Are you considering taking time in between college and medical or dental school? You’re not alone. Taking a “gap year” or even multiple “gap years” before embarking on professional school has become increasingly popular. Students often wonder what they can or should do during their one or more gap years. There are many options, as the list of 2015-2016gap year experiences on our pre-med website indicates.
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to take a gap year is a personal one. The pre-health advising team in Career Services is here to talk through this decision with you as you plan for medical or dental school. In the meantime, check out this interesting article from The Atlantic about one person’s decision to take a gap year before starting an MD/PhD program.
I’m constantly blown away by how active Penn students are. You’re involved in work-study jobs, student orgs, athletic teams, and more. But are you tracking your accomplishments? Set yourself up for success in your next job or internship search by documenting your successes along the way. Here’s how:
1) Tell Me About a Time When…
Whether you’re writing a cover letter or preparing for behavioral interview questions, your job or internship search will challenge you to recall specific success stories from your previous professional and extracurricular experiences – and it really can be a challenge! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve racked my brain before an interview trying to recall a compelling anecdote from an experience that happened a few years back.
Save yourself the trouble by recording your success stories in the moment, while they’re freshest in your memory. When it’s time to write that cover letter or prepare for that interview, you’ll have a handy dandy cheat sheet all ready to go!
2) The Numbers Don’t Lie
Nearly every time I review a resume, I find myself suggesting that the student add quantifying detail to demonstrate the size of their impact. If you were managing a budget for an organization, how large was it? If you coordinated an event, how many people participated? If you were running a social media account, by what percentage did you grow its following?
The trouble is, it can be nearly impossible to remember these numbers if you haven’t been tracking them. How many students attended the lecture I organized two years ago? No clue! Make your life easier by recording quantifying detail about your professional and extracurricular experiences as they happen.
Also be sure to record baseline numbers when you start in a new role so that you can quantify any growth you initiate – How many people were following your organization’s Facebook page when you took the reins? How many people attended the event you’ll be planning in previous years?
3) The Proof is in the Pudding
When it comes to tracking your accomplishments, it’s alright to be a pack-rat. Hang on to any tangible outputs or records of your accomplishments. Did your event get written up in the DP, or did something you wrote get published? Save the links to the articles. Did you design a flyer that you’re proud of or develop great materials for a workshop? Hold on to the files. When it’s time to update your Linkedin profile, these materials will make great content! Just be sure to confirm that your organization will allow you to share them publically.
Let’s face it – it’s been a really busy fall for just about everybody, but especially those of you who have been doing what sometimes can seem like the Herculean task of being both a Penn student and also looking for a post-graduate or internship position. (And that’s not even mentioning the hours that most of you devote to clubs, activities, work study jobs, sports and many other endeavors!) We just finished a Career Services staff meeting and the career advisors uniformly felt that this has been one of the busiest semesters we can remember. With the move of on-campus internship recruiting to the fall, we not only met (and coordinated interviews for!) hundreds of seniors pursuing post graduate options, but also many juniors and sophomores seeking internships. There certainly hasn’t been much down time for either staff or students this fall.
We’ve heard from many students who have happily finalized their plans and have been able to step back from their job and internship searches to now focus on the many other things on their “to do” lists, but we’ve also been hearing from students feeling high levels of stress and fatigue at this point in the semester. It can be demoralizing to devote extensive energy and effort to attending employer events, writing cover letters, and donning suits for interviews, just to feel that it was all for naught if you haven’t yet landed an opportunity about which you are excited.
As I watched the Presidential election results come in late Tuesday night, I experienced what felt like a similar sense of stress. We’ve all been “living” the campaign on a daily basis for more than a year and many people had strong feelings about who they hoped would win. While some were elated with the outcome, many others came away with a sense of devastation. In both the election and our job searches, no matter how hard we work, we can’t guarantee the outcome, which can lead to even higher levels of stress, as “working harder” cannot always guarantee the desired outcome. A sense of uncertainty was certainly heightened for many people this week.
If you are experiencing this stress, either due to career related activities, the election, or some other circumstance, we in Career Services urge you to take the time to care for yourself. With the end of the semester almost upon us, give yourself permission to step away and take a break from job search activities for a few weeks, focus on your academics, and renew your energy and spirit. Use the Thanksgiving and semester breaks to reinvigorate yourself, and start 2017 with a new sense of optimism and energy to begin a new chapter.
And, of course, when you are ready to begin again, come see us. We are here to support you in exploring and achieving your career goals.
This Friday is our annual International Opportunities career fair. In preparation of that, Mylène and Michael take a look at the many resources we offer students looking to work abroad. We also welcome our former colleague, Helen Chung, to the studio. Helen has just returned from three years of working abroad in Hong Kong and brings her first hand experience to the show. All that, plus the usual rundown of this week’s events. Enjoy!