Minding Your Mindset for Interviews

“Uggghhhhh.” That’s what goes through my mind when I think about the interviewing process. How many of you feel the same? The agony of figuring out what to wear. (“Is this suit too shiny on me?”) Not knowing what to call the interviewer. (“It’s nice to meet you, Justi– er, I mean, Mr. Bieber.) The nervousness beforehand, and trying to prepare for any question imaginable, no matter how ridiculous. (“If I could be any vegetable in the world what would I be? That’s easy – an eggplant for its lovely hourglass figure!”) The post-interview period of “not knowing” and the inevitable psychological-meltdown-slash-confidence-suck. (One hour after the interview: “Hey Mom, the interview went great! They loved me! It’s in the bag – let’s celebrate!” Three days later: “Nope, still haven’t heard back. I guess there were a few speed bumps…and I’m sure they have a lot of good candidates….” One week later: “Should I email them…again?” Three weeks later: “Uggghhhhh.”)

If you have ever experienced any of this, you are not alone. Interviewing is often awkward, annoying and a lousy way to spend an hour. But for most great jobs, it must be done, so in order to be successful, it all comes down to attitude.

Attitude management can take work, especially if you are under a lot of stress. I often manage mine with music and media. There was a show in the 80s called The Greatest American Hero and it had arguably the best television theme song of all time. Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve used this song as an attitude adjuster, and it has come in handy, particularly before job interviews. I will play it two or thirty-four times, and as a result I typically bounce into my interviews feeling happy, confident and alive, ready to tackle whatever challenge is thrown my way.

I encourage you to find your own “Greatest American Hero” tool, whether in a song, an outfit, an exercise, a form of meditation or a person you can talk with who helps you enter into the right frame of mind. When it comes to interviewing, attitude really IS everything. Channeling yours will be key to your success in the workplace, and when you do, believe it or not, you’ll be walking on air!

Steps to Success

fitbitSeveral weeks ago a good friend of mine introduced me to the Fitbit One, a high-tech pedometer that tracks daily steps, calories, distance, flights of stairs, activity and even sleep. It wirelessly syncs with my phone and computer, logging my daily progress to the Fitbit website. To top it off, the Fitbit incorporates social networking, allowing me to follow and compete with my friends who also use the device.

Using this “smart” pedometer has been fun and worth it – because it works! At the end of the day if I haven’t hit my goal, I will bundle up and brave the cold to walk outside until I do. By having concrete proof of my progress, I continually feel motivated to work hard, therefore shooting for bigger goals with each passing day.

It’s amazing the things we can accomplish when we hold ourselves accountable. Part of finding your ideal career comes from learning to be an adult, and part of being an adult means having ownership of and responsibility for your daily personal progress. Here in Career Services we do our best to give you the support you need during this exciting and important time of your life, but it’s up to you to take the necessary steps to reach your own goals. As recruiting season is in full swing and you are in search of that ideal summer internship or job, it’s important to stay on top of your game. If you haven’t yet, work on perfecting your resume or email it to get it critiqued by a counselor (be sure to leave ample time for review before your application deadline – usually 3-5 business days is fine). Practice writing cover letters for different types of jobs and solicit feedback from your peers or Career Services professionals. Meet with a counselor in our office for a prescheduled appointment or during walk-ins. Practice interviewing with Interview Stream so that you can record your own mock interview and send it to family or friends for critiques. Attend a workshop or other career event to learn valuable insights into the world of work. Utilize our online resources in our Career Library. Explore opportunities on PennLink or iNet. Learn all about (or simply review!) OCR and how it works (don’t forget to scroll down to the OCR Quickfind to find answers by topic or question). Lastly, peruse our robust Career Exploration page for helpful tips and valuable resources that will help you with your search.

Remember, reaching a milestone rarely happens by accident. It takes organization, a proactive game plan and going the extra mile (sometimes quite literally!) to achieve true success. Good luck with your journey!

Squirrel Talk

What’s with all the squirrel fascination on the Penn campus? I mean, I get it – they’re everywhere… jumping out of trash cans, gathering up discarded sandwich wrappers and pestering any human with a morsel of food. But as a person who grew up just over the bridge in a small, squirrel-infested Jersey town, I felt baffled when I first started working at Penn. I watched intelligent adults, sometimes whole families, prowling through the grass near College Hall holding outstretched iPads or phones, trying to snap a photo of an unsuspecting mutant rat. It was entertaining for me, of course, and soon I was hoping to catch people photographing squirrels. In fact, I started taking photos myself. I coined the series, “Photos of People Taking Photos of Squirrels.” They got a respectable number of “likes” on Facebook.

Regardless of season, squirrels remain abundant on campus, as do the squirrel photographers. Over time, my intense befuddlement transformed into perplexed amusement, which then became simple curiosity. Why do I not share such fascination for this animal I’ve apparently taken for granted my entire life? I’d muse. What am I missing? The question burned at my brain. As a result, I started paying more attention to the little guys.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on campus eating lunch down near Van Pelt, which has become a bit of a ritual for me. As usual, the crafty rodents were milling about, pilfering what they could. I noticed one squirrel in particular was collecting leaves with his little paws and strategically packing in them into a nearby nest in a tree. He’d collect one leaf, and then another, and then maybe another, at which point he’d stop and look me directly in the eye. It was practically robotic and at the time hilarious. I instinctively snapped a photo with my phone and studied the blurry picture, amused. In a following moment of self-awareness, I marveled that I had become the person taking photos of squirrels.

Part of success in the work place is achieved by seeing something from a fresh perspective, often another person’s perspective. By doing this, the successful employee or intern can often avoid detrimental conflict and more effectively solve problems. It’s not a skill that everyone naturally possesses – it often must be learned, and then practiced. Mastering this skill, however, opens the mind to be more innovative, intuitive and resourceful, with the valuable ability to see situations from alternative points-of-view.

As we wrap up the fall semester, many of you will look toward future internships or full-time jobs, primarily landing them. If you think you possess the ability to branch out and tap into different perceptions, consider using it to market yourself in an interview or on a cover letter. If you think there’s room for improvement, try to practice the transferable skill, starting small. Perhaps simple curiosity about a different point-of-view is the ignition that leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of that viewpoint – an indispensable tool you’ll ultimately use in any career across all industries.

Tune in next time for Anne Marie’s Animal Planet. We will discuss the infiltration of those pesky, golf ball-sized bees that swarm the campus benches each spring, an obvious metaphor for the chaos often perceived during the job search process. Why is no one taking photos of them?!

Learning from Longoria: Focus and Flexibility

Last night, I joined fellow members of the Penn family at Irvine Auditorium to hear Eva Longoria speak at the Lauren and Bobby Turner Social Impact Executive Speaker Series event.  Longoria, an actress, director, activist, humanitarian and business woman, sat down with Wharton grad Bobby Turner for well over an hour to shed a little light on her background, admit to challenges over the years and offer advice to those trying to figure out their own career aspirations.

Not really knowing much about Eva Longoria except something about her character Gabby on Desperate Housewives having a scandalous affair with the teenage gardener (okay, I’m lying, I totally know the plot for at least 5 seasons of that show), I still found myself phone-Googling her non-Desperate Housewives career endeavors about 15 minutes into the presentation. It didn’t take much searching to see pretty quickly she does have a genuine philanthropic spirit.

Continue reading “Learning from Longoria: Focus and Flexibility”

Summer: It’s a Wrap!

by Anne Marie Gercke

As the summer winds down, many of you are probably wrapping up summer internships or jobs to come back to Penn. You may also be feeling that familiar ache deep in your stomach that always seems to come around this time of year – this season, so often packed with fun and sun, is coming to a close. Hopefully you’ve had great experiences at your respective jobs and now have helpful skills to add to your professional history. However, as you are getting ready to say farewell to the old 9 to 5 to head back to school, maximize the benefits of your experience by using these simple tips:

1. Send a thank-you note. Take some time to write a note to your boss/mentor thanking him or her for all the help provided throughout the internship. Make sure to also point out some of the projects you enjoyed working on at the company. Was there anything you did that you thought was really cool? Include it! This is a great way to express your ambitions and interests, as well as add some closure to your job while keeping a window open for any future opportunities. Plus, you are more likely to get a good recommendation if you make a good impression.
2. Update your resume. While it’s still fresh on your mind, add your recent experience to your resume making sure to highlight your accomplishments. If your title was “intern” while working at the company, talk to your supervisor about possibly using a more descriptive title when detailing your internship. For instance, if your job duties involved managing the social networking sites and helping plan company meetings (in addition to grabbing coffee and a muffin for your boss each morning) something like “Social Media and Events Coordinator” may have a nicer ring to it. Don’t embellish, obviously, but it’s okay to be a little creative if it brings useful information to the table.
3. Network, network, network. LinkedIn is the perfect, professional online networking tool to connect with colleagues from your internship. Knowing and staying connected with people in the industry is key to breaking into the business, whatever it may be. A broad network of professional contacts makes any job search easier. Check out our LinkedIn alumni group here!
4. Plan your next steps. Did you like working at your internship? Can you see yourself working in that field in five, or even ten, years from now? What didn’t you like? What types of internships would you like in the future? Does Penn offer any classes that may help you expand on these interests? Are there any professional organizations you can join to stay connected? Determining your future goals now while you are still in “work mode” is a good way to get on the straightest path to achieving them.
5. Recharge and replenish! You’ve been working hard. With the school year quickly approaching, you need to take some time to get yourself ready and together. Catch up on sleep. Read a book…for fun. Exercise to clear your head. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Take a daily vitamin. Spend time with family and friends. These are all ways to ensure that you will come back to Penn with the energy you’ll need to have a stellar year, perhaps your best yet.

While the first day of classes isn’t too far off, you still have plenty of time to check off all these items from your list. As always, we are here in Career Services to help with any of your career needs, so remember to stop in to see us once you get settled back at Penn… and most important, enjoy the rest of your summer!