by Trying to Fit into the Round Hole

by Sharlene Brown, Graduate Assistant

I recently had an appointment with a student who spent his summer in a Sales & Trading position. He had spent significant effort positioning himself to land this role, only to end the summer with the startling realization that he actually did not enjoy anything about the job – it was clearly not a fit for him. He tried to make the experience work, but to no avail. He resented all the energy he put into landing this role, and went so far as to call his summer a waste of time.

Indeed, his summer may have been a lot of things – but it was definitely NOT a waste of time. Imagine had he discovered many years later that this job was not the right fit. In fact, his ability to cross this job off the list puts him a step closer to figuring out what does fit. Many students find themselves in a high pressured environment where they must immediately find what’s “right” for them, and very often forget the great value of also learning what isn’t right.

Hindsight is 20-20 since I’ve graduated a few years ago.  I see a lot of my former self in the students vying for these ideal internships, searching for what’s “right.” In fact, the same jobs and experiences that I disliked were the same ones that taught me a lot about myself and put me a step closer to finding where I actually belonged.

Continue reading “What the Square Peg Learned by Trying to Fit into the Round Hole”

What to do if you receive an exploding offer?

This week marks the beginning of on-campus interviewing for internships. Each day we will host employers who will be interviewing hundreds of students every day. Inevitably, some of those students will receive pressure to accept right away. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. “Can you let us know what your thoughts are by Friday?” If a recruiter says this, he wants you to check in and let him know where you are in your interviewing process. He may want you to say yes by that date, but notice that he has not said the offer is only good until Friday. A comment such as this is common, but it is not the same thing as an exploding offer.

2. “We can only honor this offer until February 10. If you can’t commit by then we will offer the job to someone else.” This is an exploding offer. If the employer is one you have interviewed with through on campus recruiting, they are not following our offer policy, which clearly states that offers are to remain open for one week or until February 24, whichever comes later. Feel free to push back politely. Better yet, consult with your advisor here in Career Services. We can help you strategize and decide how best to ask for more time. If you prefer, we can with your permission call the employer on your behalf.

3. For some research on exploding offers, please see Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s excellent recent post, “It’s Time to Eliminate Exploding Offers”:

Good luck with your interviews!