Creating a “Good Life”

“doing good work, having quality time for family and meaningful relationships, and the space to refresh the soul is about having a good life”

I recently read a new book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time,” by Brigid Schulte, as part of a UPenn book group.  That feeling of “overwhelm” can be felt and is true at so many life stages.  You may be an undergrad making your way through a challenging summer of research or internship, a graduate student focusing on your thesis or dissertation, a recent grad striving to make a great start to your career, or like me an experienced professional trying to find balance – at every stage, there is just so much to accomplish, and the to-do list is NEVER done!   And if you’re feeling that way too, trust that you’re not alone!

One particular quote from the book stood out to me – that “doing good work, having quality time for family and meaningful relationships, and the space to refresh the soul is about having a good life” (emphasis is mine).

So, in that spirit, regardless of your age or stage – have you observed the colors of the sky?  Noticed a breeze across your face that swept away the summer heat?  Watched a thunderstorm roll in?  Taken a deep breath?  Reached out to a friend or loved one for a conversation, short or long?  Made time to do something you really love to do…to “play”?

You may not have the chance to do all this today, but I urge you to consider – what does your “Good Life” look like?   May you have the good fortune to set aside a little time today to create it!

Things to Do at the “Midpoint” of Your Summer Internship

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

Now that the 4th of July (the unofficial “midpoint” of summer) has passed, it’s a great time to assess what has transpired in your summer internship thus far and create a plan to finish strong. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Obtain feedback on your performance. If you haven’t already, now may be a good time to get feedback on your performance thus far. Although it may seem reasonable to think that no feedback is always a good sign, try not to assume this – if nothing else, hearing positive words of encouragement regarding your performance can reassure you that you are indeed on the right track. If you have already received some constructive feedback on your performance, be sure that you are making the necessary adjustments for improvement.

Reflect on your internship experience. Have you enjoyed your internship? Are you developing skills and learning new things? Or are you not being challenged as much as anticipated? Whatever the case may be, taking time to reflect on what has transpired now may be helpful. You may want to propose or suggest additional projects or areas of interest that you can pursue during the second half of your summer to gain additional experience or further enhance your skill set.

Note your contributions and projects. While you may be busy with existing internship duties and tasks, be sure to make note of your contributions and projects. This can be especially handy for updating your resume and any end of the summer performance review discussions.

Cultivate relationships and expand your network. Depending on the type of office you work in and the number of staff, you may have opportunities to strengthen professional relationships and enhance your network. Take advantage of opportunities to build camaraderie – through participation in formal company-sponsored events or informal opportunities to interact with your colleagues (perhaps through lunch). You never know when these relationships may be useful in the future.

Consider reference possibilities. Now that you have spent some time in your internship and hopefully interacted with some of your colleagues, you may want to begin thinking about individuals you want to ask for references before you leave at the end of the summer. No need to rush on this now, but having a few individuals in mind that can speak to your skills and performance in your internship will be valuable when you apply for future employment opportunities. In some instances, it can be easier to ask for references at the end of your summer just before you leave your internship – having one or more individuals in mind already may make the process a bit easier.

Something New for the Summer

by Julie Vick

For graduate students summer can be hectic and not the relaxing time from earlier years. Doctoral students may be teaching or TA-ing semester-length courses in five or six weeks, studying needed foreign languages or systems, participating in fieldwork, or designing and conducting lab-based research. Professional students may be interning with a company or not-for-profit to get a taste of their potential future work world.
Whether these warmer months find you doing “more of the same,” or doing something different and new to you, it’s important that you do a few other things:

  1. Take a break from the here-and-now to focus on the future,
  2. Do something fun and not related to schoolwork or career, and
  3. Do something for someone else.

Following those steps will help you to feel both prepared and renewed when summer comes to an end and the semester starts up again.

Do something for your future

  • Build and maintain your network
    • Reach out to previous employers, professors and others to let them know what you’re doing this summer
    • Identify people who do work that interests you and conduct some information interviews
    • Attend a networking event (or an event where you can meet new people) through your alma mater, employer, professional association or one organized for people in your urban area
    • Keep track of all interactions and thank/acknowledge everyone who talks with you and/or provides advice or information
  • Think about your plans for next year
  • What else will you do in addition to coursework?
    • Serve on a student group committee
    • Help organize your graduate group’s symposium series
    • Plan to attend Career Services programs and workshops and connect with a career advisor
  • If it’s your final year, when will you start your job search?

Do something that’s fun

  • Get away, even for just a weekend.
  • Do something physical. Perhaps you go to the gym everyday but try an outdoor activity. Being active outside – better still, being in nature –can rejuvenate you. Take a bike ride. Go hiking. Try canoeing or kayaking. There are bike trails and state parks closer than you think.

Do something for someone else

  • There are lots of opportunities to serve as a volunteer. If you’re not sure where to start, find out if there’s a volunteer activities coordinator at your institution. Just spending a morning helping to clean up an abandoned block, playing with a hospitalized child or reading to an infirm elderly adult can help you forget about the stresses in your life and bring some joy to someone else

Doing these things will renew you; renewing yourself will help you start the new school year off well.

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” ― William Shakespeare

Networking: Tips for Introverts


Many of us dread the idea of networking, though we all know how important it is. If you see yourself more as an introvert, you may feel very uncomfortable at social events, or you may be reluctant to reach out to people for advice. As such, you may miss opportunities to connect with people and that may affect your professional development. Yet, the good news is there are often two sides to each personality. For example, if you are an introvert, you may be a hesitant speaker, but you often might be a good listener and you might be sensitive to other people’s feelings. If you are an extrovert, you may feel more comfortable talking to people, but sometimes you may need to be a better listener so you don’t miss out information. So if you take advantage of the strengths of your personality and make a goal to work on the weaknesses, you are more likely to branch out and have more enjoyable and satisfying networking experiences. Here are some tips:

  • First, understand your fear. Ask yourself: What am I worried about? Am I afraid that people will not respond to my email? Am I nervous because I often don’t know what to talk about? Do I fear that people will not be interested in speaking to inexperienced students like me? Well, these are natural worries that we all might have. But there are ways to think about them from different perspectives, and there are ways to better prepare us for networking opportunities.
  • Realize that sometimes networking can be a numbers game. So take no offense if you don’t hear back when you reach out to people. There can be all sorts of legitimate reasons why people don’t respond to your email. They may be going through a difficult time in their lives; they may be too busy at that moment; they may not have seen your email because they are no longer using the email listed on QuakerNet or wherever you found it. So if you don’t hear back from this person, don’t be discouraged. Just simply move on to the next person.
  • Think of social events as an opportunity to meet new people and learn about new perspectives, rather than to impress others. If you go to a social event hoping to impress people or to get business cards, you will surely have more pressure because you make it all about yourself. However if you decide just to meet interesting people and enjoy a good conversation, you may be more relaxed and comfortable.
  • Prepare some talking points and ask good questions. If you are meeting with someone for the first time, it’s only natural that he or she would want to know something about you. So be ready to talk about your studies, activities, career goals, personal interests, or just anything you feel comfortable talking about. Asking questions is also a good way to get the conversation going. Chances are the fact that you are an introvert may make you a good listener, and that would prompt you to ask good questions. Asking questions is also an effective way to show your interest in the other person, and people generally respond well to those who are interested in them.
  • Always try to see the personal side of the person that you meet with. When you talk to people, especially those in a higher status, remind yourself that no matter what title that they are wearing, they are always someone’s child, or someone’s husband/wife or dad/mom. If you can see the personal side of that person, it may help you overcome the anxiety that may be caused by the title that person is bearing.
  • Be humble but confident. Yes, you may be a green college student, and you may not have years of professional experience. But who wasn’t once young and green? Remind yourself that, a few years from now, you might be the advice giver.

Summer’s here and the time is right….

Independence Day is a great holiday, especially in Philadelphia.  In addition to the fireworks and BBQs, I associate July 4th with the midway point of summer, which on campus starts after May’s graduation and ends with NSOs in late August. Here at Career Services, we are reviewing the outcomes of last year’s projects, focusing on next year’s program planning, and many of us are still seeing students for advising sessions each day. Summers are generally a time I like to use to catch up on reading including my colleagues’ excellent blog posts, which are filled with great suggestions and advice from many different perspectives.

The collection of entries below comes from several years of summertime blog-based wisdom — each includes good ideas for Penn students and recent graduates to think of summer as really productive time for their career, whether they are on campus or away, conducting research or working, getting some R & R, or continuing their studies.

Advice on making the most of the summer (you still have time!):

Advice on finishing up your summer in a proactive way:

Reflecting on your summer experiences: