Calling All Humanities and Social Science PhDs!

Helen Pho, Associate Director

Looking back at my time in a doctoral program in History at the University of Texas, I recall having conversations with my peers about what you could do with a PhD in History if you didn’t become a professor. It’s like the question I pondered when I was in college about what I could do with a history major, but instead of writing a 50-page senior essay, I’m now writing a multi-year dissertation that seemed to have no end in sight!

Although many of us were working toward the goal of achieving a tenure-track job, there were also some of us who wondered: What else can you do with a PhD in the humanities? How can you translate the skills of researching and writing a dissertation into a rewarding and meaningful job? How do you find jobs that would value a PhD in the humanities? How do you even begin to think about your priorities when it comes to world of work outside of academia?

Beginning this week, ImaginePhD–a new, intuitive, and beautifully-designed career exploration and planning tool created specifically for PhDs in the humanities and social sciences–is available and free to all users to help grad students, postdocs, and PhD alums get at those questions. Created by the Graduate Career Consortium, ImaginePhD offers students the opportunity to reflect and understand their own skills, values, and interests, explore 15 different “job families” (such as advocacy, consulting, and entrepreneurship) through stories and articles, and create a concrete plan to outline specific goals for completing your doctoral program and pursuing your career goals. To learn more about how you can take advantage of ImaginePhD whether you’ve completed your PhD or you’re at the beginning, middle, or near the end of your PhD program, check out this blog post from Carpe Careers.

While ImaginePhD was not around for me to use as a graduate student (I did manage to find my way out of my dissertation and into interesting, challenging, and fulfilling roles after I defended through networking and learning about careers widely), as a graduate and postdoc career adviser, I’m looking forward to chatting about what ImaginePhD can do for you as your explore and pursue your future careers! Visit to create an account and get started today!

An Impactful Learning Experience at the OAS

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Shirin Vetry, COL ’18

My internship at the Organization of American States (OAS) was phenomenal. The people at my internship inspired me on a daily basis and the content of my work gave me profound insight on human development initiatives and their implementation across the region. All of this was complemented by working at the region’s leading international organization. The location itself gave me a whole new perspective on the ability of international organizations to make a profound impact, especially in the field of development.

The people I met during my internship provided me with a network of leaders across Latin America and the Caribbean. There was a total of 75 interns, the majority of whom came from outside of the United States. The interns were all incredibly welcoming and loved sharing their interests and experiences in their home country. This made for an extremely informative experience, especially in our weekly intern meetings where we discussed issues across the region, like the crisis in Venezuela. Every day felt like I was coming to work to meet a group of friends that always had something new to teach or to talk about.

Outside of the people I was surrounded with, the substance of my work felt truly impactful. The first task I was given responsibility for was the newsletter for the Inter-American Network for Labor Administration (RIAL). This newsletter was sent out to the all of the Ministries of Labor in the region on a biweekly basis and included the new policies and programs that different Ministries of Labor were implementing. This newsletter was one of the mechanisms by which Ministries of Labor would initiate bilateral cooperation activities. Since I was heading the research and content of the newsletter, this provided me with the opportunity to select the initiatives that would be presented to Ministries across the region. Aside from having direct tasks assigned to me, my supervisor also provided me with space to create and implement my own projects. While working on the execution of the RIAL Workshop on Labor Migration, where representatives and experts from 22 labor ministries across the region discussed programs and policies surrounding labor migration, I created one of the final outcomes from the workshop based on my own observations and thoughts. Having this flexibility in my work truly inspired me and demonstrated to me the power I could have when working through an international organization.

Indeed, the work I did on the RIAL shed light on the massive impact that tools that the OAS has created, like the RIAL, could have on the region. This tool was a product of one of the Inter-American Meetings of Ministries of Labor. The Plan of Action for one of these Ministerials had the creation of a space for productive exchange as one of the region’s new initiatives. The RIAL was thus created in order to have this space for exchange between Labor Ministries. Being a part of the implementation of the new Portfolio of Programs that is the main database of programs across the region as well as the RIAL newsletter and the RIAL Workshop on Labor Migration taught me how one tool could truly have tangible and meaningful results on the labor initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. Being a part of this program, and the OAS at large, was an incredibly experience, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity.

Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Xin Li, GSE ’18

This is my first time working in an off-campus setting. The feeling of the night before it started was like the night before I left home and went to a foreign country by myself for the first time. On the first day of my intern, when I was taking the picture for my new ID, I was so excited and smiled so hard, even my eyes almost disappeared.
I was working for a non-profit organization that supports individuals who are living with behavioral health challenges. The organization supports mental health through providing Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) training. It has a belief that everyone is his/her own professional and has the power of recovery. I have always been interested in this field, especially children and adolescents who have experiences of trauma, depression, or other mental health problems.

However, the first week of the work did not go smoothly. I started with evaluating the effects of Youth and Young Adults CPS training. Doing evaluation is relatively new to me, so it pushed me to check materials and learn how to write an evaluation report. I finished it under the support of my supportive and lovely supervisor, and I learned a lot in the process. Also, when I went through the curriculum manual to do a better evaluation, I learned lots of useful tools to scaffold the recovery process.

I also did an outreach with a staff member S and helped a homeless person C to move. Having a young appearance, wearing a pair of fancy sunglasses, clean pink shirt, and a shining silver watch, he was totally different from my impression of homeless. I was so happy for him after he got the key of the new house and moved out from the shelter which was built for individuals experiencing homelessness who have physical or mental health experiences. Before I left, we stood outside of his door that sunny afternoon; he stood straight and shook my hand formally. No matter who we are, which occupation we are in, we are all human beings and deserve the same veneration, I reassured this belief.
S told me that there are many homeless people in the city and the nation as a whole. Driving across a very dangerous neighborhood in North Philly, he showed me a bridge where many homeless adolescents would trade drugs in the evening. Many children were killed in this region, he told me. I knew it was because of poverty, lack of education, and many things related. It may be hard to change the situation in a short time, but I am willing to contribute.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do the internship. It opened my mind, led me to find darkness, as well as hope and resilience in this diverse city which is far from my home country but for which I also have affection. I also strengthened my career goal in advocating to help children, adolescents, and young adults who are living or have experience of living in an adverse environment.

CS Radio – Episode 47: “Career Wellness”

Beyond even being on the job market, career planning and exploration at all levels can be an incredibly stressful and difficult task. This week, we take a close look at resources available to help you stay well prepared and release your stress while planning your career. Mylène and Michael welcome back their colleague, Dr. Joseph Barber, to talk about how Penn Career Services partners closely with CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) to provide career wellness resources to the campus.


Show Notes

Career Wellness
Even Artichokes Have Doubts (Yale News)
CAPS and Career Services
Personal Wellness and Career Workshops

Career Exploration and Assessments
Career Exploration
Interests, Skills and Values Exercises

3 Ways to Cultivate Confidence to Ace Your Interviews

Tiffany Franklin, Associate Director

Photo Credit: krung99/iStockPhoto

As the leaves start to turn, the days get crisp, and pumpkin products are ubiquitous, that means fall is in the air and so is interview season. For Career Services, this entails a lot of mock interviews to help students prepare and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job as a career advisor. I’m always struck by how amazing Penn students are and the incredible things they are doing. I’ve also noticed a tendency for students to minimize their achievements, almost as if imposter syndrome has swept through campus like a cold or virus. While I’m not advocating for anyone to be arrogant and walk around campus randomly rattling off their resume, there is a proper time and way to discuss your accomplishments. Your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profiles, and interview are the perfect place to articulate what you have achieved so far and where you aspire to go next. In order to shine in these job/internship interviews, you must believe in yourself.

Why is confidence necessary for interview success?

To understand why confidence is a key component of success, let’s reflect on the purpose of the interview. Employers already think that you can do the job and that’s why they are inviting you to an interview; otherwise, they would not waste their time. Resumes lead to interviews and interviews lead to job offers, so by the time you land the interview, you have already crossed some substantial hurdles to get to this point. The interview is the time for you to show the employer why their first instinct about you was right. During my recruiting days, I wanted to confirm that the candidate had both the skills and the motivation to do the job. Basically, I needed the candidate to inspire confidence that they would be able to hit the ground running, make positive contributions to the team, and collaborate well with their colleagues.

How does a lack of confidence manifest itself in an interview?

When discussing upcoming interviews, some students say, “Why did this employer pick me? It must be some mistake?” Statements like this may lead the student to not prepare as thoroughly as they should because they are giving themselves as out and letting fear win. I didn’t think I would get it anyway, so why try? Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For others, it may not be as blatant. When answering interview questions, his/her voice may go up at the end of the story signaling a question rather than a statement. Or, the person may have answers that fade out at the end. Over the years, I’ve had students in mock interviews rattle off a list of reasons why they aren’t qualified for the job so they can get that out of the way and tell me why I should hire them. The reason this strategy backfires is that it leaves the hiring manager with a negative impression from the beginning that’s hard to overcome. On the nonverbal front, fidgeting, a lack of eye contact, a weak handshake, and using filler words (um, like, you know) can also signal a lack of confidence.

Let’s Pretend You are the Recruiter

Imagine a scenario where you are the founder of a club and need to recruit a handful of new members to help you build the group into something that will live on after you graduate. When speaking to potential candidates, would you want to work with the student who can barely look you in the eye and cannot provide examples of past experiences that relate to the position you are filling?

How to get confidence for your interviews

Now that we’ve talked about why you need confidence, let focus on ways to build it in yourself.

1) Take the time to prepare for your interviews.
a. This means thinking about your answers and practicing them aloud repeatedly. No, you are not memorizing answers. Instead, you are smoothing out the delivery. This will go a long way in building your confidence.
b. For tips of answering interview questions, see an older post about an Essential Interview Skill.
c. Check out all the interview prep resources on the Career Services website.
d. Schedule a mock interview with a Career Services adviser.

2) Stop comparing yourself to others.
When surrounded by overachievers, it can be a bit overwhelming and easy to feel like you are falling behind. Don’t forget all the incredible things you did to get admitted to Penn. You are one of those overachievers! No matter how together people look, everyone has their struggles and some are better at hiding in than others. Check out PennFaces, a wonderful site with stories of the ups and downs other students have navigated. You are not alone! Take some of the pressure off by focusing on your own achievements and not those of others.

3) Make a List of your 3-5 greatest achievements
When preparing for an interview or any challenge that seems intimidating, it’s helpful to think of your past wins. Do this not only to prepare answers for your interview questions, but also as a way to visualize yourself being successful. Think about the process that got you there. It’s wonderful to focus on the pride you felt high school graduation day or when you met a goal that had eluded you for a while, but also think of the process of how you got there. Remember the ups and the downs and how you demonstrated an ability to persevere. Resilience is a quality that employers value!

Building confidence for your interview may feel awkward at first and take some practice, but you can do this. If you feel you need extra help in boosting your self-esteem, you have resources on campus that will support you such as the CAPS office, which offers group workshops and individual appointments. Career Services is here to support you through every aspect of your job search whether you are just beginning to explore options or you have an idea and need career advice during the job/internship search process.