Breathe: The Importance of Self-Care (Revisited)

By Sharon Fleshman

For the most part, Penn is a fast-paced place and it’s easy to pick up even more speed as the finish line (whether graduation or just the end of the semester) draws near.  Slowing down enough just to reflect on the day or think a thought through to completion can be a challenge.   In anticipation of the flurry of activity associated with this time of year – final exams, papers, job search concerns, and preparation for graduation, I have reposted some of my tips for self-care.

Begin with the basics. Eat healthy food. Get sufficient exercise and sleep. Make sure you get regular physical checkups. These steps are obviously important, but often so easy to neglect.

Debrief with others and with yourself. Process your experiences from a given day by speaking with a mentor or peer and journaling your reflections. Such debriefing can allow for shared insight and the closure to put the events of the day behind you, especially if they were stressful.

Turn down the volume. If you are especially busy with interactive classes and activities which involve a lot of conversation, winding down might mean establishing a space where there is less chatter. I’ve heard some students speak of prayer, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing as ways to do this. If you are engaged in lab research or other work that requires intense focus, taking a walk on campus for a change of scenery can replenish you.

Enjoy creativity in its many forms. Whether you are on the giving end or the receiving end, creativity can have an energizing impact. Read a novel or biography and immerse yourself in someone else’s story.  Write some poetry.  Listen to music that inspires you. Learn how to knit, crochet or quilt. Take up pottery, woodwork or photography. Check out an art exhibit at a local museum.

Maintain a solid support system. Don’t hesitate to get additional help from helping professionals, such as counselors, to address stress or any other concerns. Keep in touch with family, friends, mentors, advisors and others who have your best interest at heart. Cultivating a support system is a practice that you will need to continue beyond your time at Penn.

Tough Interview Questions: Tell Me About A Time When You Failed At Something.

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

It’s time for another feature on tough interview questions. This time, let’s consider the popular question – tell me about a time when you failed at something. Now, technically this is not a “question” but if you encounter this statement in an interview it can be difficult to share an experience that did not end well. However, with a well-thought out response, you can make a favorable impression on your interviewer.

There are several elements to articulating a strong response to this interview “question.”  First, keep your story fairly succinct – mention relevant details, but try not to get too focused on extraneous information.  Next, choose your example wisely.  Your story should be authentic but try not to give an example that may suggest or imply you will have difficultly performing the tasks required in the job.  The “trap” to this question is just that – describing a failure that is closely related to the duties or responsibilities of the position.  Providing an example of failure that is similar to a task you may be asked to perform on the job may cause great concern for the interviewer.  I would also suggest explicitly stating that you take some level of responsibility for the failure – the more you try to blame the outcome on extraneous factors out of your control, the less likely you will make a favorable impression with your answer.  Finally, be sure to indicate what you have learned from the experience and how that has improved your skill set, approach or thought process moving forward.  This is a sign of maturity which is always a great thing.

At some point in our lives, we all fail at something.  For some people, the instinct may be to simply forget about it and it can certainly be difficult to talk about the situation at a later time.  If you are ever asked to discuss a time you have failed at something during an interview, keep the aforementioned tips in mind so you can be confident in the delivery of your answer.