Scaling Impact through New Sector Alliance

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This blog is by Heena Khoja, WH ’15.

Whenever we have to complete an activity that we perceive as a chore or an obligation, we find ourselves checking the time to see when we’ll be done. In high school, I was fortunate enough to find a passion that didn’t have me running to the clock every few minutes through community service. I developed a strong volunteering relationship with a local hospice network and a youth empowerment/diversity education organization, which introduced me to some of the most inspiring individuals and sparked my interest in the social sector. Coming to Penn, I thought I wanted to run my own nonprofit in the future – which I may still like to do one day – but in the last few years, I’ve found myself drawn to opportunities where I can work with multiple nonprofits to help them with long-term planning and problem solving.

With that interest in mind, I pursued a summer fellowship with the nonprofit New Sector Alliance in Boston. New Sector’s mission is to strengthen the social sector by enriching its talent pipeline. In other words, New Sector cultivates young professionals to become effective nonprofit leaders. The summer program has four major components: capacity-building project for a host site nonprofit, trainings via the Social Impact Leadership Curriculum, one-on-one mentorship from skilled professionals, and learning teams facilitated by grad students. Given such a multifaceted opportunity, the experience is completely defined by what you make of it. The host site project, training workshops, and mentorship were the most meaningful aspects of my summer internship.

After being accepted into the New Sector cohort, summer fellows participate in matching interviews with several local nonprofits to establish a placement site. Initially, I was hoping to work with a larger organization on a quantitative project since the majority of my prior experience entails qualitative projects for small nonprofits. However, being placed at Tech Goes Home – a three-employee nonprofit that successfully equips thousands of Bostonians with the tools and resources for 21st century skill development – showed me how much I value a strong culture regardless of the size of the organization. My overall objective was to improve the quality and efficiency of Tech Goes Home’s technology literacy trainings. Although I tend to work better with structure, this broad project offered me the opportunity to learn how to manage ambiguity and set my own deadlines. At the end of the fellowship, I provided Tech Goes Home with detailed online learning content and a compiled list of best practices for its trainings. Over the new few months, I hope to keep in touch with my former teammates to learn whether my work was helpful and how it is being implemented.

My mentor and the New Sector training curriculum were also invaluable for personal and professional development. Every time I met with my mentor, he not only advised me on the direction of my project but also provided feedback on my work and general career support. The trainings delivered another holistic professional experience by covering topics like resumes and networking as well as social sector themes like fundraising and nonprofit finance. This industry-specific knowledge will be extremely useful for any type of nonprofit position that I may pursue. Beyond the fellowship, the city of Boston played a huge role in my summer experience and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore it for the first time. Based on just eleven weeks, I really hope to end up there after graduating from Penn.

My summer fellowship allowed me to understand the responsibilities of nonprofit consulting, which I intend to pursue in the long-term. After working with a number of diverse nonprofits in various capacities, I think I would enjoy the ability to learn about different social issues and work with such organizations from a strategic perspective in order to maximize their community impact. I’m also interested in other career paths that can benefit society on a larger scale, such as corporate social responsibility or impact investing. I believe the work experience I gained this summer, in addition to the New Sector community, will be fundamental to shaping my future in social impact. Thanks to Career Services for helping me fund the best summer of college by far!


Understand and Manage Your Post-Graduation Expectations: Tips for International Students

With three fairs in one week, last week was truly a week of career fairs at Career Services. At the engineering career fair (Engineering Career Day), I was a little surprised but happy to see lots of first year international students – most of them master’s students. For many of them, that was only their second week at Penn and in the US. Many of them were not even in the system yet so we had to type in their name manually into our system to print out a name tag for them. As a career counselor, I was really glad to see that these new students were already on a job search mood before their journey at Penn fully unfolded. As a previous international student, I couldn’t help but thinking about what would happen to these students a year or two from now. Would they want to stay in the US? Would they get to stay? What would that mean to their professional and personal life?
I understand that many of you may not have yet pondered what this American education can mean for you. While undergraduate international students may have the luxury to focus on just being a student in the first two years of their Penn career, most master’s programs are only a year or two, so as an international master’s student, you do have to be conscious of your post-graduate plans throughout your journey at Penn. Here are some of my personal thoughts as a previous international student more so as a career counselor:

• Understand your post-graduation expectation. Ask yourself: do you want to work in the US or to go back to work in your home country? No matter what you may want for yourself, this is a huge decision that will not only affect your career but also your personal life. While working and living in the US can be very exciting and it may bring many benefits that working in your home country may not offer, it can also be very challenging. Working in the US means you are most likely going to be far away from your family, friends, and familiar culture and activities. Whether or not you are the only child in the family, eventually you may have to worry about the ability to care for your parents when they get old because you may be just too far away to do that. If you decide to have a family in the US, your children may not have that much opportunity to bond with your family back in your home country and neither will you have that much family support when you need it. So it’s not just a decision on your career, it’s a decision on many aspects of your life.

• Be aware of your options. You may or may not want to work and stay in the US. While it can be a lot easier to get visa sponsorships and ultimately green cards with majors in certain fields such as STEM, it can be rather difficult for humanities majors, because H1 visas and green cards are often tied to specific educational background. So if you do hope to work in the US after graduation, you want to make sure you learn as much and as early as possible about all visa related questions. You want to seek out advice from ISSS advisors and take advantage of all available resources inside and outside of Penn to best prepare yourself for a potential career in the US. Sometimes you may even need to transfer to another program or consider a dual degree to be able to eligible for visa sponsorship. A few of my colleagues have written blogs on ways to identify US employers hiring international students as well as various resources for international students’ job search. You can find all of them by just searching “international student” under our blog category at the top right corner. Some of you may want to return to your home country. Naturally, you would want to take advantage of Penn alumni as well as your personal and professional connections in your home country to find a dream job. However there may be opportunities to work for some American companies’ offices in your home country. Some US companies may even recruit graduates to work for their rotation programs where students may spend the first year or two in US locations and then complete their program in other countries.

Career Services’ Wild Ride

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

I love Mr. Toad.  Perhaps it’s because we both have a “J.” in our first name (J. Thadeus in his case, J. Michael in mine).  I love him as he first appeared in print in Wind in the Willows, I love him in the British stop-motion-puppet tv series that ran in my youth. I love him in the Disney animated classic The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toadwhich includes one of the best road trip songs ever. But perhaps the way I loved him most was in the Walt Disney World attraction that bore his name: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

toad_marqueeThe ride, sadly no longer in operation in Florida, placed you in a turn of the century automobile that was wildly out of control.  You would come close to crashing into something and then veer away at the last moment.  You’d think you were traveling in one direction, when suddenly you’d be heading in another.   Best of all – the ride was totally different depending on how you entered the line.  Two totally separate tracks took different courses through the ride, showing you different scenes, until they met at the end.

Aside from the pure nostalgia, I write about Mr. Toad today because this time of year can really feel like a WILD RIDE for Career Services staff and students alike.  We’ve barely begun the school year, but this week alone we’re hosting three consecutive days of career fairs.  It’s a lot right out of the gate and I imagine for many students, they can feel like they’re in a runaway car, ready to crash at any moment.

First tip – relax! Career Fairs can feel very overwhelming, but if you go into them with a  goal and destination in mind, they can be both exciting and manageable.  We offer some great, basic things you can do to prepare in the video below:

My other piece is advice is to enjoy the twists and turns! To me, the fun of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was never knowing which way you were headed.  Be open to different “routes” at the career fairs (and in your job search in general) – the unexpected path is often the most satisfying one!

We’ll see you tomorrow at CareerFIRE, Thursday at Engineering Career Day and Friday at CareerLINK – all at the Sheraton Hotel on Chestnut Street.