Serving Your Way to Success

by Anne Guldin Lucas

Of course it’s come to this. When I volunteered during a May CS Staff Retreat to write a blog during my summer vacation, it seemed so far away.  No worries.  I’d find some inspiration in time.  As the deadline approaches, I realize that I’ve been spending almost all my time watching and playing tennis during my vacation. As I contemplate the job search, naturally I’m relying on the lessons I’m learning from tennis. Let’s see if I can identify some analogies that will inspire and encourage you as you embark on, or continue in, your job or internship search.  Forgive the randomness of the list; Wimbledon is on, and I have another tennis match (having played four sets this morning) later this afternoon—no rest for the weary!

  1. Be prepared! The pros and their coaches do their homework on their opponents (think employers), and even I do some stretching before a match.  Preparation includes practicing your shots, I mean your interview answers, and polishing every aspect of your game, I mean your resume, and, of course, your interview shoes.
  2. Stay patient and positive! Job searches are generally taking longer in this still-uncertain economy.  You need to plug away at it and believe in yourself.  Think of the epic Isner-Mahut Wimbledon match (70 – 68 in the fifth set, and of course I watched every minute!).  Compared to that, 150 applications and a few dozen interviews are nothing, right?!

    image via Bruno Girin on Flickr
  3. Respect your opponent and be a good sport. Follow the rules!  Always conduct yourself on the court (and in the job search) with grace and honesty.  Cheating will catch up with you eventually, and it’s not worth it.
  4. Learn valuable lessons from every shot and every match, that is, from every job search experience. Few people get the first job for which they apply.  If you’re turned down, think about how you can improve—your documents, your interviewing skills…Ask a Penn Career Services counselor to help you diagnose your weaknesses and practice to improve them.  Your hard work will pay off, and you’ll serve an ace eventually!
  5. Keep your focus, and be present in the moment. This is important during a match and during an interview too!  It may be especially challenging if the crowds are roaring or you’ve got poor service on your cell phone during a phone interview.  Keep your cool, and you’ll get through it in stellar fashion.
  6. Seize your opportunities—to close out a match or turn the corner in your job search. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention networking!  I network on and off the tennis court every chance I get.  We all know that golf courses have historically been a wonderful place to do business too.  What resources are available to you that you haven’t tapped yet?  Brainstorm, be confident, and go for it!
  7. Keep your sense of humor. While your job search is indeed more important than a tennis match (unless your name is Roger Federer or Serena Williams), everyone gets another opportunity to succeed.  Learn to laugh at yourself and with others.  You’ll relax and be better off for it.
  8. Remember that things can turn around quickly. Just when you think there’s no hope, you hit one good shot, and you’re back in the game.  My partner and I were down 1-5 in the final set of a match today.  We relaxed, persevered, and next thing you know we won the set in a tiebreaker.  Your positive attitude and persistence will pay off in the long run.  Believe in yourself, stay focused, and go for the win!
image via Hamza 26 on Flickr

Please remember that your family, friends, and all of us in Penn Career Services are cheering for YOU in your job search.  Your preparation, hard work, focus, and good attitude will help you WIN the job search.  Happy Summer, wherever, however you’re spending it!

Pronoun Abuse: An Interview Diagnosis

By Anne Guldin Lucas

Stuart Student was in the midst of a terrific interview.  He was in the zone, responding to even the most difficult questions with thoughtful, succinct responses.  Irma Interviewer was smiling and making comments that convinced Stuart he was about to clinch the job offer.  Then he was asked the question for which he had been hoping:  “What was your greatest accomplishment as a Penn student?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Stuart responded, “During our first term at Penn, me and my friend started a program in local homeless shelters to increase the rate of high school graduations and college matriculations among homeless students.  This year, our fourth year of the program, we achieved a 95% success rate.  The Mayor presented she and I with a Philadelphia Citizenship Award.”

A shadow fell across Irma Interviewer’s face, and she muttered something about remembering that they had filled this job opening last week.  As she was showing Stuart to the door, he wondered where he had gone wrong.  Could Ms. Interviewer possibly object to educating children or did his response lack the proper humility?  He didn’t even mention that their picture was on the front page of the DP!

What do you think, reader?  Can you diagnose Stuart Student’s fatal interviewing error?

Yes, it was pronoun abuse!  Whereas Stuart’s opening sentence required that he use a first person pronoun in the subjective (“my friend and I” vs. “me and my friend,”), his last sentence called for objective pronouns (“her and me” vs. “she and I”).  If those grammatical terms are too hard to remember, simply omit Stuart’s friend from the equation, and your ear should guide you to the proper pronouns.  Surely no one would say, “During my first term at Penn, me started a program….The Mayor presented I with…”

Contrast Stuart’s interview experience with that of Stella Student.  Ricky Recruiter asked challenging questions, and Stella was prepared with all the right responses—and proper pronouns.  When asked that fateful question, “What was your greatest accomplishment as a Penn student?” Stella quickly and expertly responded, “During our first year at Penn, my friend and I launched an initiative against Pronoun Abuse.  Having cleared the Penn campus of errant pronouns, the English Department awarded him and me with Distinguished Student Awards.”

Needless to say, Ricky Recruiter’s next words were, “You’re hired!”

P.S. If you are inspired to become Sammy Syntax after reading this blog, you can learn more about pronoun usage by consulting:

Forget the Want Ads: How to Use the Newspaper to Enhance Your Job Search

by Anne Guldin Lucas and Peggy Curchack


How do you read the newspaper?  No, I don’t mean on your Kindle, computer screen, or on old-fashioned newsprint.  Rather, what are you learning from the papers you read?  Do you seek sports scores and recaps or do you anxiously study regional news for the latest Philadelphia crime reports?  The articles you choose may offer insights into your career interests, and may give you information that can get you closer to your career goal.

Business-focused Penn students have always read the papers to prepare for their interviews, noting merger and acquisition news and carefully noting the Dow and S & P numbers.

However, there are lots of other specific career-related sections or columns of newspapers that are worth reading too.  Using the New York Times as an example, the “Science Times” section in the Tuesday edition will inform you of who is doing what in a great many research areas, citing specific scientists, projects, and ongoing research both domestic and international.  The “Arts” section is a source of rich information on arts management, including names of leading galleries, managers, and fund raisers.  For those interested in the Beltway, The Washington Post is must reading, and can help identify people and organizations from whom to seek jobs and internships.

Start reading the newspaper like you’re a detective, and you’ll be amazed with what you find.  Even something like this (a postscript to an article) may offer an unexpected opportunity: “Travel expenses were paid in part by readers of Spot.Us, a nonprofit Web project that supports freelance journalists.”