An Iconic Brand

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Meredith Mitchell, COL ’19

This summer I interned at The Ralph Lauren Corporation in New York City on the Global Corporate Communications team. For as long as I can remember I have had a strong interest in fashion. I searched for an internship that would allow me to learn more about the fashion and retail industry. Ralph Lauren, an iconic brand with diverse price tiers and markets, merges the creativity of fashion with analytical business thinking. This internship gave me the incredible opportunity to immerse myself into the retail field. It was filled with learning, excitement, networking, and not a single The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly moment.

By working in Corporate Communications, I was at the center of the company. My team partnered with almost every sector of the business including Sustainability, Investor and Celebrity Relations Human Resources, and Business Strategy. My main responsibilities were developing content for the company intranet called RL Today, revitalizing the company’s social media policy, and event planning.

I was particularly fortunate to be part of the Corporate Communications team this summer because Ralph Lauren is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and Corporate Communications is planning a celebration for the company’s 23,000 employees around the globe. I took part in team brainstorming sessions and conducted event research to create a deck that was shared with leaders such as the VP of Corporate Brand Development, the SVP of Corporate Communications, and even David Lauren. It was really exciting to have my work shared with leaders in only a 10-week internship.

Another core part of my internship was collaborating with a team of interns to develop a way for the company to become more sustainable. My team created a product concept for an eco-friendly shopping bag. Through this project I developed a stronger understanding of the retail industry by researching competitors, delving into all business areas such as product design and consumer care, and meeting with Ralph Lauren employees working with denim, textiles, and packaging.

However, this summer was not all about work—there was plenty of fun as well. The office always had M&Ms—Ralph Lauren’s favorite candy—and almost every week the University Relations team planned group activities for the interns. For example, the intern class also had an event with Ralph Lauren’s CEO Patrice Louvet where he shared his background, gave career advice, and discussed the future of the company. On an equally exciting note, during my first week there was intern scavenger hunt around Manhattan and while searching around the city my team bumped into James Corden.

At our Intern Farwell event, a member of the University Relations team announced that our group of 48 interns was selected out of 4,000 candidates. I am honored have had the opportunity to take part in such a collaborative and exciting internship. Thank you, Career Services, for making this an unforgettable summer that has confirmed my interest in the retail industry and helped shape my career goals.

CS Radio – Episode 71: “Everything Old Is New Again For Grad Students”

Hot on the heels of last week’s look at the revamped home page for our graduate students and postdocs, we’re taking a look at a revamped career students for STEM grad students and postdocs!  J. Michael and A. Mylène are joined by Tara Giagrande, Administrative Assistant for the graduate student teams in Career Services, who tells us all about this week’s Biosciences Career Fair.  Enjoy!

The Minds of Children

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Oseme Precious Okoruwa, COL ’20

My summer could only be described as exhilarating. I was kept on my toes by a group of 9-10 year olds as we made vats of popcorn, played video games, and told scary ghost stories in the hot sun. This summer wasn’t all fun and games though, I spent a lot of time learning about the current state of groundbreaking neuroscience research.

This summer I was an intern on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, or ABCD. ABCD is the first of its kind because it is a study taking place at over 21 research facilities across the country. Because the demographics we studied are so broad and wide, we are able to learn a lot about the human brain and how it develops certain behaviors. This NIH funded study is attempting to follow more than 10,000 children for ten years as we research how brain development relates to other areas of children’s lives.

I initially was so excited to work on this study because I’m majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior. Most of my coursework is in neuroscience, biology, and psychology. This summer I was able to see classroom concepts put into action in the research field. Seeing the practical application of these textbook topics has given me a deeper understanding of what I’ve been learning at Penn.

Working on this study has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had the chance to discover otherwise. From the very first week, we were learning and discussing the ethics behind human subject research. In the past, I had only worked with animal subjects and I didn’t have any clinical research experience. However, I was able to participate in great discussions and have my questions answered by scientists who have been working on clinical research projects for years.

Another opportunity I had was to attend Science Friday talks. These were one-hour long conferences where we got to hear from researchers who discussed various topics. From suicide prevention training to data collection techniques, these talks gave me insight into the various aspects of neuroscience research. I was able to listen to top researchers and learn about their passion for what they study as well as how they got to where they are today.

But the highlight of my summer experience was getting to work with the kids. There are so many parts to making this study work: there’s MRI scans, NeuroCog activities, family histories and personal response surveys from parents. We played brain games and puzzles, and tested biological samples. There was always so much to do to make this project succeed.  But at the end of the day, I knew I was contributing to something great that would have a lasting impact on future generations.

This was an invaluable experience that I was able to have thanks to the funding provided by the Career Services Grant. The funding I received helped to support me this summer for everything from transportation costs to food expenses. I am very grateful to have been a part of this program.

The Psychology of Networking

Dr. Joseph Barber, Senior Associate Director

With my Ph.D. in animal behavior, I have been specifically trained to identify and analyze subtle changes in the behavior of animals that I observe. The fact that I spent my time watching chickens for my Ph.D. will become relevant in a moment as I start talking about networking.

As an animal behaviorist, I have developed testable hypotheses about why behavior changes, and what internal or external factors lead to such changes. As a career adviser, I still use this scientific knowledge when it comes to human behavior — we are just another type of animal, after all.

One of the most interesting career-related situations that is rich with behavior is networking. It is a social behavior, which tend to be some of the most complex behaviors we see in the animal kingdom. If I were trying to create a behavioral ethogram (a well-defined list of behaviors that observers can use when collecting data on behavior), I might define networking along the lines of a social, affiliative interaction involving direct or indirect physical or vocal communication between at least two individuals

If that is all networking is, then why can it seem so stressful to many of us? In terms of how I, and the many introverts like me, perceive networking, I might change the definition slightly to state: a social affiliative interaction involving direct or indirect physical or vocal communication between at least two individuals that results in a measurable stress response — and one individual (or possibly even both) running back to their room, hiding under their covers and vowing never to do it again.

That’s not a scientific definition, but it is an accurate description of how many people experience networking events. That is how I experience them when faced with meeting lots of new people in a short, concentrated space of time (hello, every conference I have attended). Given that I studied chickens, perhaps my interest in understanding the struggles to network effectively makes a little more sense. If chickens were actually a cowardly species (they are not — read this), then I would certainly associate myself with them when it comes to networking.

But chickens are not cowardly in the least. They are highly social, superinquisitive, and have been shown in research to identify up to 90 other chickens they have interacted with as familiar. They are probably much better networkers than I will ever be — if they didn’t peck the living daylights out of unfamiliar birds they meet and tread in their own poop, that is. So, if chickens can actually be effective networkers in their own way, then there is also plenty of hope for those of us who find some parts of the networking experience draining and overwhelming at times. Here are some best practices for introverts based in the science of animal behavior, more or less:

Keep your social groups small. Speaking with another person where the ratio is one to one rather than one to many is always going to be easier to manage. You will find that this networking approach suddenly just feels like having a conversation and is not bad at all. It is OK to avoid large networking events, or find opportunities for small groups conversations within them, and it is great to prioritize one-on-one informational interviews with people in career fields that interest you.

Focus on the needs of others to distract you from any negative emotional states. One of the key approaches to any networking outreach is to make sure the person with whom you are interacting feels positive about that interaction. I have talked about the fear response I get if someone asks if they can “just grab a coffee” here. If someone I didn’t know reached out and asked if I could forward their résumé on to a hiring manager in my office, it would first make me feel a little awkward — how can I say no politely other than just ignoring the request? — and then perhaps a little angry. Why am I now spending so much time worrying about how to say no? Why would this person put me in a position to be angry at myself? All of these negative feelings become connected with the person who reached out to me.

So how do you make people feel positive? You value them for who they are and appreciate what they are willing to share, and you thank them — authentically and often. For example, if someone were to reach out to me and ask what some of the trends are in the field of career professionalism for Ph.D.s and postdocs, I would need to give this some serious thought. Serious thought takes time, and even after a lot of this time, I still wouldn’t be able to come up with a very satisfying answer for this high-level question. The question is a neutral one — it doesn’t make me feel bad, but it doesn’t leave me feeling positive.

Now, if I was asked what I have done at Penn to focus on career professionalism for Ph.D.s, it wouldn’t require deep thinking. It would give me an opportunity to talk about something I have invested lots of time in already and that am likely to be engaged by. If the person I am talking to finds hearing about the approaches I have taken here to be interesting and valuable, then that is going to make me feel good.

Positively reinforce behaviors you want to see more frequently. If you have given your dog or cat a treat immediately after they have performed a behavior you like and want to see more of, then you are engaged in the process of positive reinforcement training. Once an animal makes a connection between a behavior and the reward, the behavior will occur more often.

You can train most animals in this way. If you want people you meet through your networking outreach to continue to provide you with great insight, then make sure that you positively reinforce them, too. Always send a thank-you note or email to people who have taken the time to speak with you within 24 hours after meeting them. This works just as effectively after speaking with employers at a career fair or an actual job interview. The longer you wait, the less effective the reinforcement is.

If a contact you have met suggests someone else you can speak with, go ahead and do so. Thank your new contact after you have met them, and then get back in contact with your initial contact to tell them how helpful your conversation was with the person they recommended. Everyone likes to be thanked. If you are authentic in your thanks, you might find that your contact is more willing to suggest someone else that they know as your next outreach contact.

Use your social connectors effectively. People often ask me how they can tap in to the many second-degree connections that they have on LinkedIn. (Second-degree connections are people whom you don’t know but someone whom you know does know). That is a fantastic way to grow your networking and make the sometimes scary step of reaching out to new people much more effective.

Let’s say I want to reach out to James, who works as a senior scientist in a biotech firm I am interested in. I don’t know James, but I see that I am connected to Magda on LinkedIn, and Magda is connected to James. I can leverage my existing relationship with Magda in one of three ways to establish a connection with James. I could ask Magda to share the email she has for James. First-degree connections on LinkedIn can see each other’s email addresses. With this email, I could reach out directly, but that could still be a hit-or-miss approach if I don’t leverage my social connections. Or I could ask Magda to introduce me to James. Magda might send an email to James directly, copying me in and asking if James would be able to speak with me. That is the most effective approach, but it requires the most effort from Magda. As a third alternative and good middle-ground approach is to ask Magda if I can use her name when reach out to James. For example, I might write:

“Hi, James, I saw on LinkedIn that we both know Magda Patel. I worked with her for a couple of years at Penn in the student consulting club. I contacted Magda, and she highly recommend that I reach out to you and said that you would be a great person to ask about some of the genetic sequencing projects at your company. This is an area I am very interested in exploring in terms of industry career paths, and so I would love to hear a little about your experience in this field. Can I send you a couple of quick questions by email or set up a time to chat on the phone, if that is easier? This would be so helpful in my exploration of possible paths to focus on when I graduate next year.”

The reason that James might be more likely to respond to this email is that he might not want to lose his social standing and reputation that he now feels he has with other people — in this case, Magda. If Magda highly recommends him, and says he is such a great person to talk with, and then he turns down my request, it will result in an immediate loss of perceived status. If I reached out to James directly without involving Magda, he could easily ignore my outreach without feeling too bad. As soon as another person is involved, James is likely to be much more aware of how he is perceived both by me and the person whom he knows. The truth is, I may have just asked Magda if she recommended James and thought he would be great to reach out to, and she might have just said yes, but that is good enough to get the social connection process started.

So there you go: some easy to use, biologically sound, behavioral-based approaches to help you (and your chickens) with networking!

Interning Remotely

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Anna Walzinska, COL ’20

My internship experience was a bit different than others, as I worked remotely. I live in the central Connecticut area and there really weren’t many marketing, communications, or social media opportunities, but I thankfully found a social media internship with Everly Mag through Penn’s Handshake portal.

Everly Mag is a digital publication geared towards teens and tweens. It promotes positivity and features young stars that act as role models to their young fans. I thought this would be perfect for me since I’m a communication major and I had just completed COMM 245: Teens and Screens where I learned about how teens interact with media and what effects they have on them.

The founder of Everly Mag seemed to like my experience and passion, so she made me the leader of the social media internship team, so I was the pinpoint person for other interns and delegated tasks. First I was in charge of just the Twitter page, where I wanted the account to have a unique feel from the rest of its presence, so I made a live tweeting schedule featuring shows that are relevant to the target audience. I also started to make graphics for the publication, which was a very rewarding experience. I’m no graphic designer, but I used to avoid doing all types of art like the plague, so it felt great discovering new ways to make visually appealing images that the audience enjoyed and interacted with.

After several weeks, it was time to really step up and be a leader. The publication’s founder was getting married and going on her honeymoon, so I became responsible for all social media pages, including the publication’s Instagram which had over 15,000 followers. I was now independently thinking of strategies to increase engagement and get the publication’s message across. I was also interacting with the social media influencers who did takeovers on the page, promoting the blog posts from the main website onto the Instagram stories, and continuing my other responsibilities.

Because I succeeded with all this, my boss decided that I can continue posting on the Instagram. I liked having an influence on a publication that had such a great reach with young teens and it felt good to have them react positively to something I posted, whether it was through an interactive poll, a campaign featuring positive teen stars, or even just a silly meme.

It’s a misconception that remote internships are easier or require less work than other opportunities. Remote work is really what you make of it because it is so independent most of the time and requires constant communication with your team. I wanted to put my all into Everly Mag, so I made sure I went to a local library every weekday and worked on it. It didn’t even feel like an internship, it felt like an actual job because I was so invested and was able to have my ideas put into action. The funding award from Career Services made it possible for me to be so dedicated to this internship, and I am extremely grateful. I learned so much about social media strategy and plan on continuing my involvement with Everly Mag into the fall semester.