Mylène Kerschner, Associate Director
Congratulations Class of 2017!!!! You have worked so, so hard for this and there is so much to celebrate! You’ve accomplished an amazing thing, and you should be proud. I hope you’re excited about your next steps. (Side note: if you’re still uncertain about those next steps, or need any guidance, Career Services is here! We are open all summer and are happy to meet with you to discuss your path!)
Now, I know at Penn it is especially tempting to compare your post-grad plans with those of your classmates. And of course, you know that your friends who went to Wall Street or to those well-known consulting firms are going to be bringing in big paychecks. By comparison, if you’re working in an industry with a different salary structure or if you’re living in a particularly expensive part of the world, you might have some anxiety about how to make ends meet out in the real world.
First of all, a reality check for those who might be feeling “less than” for not pursuing a career in finance or consulting. Your friends may be earning big bucks, but they are also putting in big hours. Maybe you’re bringing home less week to week, but maybe you’re also paid hourly, and your organization restricts how many hours you can be on the clock so they don’t have to pay out a ton of overtime. Or maybe the actual work you’d be performing in a finance or consulting role seems incredibly tedious to you, and instead you’ve found a role at a non-profit whose mission you’re passionate about with exciting projects and interesting colleagues. But of course on average, non-profits pay a little less than big corporations. Or maybe working entertainment is your dream, and you understand that you have to put in some time performing under-paid grunt work before you can become the next Shonda Rhimes (or go to a lot of auditions before you arrive as Penn’s next Elizabeth Banks)!
For many reasons, your first job out of college might not pay exactly what you were hoping it would. But that’s okay! I’m here to tell you: there is no shame in taking on a second job, especially if you can find one you enjoy. After I graduated from the University of Richmond and started working in Career Services, I still kept working a few shifts a week as a server at a country club. I knew the members, I had a great time with my coworkers, and I liked having a physical job that got me out from behind a desk. I didn’t really have to go to the gym because running around to check on my tables and carrying a ton of plates was a full-body workout. I enjoyed the work itself, it was nice getting a little bonus around the holidays, and let’s be honest: I had student loans to pay off. They weren’t crippling, but I had a monthly bill slated forever, before I’d even purchased a single thing. Those few shifts at the country club gave me some breathing room (and kept me from spending more money because I was busy with work!).
It doesn’t have to be waiting tables. Are you a morning person who likes hanging out at a coffee shop after you purchase your daily chai? Consider working there for a short shift in the mornings and perfecting your foam art.
Find it hard to resist the latest fashion trends? Retail could be a fun option (plus, employee discounts). Prefer something quieter? There’s always freelance work. It also doesn’t need to be something with regularly-scheduled hours. You can find temporary or part-time work through a staffing firm or a temp agency (Check out GoinGlobal’s US City Guides via our online subscriptions page for lists of temp agencies in a wide range of cities) And it may sound silly, but even babysitting can be an easy gig – especially if the kids go to sleep right after their parents head out. You can make money just providing peace of mind to a couple in need of a night out! There is zero shame in getting paid to do what you’d likely be doing at home anyway: scrolling through BuzzFeed’s list of 14 Times the Container Store Went Too Far…how did you even get to this page?
And! Aside from maybe the babysitting, the experiences you will gain in these roles will be incredible fodder for interviews as you advance in your professional life. Dealing with a difficult client? Meeting someone’s high expectations? Managing fifteen different things at a time and finding a way to prioritize? Check, check and check! Boy do you have stories to tell.
Now that last one, “managing fifteen different things at a time and finding a way to prioritize?” That probably sounds familiar to you. You graduated from Penn. You’re a hard worker. You juggled academics and volunteering and clubs and social activities here on campus. Likely, you could work two jobs after graduation and still have more free time than you did when you were living in University City! Except in this scenario, you’ll actually be getting paid for all that hard work!