The summer of … thinking about faculty jobs

Dr. Joseph Barber

As summer approaches, you may find yourself with just a little more time to work on some strategic career planning over and above just focusing on your ever-important research. The cyclical academic job cycle means that much of the application action for faculty jobs starting in Aug/Sept 2014 will be coming to an end soon. In some academic disciplines, positions for Aug/Sept 2015 will start appearing by the end of the summer. Take a look at this chart of Assistant Professor postings from to get a sense of this cyclical nature:

In the time between the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next, take a moment to consider the advice offered by Penn PhD Alumni who are current faculty members in a wide range of institutions. They offered their advice for current students and postdocs as part of the 8-13 year out PhD Alumni Survey that Career Services coordinated in 2012. You can find some their advice below, and more of the data from this survey here.

Alumni Advice1


No Email Inbox is an Island…or “How the Internet is Forever”

It’s helpful to get reminders now and again about how everything we put out into cyberspace can be viewed. Sure, we’ve all heard that the NSA is likely spying on all of our communications but occasionally seemingly run of the mill and presumably private correspondence can make its way to the public sphere. Each year, we hear of cases where individuals’ attempts at creative job search strategies backfire—the original take on a visual resume, “hire me” commercial, or even email strains with prospective employers get passed around on message boards to the derision and delight of readers. Or, perhaps your light-hearted (if alcohol induced) email exchange with your career counselor makes its way to UTB. Sadly, not all appearances on social media can be as innocuous (and fun) as that. Just ask Kelly Blazek who has taken down all traces of her online presence after being featured in a story on CNN  about a nasty email she sent in a response to a request to join her job board on LinkedIn.


Increasingly, I hear feedback from employers that email messages from students are too informal. In the era when text message is king, most email communication has evolved to feel more like short-hand. While this can be fine in many situations, it’s important to remember that when speaking with potential employers, you will benefit from striking a more formal tone. Yes, it’s more time consuming, but having formal greetings and closings is the appropriate way to go and entirely worth the effort. Obviously, full sentences and spell check are a must. Also think about time stamps–even though you may be at your most productive at 3 am, that might not be the ideal time to send an email to the person who will be interviewing you next week. And, of course it goes without saying that answering email while under the influence of any illicit substance may not be the best idea, even if they can produce amusing results. Most importantly, however, is to always be polite. As someone who responds to hundreds of student emails a year, I can tell you that thoughtful and appreciative emails always inspire me to go out of my way to be as helpful as possible.


Happy emailing!

My Med School Application: How Can I Stand Out?

At a school with so many premedical students, it can seem that everyone is the same — taking the required courses, volunteering, conducting research and planning to move forward into a medical career.  Frequently, future applicants will lament that there is nothing about their application that will “stand out” and grab the attention of admissions staff during the application process.  From the point of view of your pre-health advisors, however, the applications to medical school from Penn students and alumni reflect a great diversity of interests and talents.  Instead of asking, “How can I stand out?” the question might be reconsidered as “How can I stand up?”  Instead of thinking about how you can distinguish yourself amongst peers, consider how you can best spend your time to satisfy your intellectual curiosity, serve others, engage with your community or challenge yourself.  An application that “stands out” frequently is submitted by a person who didn’t spend a great deal of time calculating how to make that happen and stood up for their interests with passion and commitment.  Have faith that if you are a good fit for medicine, have explored the field, and have developed yourself personally and professionally according to your inclinations, you will be noticed.

Consulting for PhDs and Postdocs: The Basics

If you are a PhD student or postdoc considering your career options, perhaps you’ve heard someone suggest that “consulting” might be a good fit for you. But what is this “consulting” thing, anyway? And how can an advanced degree candidate or holder like you begin to explore this field?

Here are some resources that can help you understand what consulting is and whether it could be right for you.

Career Services’ Guide to Consulting for PhDs and PostDocs

This guide provides a general introduction to consulting as a career and offers links to a number of resources for doctoral students and postdocs who might want to launch their career in the field. Remember: “Consulting” can refer to a wide variety of services, in a variety of industries, for a variety of clients.  Use this resource to investigate the kind of consulting that might be your best fit.

QuakerNet and LinkedIn 

These networking resources allow you to locate Penn alumni who work in consulting, so that you can ask them questions about their experiences in field and learn more about what opportunities are available. You can also search for specific firms that interest you, and then connect with Penn alumni who work (or have worked) with those firms.

Penn Graduate Consulting Group

The purpose of this group is to serve the members of the Penn graduate and post-doctoral community who share a common interest in learning about careers in management consulting. The group hosts events such as workshops, interview prep, and an annual case competition.

PBG Healthcare Consulting (formerly Penn Biotech Group)

Of interest to those who want to gain “hands-on” experience in the healthcare consulting sector, the Penn Biotech Group is a cross-disciplinary, student-run organization focused on addressing the challenges and obstacles facing the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries today.

Information Sessions on Campus by Consulting Companies

During much of the early fall and early spring, employers present “information sessions” on campus.  If you are signed up for our email listservs or PennLink, you will receive information regarding weekly presentations through On Campus Recruiting (OCR). While OCR is only available to current students and very recent graduates, the information sessions are open to all students and postdocs served by Career Services (unless otherwise specified).


This online resource (accessed via Career Services’ subscription) lets you practice questions related to consulting using your webcam.

More Questions?

Career Services Advisors are happy to discuss your career options and plans at any stage of the process. Schedule an appointment by calling 215-898-7530, or attend our weekly walk-in hours.

The Power of Networking

By Anne Marie Gercke

Many students who are currently seeking summer internships or full-time jobs often plop down in my office letting out a frustrated sigh. “I’ve applied to 80+ jobs and haven’t gotten ONE interview!” some have exclaimed. “Is it my cover letter? Is it my resume? What am I doing wrong?”

Believe it or not, this can be a fairly common concern for job seekers, and my first question is always the same: “Well, what type of networking have you done?” The blank stares I get in return usually give me my answer.

Networking – as intimidating and overwhelming as the act may seem – is one of the major players in the game of getting a job. Shannon Kelly wrote a nice post on networking a while back. Think you don’t know any connections in the field you’re pursuing? Sure you do. You’re at Penn! Combine that and the age of drastically expanding technology and the opportunity to network is just a click away. Three readily available databases for you are Quakernet, LinkedIn and the Penn Internship Network. All are free, and can be used to reach out to current students and alumni to conduct informational interviews and establish a web of connections in a particular field. Here is how to leverage each database:

  1. Quakernet: This is our alumni database. Use it to conduct searches using filters like industry or geographical location (among others). Each profile will include pertinent information, such as employment history and the alum’s involvement at Penn, but most importantly, the person’s contact information. You can then reach out to the alum by email, being sure to properly introduce yourself and say where you found his/her contact information, and requesting the opportunity to chat either in person, over the phone or by email about his/her professional experience since leaving Penn. Even though you would never come out and say, “So, hey, how ‘bout a job?” by establishing positive rapport, you can add the alum to your network as a potential contact in the future. That alum may also put you in contact with a colleague of his/hers, who may put you in contact with another colleague, and so forth. You get the picture.
  2. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is valuable for many reasons, but the main two are the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Network (under ‘Groups’) and the Find Alumni tool (under the ‘Connections’ tab). The Alumni Network on LinkedIn has well over 32,000 members – that’s a lot of Penn grads, which means you have a lot of connections! The ‘Find Alumni’ tool also helps you run searches using filters like location, industry, organization name, major, etc. Understanding how to navigate this site to make connections (and to possibly cross check them with Quakernet to gain more information) may seem a little challenging at first, but that’s why Career Services is here to help. Come in for a walk-in or schedule an appointment and we can help you through the whole process!
  3. Penn Internship Network: Surprisingly, I find lot of students don’t know about this database, especially those who have yet to visit Career Services. As many of you know, every year we survey Penn students and ask about summer plans. We also ask if they will be willing to be a mentor/contact for other students interested in the same or similar field. Those who check “yes” are entered into the Penn Internship Network. This database is much more simplistic than the aforementioned systems, but we provide valuable information regarding students who had internships last summer. There are many filters to narrow the search – industry, major, location, job function (the list goes on) – and as a result you can learn a lot quickly. Most important, however, is that the students in the network are typically still on campus, so you can contact them (we also provide the email address) and ask for an informational interview, as well. Students you may unknowingly pass on Locust Walk every day could be your connection to your future! Plus, gaining knowledge from your peers can be a very helpful tool to navigating your own job search.

Once you start building your professional network, applying to jobs becomes more meaningful. Instead of just submitting your application into a company’s database and feeling frustrated by waiting weeks and hearing nothing, you may leverage Quakernet to see if any current alumni work at the company and then contact them before you submit your application. “Hi, my name’s __________ and I’m a <<year>> at Penn. I’m currently seeking employment at <<company>> and will be applying for the _________ position soon. I found your information in Quakernet/LinkedIn/Penn Internship Network and saw you worked/currently work there. Do you happen to have any advice for my application?” It’s helpful to include some information about why you are applying – what excites you about the company and why you feel you are a fit – to establish that positive rapport. By connecting with people ahead of time, you improve your chance of getting noticed. Worst case scenario, the person you reach out to won’t reply; best case scenario, he/she will ask for your resume to put on the hiring manager’s desk (you would never ask for this yourself – however, if the offer does come, take it). Most likely, the contact will give some helpful advice about what may be beneficial to include in your cover letter or skills to highlight in your resume that could help move your application to the top of the pile.

Also don’t underestimate the old school form of networking: word of mouth. A few months ago, I attended a Christmas party in my hometown. I ended up chatting with a girl, Priscilla, who graduated high school with my brother – I hadn’t seen her in years. She told me she had graduated in spring 2013 from Thomas Jefferson University with a nursing degree and was still looking for a job in Philadelphia. I put my Career Services knowledge to good use and asked her questions about how she was conducting her search – when I mentioned the networking piece, she admitted she “wasn’t good at that.” I told her she was networking right then – with me! I also told her that I would put her in touch with my college roommate, now a nurse at HUP, since she’s been in the field for years and may have good advice. Once that happened, my roommate, Laura, put Priscilla in touch with her good friend, a hiring manager at Hahnemann University Hospital, and lo and behold, by mid-February Priscilla had a great job at that very hospital! After months of applying online and hearing nothing, she did a little networking and things moved in her favor in a matter of weeks. Even though every networking endeavor will not have that great of an outcome (because you will have to work for it), it does show that the process works when done right.

So start doing some research on Quakernet, LinkedIn and the Penn Internship Network if you haven’t already! Talk to your friends and family, and ask them to talk to theirs! Don’t be afraid to connect with people, because remember – you aren’t asking for help, you are asking for information, the cheapest yet most valuable job search tool out there!

As always, we are here in Career Services to help with your search process – stop in to see us!