Tips for Achieving an “Unbreakable” Career Plan (Through the Words of Kimmy Schmidt)

by Anne Marie Gercke, Associate Director, GSE ’14

Earlier this semester I clicked ‘play’ on this new Netflix original called ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ while I was doing dishes at my apartment. I figured I needed some background noise to keep myself occupied. SEVERAL (let’s just leave it at that as the actual number is too embarrassing to admit) hours later I resurfaced from the abyss after finishing the entire series. For that reason, I was far from surprised when the fictional show, which follows a 29-year-old woman (Kimmy) as she adjusts to life in NYC after her rescue from a doomsday cult in Indiana, went to take on the pop culture community by storm. Kimmy’s (quite literally) unbreakable spirit is contagious and her positive attitude is endearing. As I watched and laughed along at her hilarious one-liners, I also realized that many of her messages are very appropriate for some of the challenges and struggles we can face on our career paths. Here are just a few that stood out to me:

  1. Just take it 10 seconds at a time. Everything will be okay.

It’s very normal to feel overwhelmed in college, even when it just comes to your school work. When you throw in your career exploration process, the stress level can often skyrocket. I meet with students every day who are doing AMAZING things. While many appear to be holding it together on the outside, often times once we shut the door and chat one-one-one I learn that they’re struggling to keep it together internally. In the show, Kimmy overcomes challenges by taking them 10 seconds at a time with the motto, “You can survive anything for 10 seconds.” While ultimately everyone needs to develop some sort of long-term plan to be successful, sometimes it’s helpful to break down your exploration process into parts to relieve feelings of being overwhelmed by looking at it as one huge task. To do this, try to think of what steps you need to take to achieve your goal and then start taking each step, one at a time. To identify these steps, consider meeting with a Career Services advisor so that we can design a path that is unique for your needs and goals.

  1. A female dog? The thing that makes puppies? Nice compliment!

Success is often closely connected with one’s perspective and having the ability to pick out the positive in situations, even if it’s different from what someone may normally perceive. Being self-confident and proud often stems from an ability to look at situations with the “glass half full” perspective. No matter what your plans are this summer, there will be sure to be hiccups. Perhaps you’ll make a mistake at your internship or your supervisor isn’t how you expected her to be. Believe it or not, most challenges we face in life do end up having some sort of silver lining. We can discover it if we look closely enough!

  1. I’m having candy for dinner!

Successful “career-ing” in my opinion comes hand in hand with the ability to take risks and think outside of the box. Sometimes you have to take a chance and go for something that isn’t typical or what society (or your friends or family) would expect of you. Finding the right career path is certainly about doing your due diligence to research and network, but often times my best tip is to trust your gut instinct and have fun with it!

  1. Smile until you feel better. I call it Kimmying.

We all know that you can’t actually smile yourself into feeling better, but I think the underlying message in this quote is to take your career search in stride and trust there will be many more good days than bad days. While sometimes tedious and stressful, discovering things about yourself that will help map out your life is actually a really fun process. Whether just starting out at your first internship or doing a major career change later in life, you’ll always look back on the journey (hopefully fondly) as a unique time in your life. Try not to take every little thing too seriously – making smart, well-informed decisions is important, but in the end you can only do what you can, with what you have, where you are. (And if you aren’t feeling like smiling about your career search, by all means come into Career Services – that’s why we’re here!)

  1. Be You. Be what you want. And then become unbreakable.

At Penn, there seems to be a drive to stand out while also fitting in. Feelings of intense competition can exist socially, whether it be who is getting that OCR consulting interview, who scored an awesome internship with a big name production company on the west coast or even who has parents that are “well connected” in the working world. While a little healthy competition never hurt anybody, there does come a point where you just have to put on “blinders” while refusing to look left or right to figure out who you are and what you want…and then stick to it (regardless of pressures from family or friends who mean well but can’t see situations as you may see them). We also know it’s scary to make big decisions and sometimes figuring out what resources you need is tough. Keep in mind that as your career advisors, we can help you through this process with an unbiased attitude, so be sure to include us in the conversation to walk you through the process or to be your sounding board.

So there you have it. When it comes to making a career plan and accomplishing goals, we can all from time to time feel like we’re trapped in our own bunker, being held hostage against our will with no one to rescue us. That’s when it’s most important to have the right attitude, perspective and confidence in yourself to make good choices. For those times that you do feel you need rescuing, shine the Career Services bat signal and we’ll be there to pull you out of the bunker…or just call (215) 898-7531 to make an appointment. We’re here to serve!


Author: Anne Marie

Anne Marie Gercke is the Associate Director for the College of Arts & Sciences team in Career Services.