Just showing up…

Dr. Joseph Barber

I’m reading the book “Improv Wisdom” by Patricia Madson right now, as the art of improvisation has been mentioned in a couple of conferences I have attended involving graduate student and postdoc career advisors from a broad diversity of academic institutions. You can see one article on this mentioned here in the Carpe Careers blog. I’m only half way through the book, so I cannot give an overall review of the contents, but there are certainly topics that have been mentioned that are relevant to any career exploration or application process. One of the most important so far has included the idea of just showing up…, as the simple alternative to, well…, errr…, not showing up. Let’s explore this in some more detail.

How many times have you dreaded an event or experience (and I am talking about that gut-wrenching, sleep-deprived state of absolute fear), only to find that the actual event was really not that bad at all? How many times have you dreaded an event so much that you found an excuse not to participate? Our imagination of what might happen often obscures what actually happens. We see the world through the lens of our internal perspective (that bizarre and terrifying world generated by our brains), rather than seeing it for what it really is. Don’t get me wrong, there are some experiences we dread that turn out to be pretty dreadful, but the real-life experience is still usually different in substantive ways from our imagined one. The idea of just turning up is about making sure we put ourselves in a position where we can actually respond to the real-life world in a more optimistic and confident manner. We may have to be ready to adapt to that world, but chances are that we will come away enhanced or improved by the experience in some way.

Take networking events as an example. If you are like me, then I probably know what you are thinking about right now having read those words. Are you picturing those super-scary speed-networking type events, or the events where people all around seem to be making super-intense business deals worth billions of dollars? Well, that’s your imagination being particularly unhelpful. Networking doesn’t have to be anything like this. When I talk about networking when I am advising students and postdocs, the actual type of experience I am referring to is about as unscary as it can be. I am mostly talking about events where there are people you don’t really know gathered together in the same place and at the same time to chat about something you are interested in. Yes, so no man-eating snakes, no mutant viral outbreaks, nothing like this. A visiting speaker might come to campus to talk about their research or their career outside of academia. If you attend, you might find yourself sitting in a room full of people who by their very presence share similar interests to you, and who could become new contacts, collaborators, or friends if you introduced yourself. There is even an opportunity you might get your specific question answered by the speaker, if you ask one, and a chance for you to follow-up with the speaker after the event to chat…, which gives you even more of an excuse to follow-up days later to chat some more. Of course, if you don’t turn up, don’t open your mouth to talk, and don’t take a chance, then none of these things will happen – without a doubt. Just showing up can potentially lead to a chain reaction of experiences and interactions occurring that might be incredibly helpful to you or those you meet.

So, whenever your brain tries to intimidate you, to convince you that attending some professional development event is a bad, bad idea (based on the imagined possibility of pirate zombie invasions and the like), tune these negative thoughts out and just show up. After all, you can always leave an event if it isn’t right for you – but you can’t travel back in time to have the opportunity to attend an event you already missed.

Have a career story? Tell us through the #myPennPath social media campaign

We at Career Services strive to give our students the very best resources to help them along their career paths. Knowing that many of you love sharing things on social media, we thought we’d come up with a campaign that allows you to tell your career stories to your friends. Our hope is that more students will learn the great things their peers are doing, and become interested in coming in to see us to get more information. We thought we’d throw in some prizes as incentive, too. Below outlines the overall campaign. We hope you’ll share your story!


What is #myPennPath?

  • A new initiative to share career resources and learn about career options.
  • An exciting opportunity where a simple tweet, or post on Facebook or Instagram can win you cool prizes.
  • A growing community that shares information on diverse, interesting career pathways.
  • Contributing a career tip, favorite resource, or story about your volunteer, fellowship, or full-time opportunity and using #MyPennPath enriches the #myPennPath community… AND enters you into a raffle to win prizes from Career Services.

Here’s how it works:

likeLike us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We want you to share your stories on your favorite social platform.


iphoneTake a selfie, a picture of your office, volunteer work, your mentor, or post anything career-related you’re doing during the summer and beyond. Have a career tip? Post a video. Headed to a conference? That counts, too!


Tell your friends about #MyPennPath and encourage them to share

prizeWin prizes from Career Services.


Examples of potential posts:
First time at @PennCareerServ for walk-ins and now have a great consulting resume. Next stop: Biomedical Career Fair #myPennPath

I wrote a blog for @PennCareerServ. Check out my experience at an environmental nonprofit #myPennPath::::link to blog::::

Found a great job on PennLink and @PennCareerServ helped me make a tailored cover letter for it! #myPennPath

Vault Career Insider helped me explore different careers in healthcare. Check it out! #myPennPath:::link to Vault guide::

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started #myPennPath. Now I’m excited about my career in digital media :::link to video:::

I’ll be tweeting a #DayintheLife for @PennCareerServ tomorrow. Check out #myPennPath

Having a great summer internship as part of #myPennPath, making new connections and learning a lot!


Hammock Time

Hard to believe — our summer vacation is half over. Before we know it, students will be back on campus in large numbers. Of course some students are still around: graduate students, summer session students, pre-freshmen, high school students doing discovery programs. But the true hustle and bustle of the semester is very different, and it is only six weeks away.

What I wish for us all, whether we are here at work, off doing a summer job or pursuing research, is to find some hammock time. We are all so busy, with so many commitments. Make sure during these warmer months that you take a break that will allow you to relax, reflect, and be refreshed. Read a book (or two or three) about something far removed from your daily responsibilities. I just finished an interesting volume called The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, a kind of detective novel, set in 1830’s India. It transported me to a very different world. I learned something about the early days of the Raj, which for all intents and purposes I knew nothing about. It got me thinking about topics that I seldom consider. I couldn’t put it down.

My hope is that you will use these last six weeks wisely by taking some time for yourself, for your physical, intellectual and mental health. It’s necessary, and come fall, you’ll be glad you did. Enjoy your summer, and safe travels (those who are travelling). Now go find a good book.

Shake It Off

It’s hard to believe that the summer is half over already.  Whatever you are doing this summer, this is the perfect time to take a look at where you are and appreciate what you’ve done so far.  With the hectic schedules of most students during the school year, it may be difficult to see the end of the tunnel. There is always some test, paper, or quiz that pulls you back into having to deal with school.  Take this time to really sit back and look at where you are.  Summer is the time to really reflect on yourself and to check in with your progress. If you’re a rising sophomore, congratulate yourself on completing your first year in college. Get excited about the possibilities of your future if you are a rising senior. And if you are a rising junior, bask in the knowledge that you have another year of being a student before you have to start really thinking about your first job. Be positive about where you are going. For some, this past semester – or school year – wasn’t their best.  Even if that is the case, take the time now to reevaluate where there is room for improvement. It’s hard being a student sometimes. Students come into the office with the worries of life written all over their faces. Use this time during the summer to shake off the worries so that you can return to campus fresh and ready to tackle new challenges.

Happy 4th!


Career Services is closing at 2pm on Thursday, July 2nd and will remain closed until 9am on Monday, July 6th, in observance of the Independence Day holiday.

We hope you have a fun and relaxing holiday weekend.  We look forward to serving you again next week.