Ask Questions – Get More than Answers!

Dr. Joseph Barber

Here are 5 good reasons to ask a question at the next workshop, speaker presentation, or panel discussion you attend (especially those put on by Career Services!).

1) Pay attention – you might just learn something!
If you set a goal for yourself to ask a good question in every presentation you attend, then you will find that you’ll be paying much more attention to the content of these presentations. After all, it is hard to ask an informed question if you have been poodling around your favourite social media website for most of the time instead of listening.

2) Practice your pitch
Asking a question in a room full of people is a great way of practicing your own public speaking skills, because you need to be able to formulate a clear and concise question, stand up confidently, project your voice, and speak in a context-appropriate tone (i.e., not too aggressively, defensively, or timidly). If you get butterflies in your stomach at the thought of any public speaking activity, then start off with questions. Once you have conquered your fear of the 20-second question, it won’t be long before you are more comfortable with doing a 30-minute presentation yourself!

3) Networking
Don’t forget, when you do stand up in a crowded room full of people to ask your question, you have the potential to supercharge your networking efforts. Let’s say you are at a conference, you could be surrounded by people in similar fields who might be interested in connecting with you in some way if only they knew who you were. Well, do the following, and you can increase the chances that important people will come to know who you are: a) stand up when you ask your questions – people need to see you to remember you; b) introduce yourself by clearly stating your name and affiliation (“I’m Joseph Barber, Associate Director at the University of Pennsylvania, I have a question about…”); c) speak clearly enough so that people can actually hear your question – or wait for the microphone to be passed to you if your are in a room where there are microphones being passed around. The 20-50 people who hear you now know who you are and where you are from. That is progress when it comes to networking!

4) Even more networking
Having been an active participant in the discussion by asking a question, it now becomes easier for you to network with the speaker. You will have a good excuse keep the conversation going after the presentation. For example: “Hi, I was the person who asked the question about X. Thanks for your answer, it really helped me understand the issue more clearly – I do have one more question….”. You have made a connection by asking the question, and can build on this to further develop your relationship with the speaker.

5) Answers!
Don’t overlook the most obvious reason to ask questions – to get answers! These answers might help you to be more successful in your work, your career exploration, or your job applications.

So…, challenge yourself to ask a question whenever you attend a presentation, and you will find that there are many benefits beyond just the answers you get.

Yea or Nay?: Weighing the Job Offer

By Sharon Fleshman

Wherever you are in the job search, it wouldn’t hurt to consider how you might decide on a given job offer.  To that end, here are some key steps.

Allow for adequate time for decision making. This may require some negotiation if an employer requests that you decide on the offer by a certain date and you feel that you need more time.  The worst thing you can do is to prematurely accept an offer, and renege on it later.  After you express your enthusiasm about the offer, note that you want to take the time to make a well-informed decision.  

Do your research.  Make sure you are as clear as possible on the employer’s core values to see whether they align with yours.  Hopefully, your research started when you prepared to interview but you may still need to review the organizational website, read recent news related to employer, or speak with others (especially alumni) who work at the employer.  As it relates to salary, be aware of what a reasonable range might be so that you can negotiate effectively.  A number of resources accessible on the Career Services website can be helpful in this regard.  Consider other criteria such as professional development, health benefits, financial planning options, location, and so on.

Know your bottom line.  Regarding the offer, think about what allows for some flexibility and what is non-negotiable.  Perhaps you know that a certain salary is required for you to meet your financial obligations.  Maybe you need a certain level of supervision for the pursuit of a necessary licensing or certification.  Your responsibilities to your family may require that you live in a certain region. 

Consult with a mentor and/or Career Services advisor.  It can be very helpful to invite another person to be a sounding board.  Speak with trusted mentors who know you and your chosen career field well.   Make an appointment with a Career Services advisor who can point you to useful resources and help you sort out your thoughts about the offer.

Feeling Stressed?

Stressed_3_tnsYesterday I attended a program for the various student affairs professionals on campus which focused on the recent University Mental Health Task Force report. Although I’ve worked at Penn for quite a few years, it reminded of the many, many resources available to Penn students. I think most people tend to think of CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) as the “Go To” place for students who might be experiencing stressors in their lives and they are certainly a wonderful resource to have on campus. That said, there are lots of other places students can find support as well, whether it be the various cultural centers, the Penn Women’s Center, or Campus Health.

Students often come to the Career Services office with very specific questions such as “Can you review my resume?”, “Which job offer should I take?”, or “How can I find an internship?”. These are all fine questions and we are happy to discuss them with students. That said, we also realize that career planning in and of itself can be stressful. Not knowing exactly what career path to pursue, being rejected for a position you really wanted, or being unsure of whether to pursue a graduate degree can (and does!) cause some very normal anxiety in everyone. I wanted to take the opportunity in this blog to let you know that the Career Services advisors understand such feelings and are absolutely happy to discuss them with you. Occasionally we hear from students that they feel like they have to “have it all figured out” before they visit our office and absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you are in the beginning stages of thinking about your career path; in the midst of applying for jobs, internships, or graduate school; or trying to finalize an offer, come in and talk to us. We may not have all the answers, but we certainly want to serve as a resource for you as you walk along your individual career path.

A Notice to Sophomores Regarding Fall 2015 On Campus Recruiting

Dear Penn Sophomores:

Yesterday Career Services sent an email to Penn sophomores to inform them of planned changes to the internship recruiting timeline for next year.  We immediately received feedback from a substantial number of students who had been planning to study abroad during Fall 2015 who felt that they had not received enough time to adequately plan for such changes and who were not comfortable with the option of using videoconferencing to conduct their internship interviews from abroad. We apologize for not making the decision earlier in the year, but we felt it was important to gather statistics and data from the 2015 internship cycle to better inform our decision about the optimal timing for internship recruiting.  We were not able to make a decision until right before Spring Break and so announced it as soon possible when classes resumed.

We have heard from a significant number of students with concerns about the proposed change, and at this point we have decided that the best course of action will be to postpone the implementation of fall internship recruiting until Fall 2016.  For current sophomores, on-campus interviewing for non-technical internships will take place in Spring 2016.  Current freshmen should expect that internship recruiting will take place in Fall 2016 which will give students more time to adequately plan.

Again, our goal in Career Services is to help each and every student to clarify and pursue their career interests and we hope that the revised timeline will work for all of our students.  We urge rising juniors who are studying abroad next fall to meet with a career counselor this spring or summer to discuss any career concerns they may have and to plan in advance for their return to campus in Spring 2016.

Career Services

Deep Cuts from the Penn Career Services Website

If you’ve spent any time clicking around the Penn Career Services website you’ve probably reviewed our guidelines and samples for your written materials like your resume and cover letters. You’re surely familiar with PennLink and you might even know iNet, the internship consortium with internship postings separate from those in PennLink. And of course you were reminded of the incredibly useful tool the Penn Internship Network from Anne Marie’s post a few weeks ago. And while these are excellent resources that we’re so glad you’re utilizing, I’d love to take a few minutes to highlight some of the “deep cuts” from our website: resources that you may not have navigated to on your own but that will certainly help you in your career or internship search.

Our Career Plan Survey Reports! While the Career Services staff spends much of our day meeting with students and reviewing resumes, cover letters, and planning programming, we also do exhaustive reporting learning about where Penn students accept internship and full-time opportunities. I find myself regularly showing students a few things, including the timing of the internship search (for students in College) and the list of full-time employment and graduate studies by major. These reports are also incredibly helpful for salary information and to see where geographically Penn students find opportunities.

Our Career Services Library and in particular our Online Subscriptions! The online subscriptions are PennKey-protected, but our subscriptions include where students have unlimited access to salaries, company reviews, and interview questions; Vault Career Insider where you can learn a ton about specific companies and their corporate cultures and check out their rankings and reviews; Wetfeet Insider Guides where you can find everything from interview guides to employee stories and much, much more!

Our Resources by Career Field! Sure, this one is easy to find from the main page, but have you clicked through to find your specific area of interest? Do you think you might want to do policy research or maybe work for a Think Tank in the future? We suggest some resources for you to explore. Does historic preservation sound like something you might enjoy? Learn more about it! Did you think you might be perfect for a career in sports medicine? Learn about the varied professions that could encompass here! And of course those are only just a small sample of the various fields represented on this page where you can find workshops, panels and programs, professional associations and additional resources.

We’re glad you’ve taken some time to explore our website and hope these deep cuts show you a little more of what we have to offer!