New To Handshake This Fall

Natty Leach, Associate Director

As we approach the last month of Summer, I wanted to take the time to share some exciting new features that will go live to Handshake this Fall.

New Homepage:

The “For You” tab which offers tailored collections of jobs to explore will be clearer and more inviting. While there’s no sample to share right now, the mockups look more inviting and easier to browse.


During the Spring semester, we participated in a trial that allowed Penn students early access to the online Reviews submitted by both Penn students and others in the limited trial. In the fall, this will open up to all other Handshake schools (over 700 nationally) so you will benefit from the input of peers at schools like Princeton, Columbia, UChicago, UVA, Stanford, and many more. You can access these reviews by going to an employer’s profile in Handshake:

In total, you’ll now benefit from:

100,000+ reviews from students from

700+ schools nationwide, covering

300,000+ companies


Also on an employer’s profile will be question and answer responses between students and young alumni. Ask students and alumni questions about anything career related:

OCR – Interviewing on Campus Filter:

When looking at what employers are coming to campus this fall, you can now easily search for specific jobs by adding the “Interviewing on campus” filter to your search:

Android App:

Handshake has made a ton of improvements to their OS app and will be unrolling an Android specific app near the beginning of the Fall semester. The app includes the ability to apply to positions in just one click, register for events and fairs, sign up for appointments, or just browse what’s posted in the system:

Informational Interviewing: A Summer Project

by Marianne Lipa, Career Advisor

As the mid-point of the summer has passed, it’s the perfect time to think about ways to connect with people to learn about their careers, organizations, positions, and gain useful information in your future job and internship searches.  If you are currently interning this summer, reflect on how the internship provides practice, experience, training, and skills.  Informational interviews are conversations that provide an opportunity to gather information, establish connections, and allow you to share information about yourself in order to achieve your career goals.  Some key tips to remember:

  • Reach out to potential contacts via email.  In the email, remember to explain how you found their name (both LinkedIn and Quakernet are valuable resources for finding alumni), introduce yourself, and ask if you could schedule a time to speak with them about their career path.
  • Come prepared with questions to ask during the informational interview/conversation!  Check out this list of:  sample informational interview questions
  • Informational interviews focus on various topics such as:
    • Preparing for a career in this field
    • Particular organization/company the person works for
    • The person’s current job
    • The person’s future career goals/steps
    • Prior experience and preparation
    • Lifestyle/Expectations
    • Factors taken into consideration for hiring decisions
    • Referral to other contacts
  • It’s important that you do NOT ask for a job/internship.  You are welcome to mention that you are conducting a job/internship search by asking general questions and seeking advice about how to best approach the process.
  • When setting up the informational interview, plan to allocate no more than 30 minutes.  Remember that they are busy individuals offering to share their time and expertise with you so it’s important to be respectful of their time.
  • Lastly, always send a thank you email to your contact.  This allows you to show your appreciation and they might be able to assist you in the future especially if an opportunity arises at their particular company or if they know of another opportunity within their network of contacts.

Feel free to further discuss informational interviewing with an advisor in Career Services.  We’re happy to help you, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Replenish: Taming Overwhelm in the Job Search and Beyond

by Sharon Fleshman

Career decision-making, the job search, and even starting a new job can be a bit overwhelming, so making room for replenishing is a great habit to start (or strengthen). To that end, here are three questions to ask yourself as you move toward your next semester or phase of life:

Who and what brings me positive energy and joy?
Answering this question is a good way to make sure that you can be intentional about including life-giving people and activities in your day-to-day life. It can also give you clues for finding a good career fit.

What am I noticing about myself right now?
This question can help you to assess how you are feeling and showing up. Any concerns about what you notice can pave the way for helpful interventions, whether quick ones such as deep breathing or calling a friend, or more long-term ones such as attending a mindfulness program or counseling.  Don’t forget to take the time to notice and celebrate the positive as well. 

What is my strategy for self-care?
Even with the most rewarding work, having a plan for replenishing is necessary.  Self-care can encompass many areas of your life (e.g., physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, etc.) so you will want to be holistic in your strategy.

Feel free to connect with a Career Services advisor to discuss how your answers to these questions relate to your job search or other career planning activities.  We also have a list of self-management and personal wellness reflection questions on our website.  

Here are some additional resources to check out:

Wellness at Penn

Student Health Service

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction/CAPS

Office of the Chaplain

Weingarten Learning Resources Center


Uncovering the secrets of the cover letter

Dr. Joseph Barber, Senior Associate Director

While there are certainly specific styles of resumes that reflect different career fields and industries, the cover letter offers a much less structured document, and so often leads to much more confusion. You will no doubt get different advice from everyone you ask about cover letters, and so what I am covering here will certainly to add to this pile. However, having read a frighteningly enormous number of cover letters in my role as a career advisor, my advice comes from experience. This experience can be divided into positive experiences (where the letter was interesting to read), and neutral-to-negative experiences, where the letter was readable, but not very engaging. When you are thinking of your cover letters, the description of “readable” should be the absolute minimum outcome you aim to achieve. Ideally, your letter is interesting, engaging, unique, positive, energetic, and optimistic! That is a lot to achieve in one page!

The first question to ask yourself is what is the purpose of the cover letter? If you have already created a customized resume for the job you are applying to (and this is essential), then you have already highlighted the relevant skills you have (relevant to the job you are applying to). You don’t just want to provide exactly the same information again in your cover letter. Reading the same information twice doesn’t make it any more impactful, but can definitely make it less interesting. Used strategically, the cover letter gives you an opportunity to highlight some of the best parts of your resume in a slightly different way, and with the main focus on explaining why – why you’re the right person for the job; why your experiences are relevant; why you want to use your skills and knowledge in this new role at this new organization. The answers to these questions are not punchy bullet points. Instead they need to be slightly more narrative in their form, and when you start using more narrative formats you can start using story-telling approaches. The benefit of telling stories is that you don’t just have to state empirically what happened (which is what the bullet point in the resume does), you can talk about the broader impacts of the experience, including what you learnt from it, how it made you feel, why you sought it out, what was so surprising about it, why is was challenging, and so on. These will all be unique perspectives to you (which makes them interesting to your reader who won’t have read them in 100 other cover letters), and can help make your letter more energetic by bringing in action-based emotional states. People remember stories more than they remember high-level, generic statements that you have important skills.

Let’s cover the basic structure of a 1-page cover letter that I tend to recommend. We can break it down into three separate sections just to make it easier to think about.

First paragraph/opening

Make a very clear statement of intent. This means avoiding statements such as:

“I am writing to possibly explore the opportunity to be interested in applying for the position of….”

Instead, the most direct approach could be this:

“I am applying for the position of X that was advertised on your website

You can add to this, but be direct. The rest of the first paragraph is taken up with a takeaway conclusion about yourself. Yes, you can start your letter with a conclusion. This means that the reader immediately knows you have something that they want, and makes them more likely to read the rest of the letter to find out more. If you are going to start off with a conclusion, though, make sure that it is relevant to your reader by summarizing what they are likely to care about the most. Take a look at this introduction sentence and see if you can identify what some of the key takeaways are, and thus what some of the job requirements might have been:

“With 8 years of experience managing multi-step data collection projects in academic and industry settings, and an ability to establish and maintain relationships with clients, stakeholders, and international collaborators, I am excited to bring my creativity and structured approach to this Data Analyst role.”

Middle paragraphs

Once you have made a conclusion statement in the introduction (I know, it sounds a little weird!), the main part of the letter is going to be expanding on these themes. You don’t have to go through all of your experiences from the resume, but rather you want to highlight the best parts. This means that everything in your cover letter should be echoed by something in your resume, but not everything in your resume needs to be mentioned in your cover letter. And if you are wondering why you can’t just customize your cover letter and send a standard resume as part of your application, just remember that not everyone will read a cover letter. You want them to, but you cannot make them!

The main body of your letter will contain good illustrations of your relevant skills in action, all wrapped up in a narrative form that includes just a sprinkling of drama. Here is an example of a story without drama:

“As a project leader in the PBG Healthcare Consulting Group, I oversaw a team of 3 students and completed an extensive market analysis of the medical device field to determine the a suitable pricing model for a wearable device developed by the client.”

None of this is bad information; it is just not that engaging. It would be much better as a bullet point in a resume. And if it were already a bullet in the resume, it should not just be repeated in the cover letter. Here is an alternative version with a little more drama.

“When I was serving as a project leader in the student consulting group at Penn, my team had engaged with a client seeking market access information for a new wearable device. We faced two immediate challenges with this work: the device was unique, and there were few products to compare, and this was the first consulting experience for half of our 4-member team. In thinking about the project, I saw their lack of experience as a possible advantage, and took the opportunity to encourage the two new team members to think creatively about comparable products in the medical space and beyond. In two brainstorming sessions, we successfully generated sufficient data for our market analysis. I found it really satisfying to see how well the new members complemented and then learnt from our more practiced approach”

Every piece of work you have done, every project you have been involved with, has presented its own unique challenges. If you can state what these were, and talk about how you have used your skills and abilities to overcome these challenges (relevant skills and abilities for the job you are applying to), then you have the basis for good examples. Concepts that you can touch on in a cover letter that are hard to highlight in a resume include:

  • Enjoying or being excited about something
  • Learning from an experience that went well or badly
  • Combining experiences from two separate roles you have had (that might be separated by years on a resume) to show how you solved a problem
  • Explaining why you did something, not just that you did it
  • Passion

Final paragraph

Once you have given some examples to illustrate the themes highlighted in the first paragraph, you can move to the final paragraph. Here you might want to answer the questions: why do you want this job? Why do you want to work here? The answer to these questions should flow nicely from the examples you have been giving.

“In all of these projects, I have found myself most engaged when I have been able to bridge disciplines, and draw upon my relationship building skills to establish productive collaborations. I would enjoy the opportunity to liaise between the marketing and science teams in this Project Coordinator role, and this would make exceptional use of my lab research skills and creative mindset. I have spoken with three Penn alumni who work at X, and each has highlighted the mentoring program for junior staff as wonderfully helpful for their own professional development. I have been fortunate to have strong mentors in my current lab, which has certainly helped me progress in my research, and I am very excited about learning from the experience of senior staff in this new role through this mentoring program.”

The more you know about an organization, and the role itself, the easier it will be to come up with an authentic answer to the “why this job?” and “why this company?” questions.

There is no perfect cover letter, and different approaches can be just as effective (after all, different people will read each letter, and they have their own ideas about good and bad letters!). Hopefully, you can take some of these considerations to heart for your next letter, and uncover just a hint of drama as you describe your exceptional skills, knowledge, and experiences!

Career Tips Through Life Experiences

Kevin Haines, Associate Director

Hello! My name is Kevin and I just started working at Career Services here at Penn about two months ago. Prior to working at Career Services, I worked at Penn Abroad where I advised students for their study abroad experiences along with summer internships. While Career Services and international education may seem like two opposite career paths, both jobs actually have a lot in common.

But let’s start from the beginning – Career Services was not a term I knew back in my freshman year of college. If I would have asked 22 year old Kevin back in May of 2000 something (I won’t give away my age that easily) where I saw myself in 2018, it would have definitely not been where I am today. And that is 100% O.K. Throughout the years after I graduated from PSU (We Are!), I wore a lot of hats in several organizations. I think one of the hardest things about college is not being exactly sure of what you want to do with the rest of your life. It’s a tough decision and one that arrives quickly. Here is one thing I think all students should know and understand: it’s alright to not know what you want to do after you graduate. I think I just heard a lot of gasps. But really, it’s okay. You may start a job and years later find yourself doing something you never dreamed of doing. It’s through your many life experiences that help shape the person you are and the future that awaits you. Here are some tips if you find yourself asking “what do I do next?” and have no idea where to start (whether you’re a freshman, senior, or alum!):

1. Your first job will not be your forever job.
Graduating from PSU, I thought I had it all figured out: I’d become a teacher and have summers off and live happily ever after. Wrong. Once I actually started teaching, it wasn’t until then that I realized I wanted something more. I learned a lot, and to this day enjoy being a teacher outside the classroom setting, but full-time teaching just wasn’t in the cards for me. So, all those student-teaching courses/semesters back in college only to find out that it wasn’t my passion – great. But here’s the thing: that’s normal and perfectly fine. Your first job out of college will not be the job you’re in for the rest of your life (for some maybe, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone these days). You’ll never know exactly what you like until you try it. But isn’t that what college is all about? Blood, sweat, and tears for four, maybe five years studying non-stop, writing countless papers, taking quizzes/tests, joining clubs, volunteering, etc. to help land your dream job the day you graduate? Sure, but also in those four or five years you grow as a person and your mind changes at least six times a day about what you want to do when you get older. Take a breath, enjoy the moment you’re in, and know that in the end it will work out. You may have to go through a lot of jobs before you land the one that you wake up smiling and ready to start the day at, but until then, learn as much as you can and network. Which leads me to my second point of advice.

2. Network, network, network! It wasn’t until I lived abroad in Madrid for a year that I realized higher ed was my calling, specifically the study abroad field. After teaching college-level Spanish for a bit, I started reaching out to people in the study abroad field and setting up informational interviews with them to ask how they broke into the field and where they started. It was through emailing these people I had never met that I was setting up connections that would one day help me get into the field. This was something

I was nervous about. “Why would anyone want to chat with me, a stranger, about how they got into the field? I’m sure they have a million other things to do.” These were some of the things that went through my mind before reaching out. Don’t be shy – reach out to someone to ask about their job and/or company. This is how you get a tiny part of your foot in the door and your name remembered in case you choose to apply to where that person works. People who truly love what they do will find five minutes to talk on the phone or meet in person (treat them to coffee if that’s the case!) to discuss their field and position. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Attend networking events, talk to friends, use LinkedIn (definitely a game changer as you can easily search for companies you’re interested in and then see if you have any connections), email, etc. There are so many ways to network and by doing that, you are getting your name out there and learning more about a job or company that interests you.

3. Study/Intern Abroad or Intern locally (if you can!). Once I started working in the study abroad field, I was a coordinator then switched schools and became an advisor. It was through my own study abroad experiences that I figured out what it was that I wanted to do – help students get an international experience where they can learn about themselves, live in a new culture, and gain experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If I never studied abroad spring semester of my junior year, I would have never been able to get the learning and traveling experiences I’ve had. It can and will be an expensive semester. However, thankfully, nowadays there are ways to get funding to help with that, whether it’s through campus/outside scholarships, financial aid, work study jobs, other on-campus funding, or program grants. Even if it’s just a week, or a month, a semester, or a year, any international experience you have will benefit you somehow. I once had to call the cable/internet company in Madrid myself and use my Spanish to explain what I wanted and set up a time for them to come out and install everything. Now, I know that sounds like an extremely easy task and pretty silly, but my Spanish was very limited and I was sweating the entire phone call repeating words and phrases and saying a whole lot of “vale, muchas gracias.” Being forced to do that made me step outside my comfort zone and push myself. From something that small, to being mugged and then going to court to point out which person mugged me (talk about terrifying, and it was all in Spanish!), all of those life experiences made me grow more confident in myself and grow as a person. I’m thankful that I was able to study abroad and I continue to be a huge advocate of it. There is so much world out there to explore and see, and there’s no better time to do it than when you’re an undergrad. If studying abroad isn’t an option, but interning is a possibility, that’s equally as amazing. While I’ve never interned abroad, I managed the Global Internship Program (GIP) through Penn Abroad (for about a year and a half) and helped send so many students abroad to all parts of the world. What I would give to be able to live and work in Nepal, Botswana, Singapore, or any other country for 8 weeks! Adding a study abroad or internship experience to your resume makes your resume jump out more and shows employers that you are ambitious, adventurous, hard-working, and up for a challenge. Not sure how to add those experiences to your resume? Make an appointment at Career Services and we’ll be more than happy to help!

4. Utilize Career Services! I must admit, when I was an undergrad at PSU, I never once stepped foot in the career services office. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I knew an office like that existed back in the year 20…whenever I was an undergrad. I think realizing something so resourceful as that office existed with internship opportunities, alumni I could have spoken to, workshops, career fairs, and career advisors, I would have had different summer opportunities. However, #noregrets. Since I’ve started working here at Career Services, I’ve been able to really see just how much information and how many resources we have for all students and alumni. Side note: just because it’s currently summer doesn’t mean you can’t get help from us! Sometimes, summer is the best time to meet with an advisor because it’s a lot quieter. Once the Fall semester arrives, the rush begins. If you need help with your resume, cover letter, mock interview, advice about a job, phone interview, or you just don’t know where to start with the whole job search process, we’re here for you. We’ve all been through it, so we understand what you’re going through. It’s our job and we are more than happy to help you. So, my advice for you is to stop staring at your computer screen trying to figure out a similar verb for “managed” or “worked” on your resume or how to address your employer – schedule an appointment and we’ll help you get through it!

I hope sharing some of my experiences has helped ease your mind a bit about planning for your future. Sometimes things work out differently than you thought they would, and that’s the beauty of it all – you’ll get where you need to be, just be patient, don’t give up, and believe in yourself. Until next time.