Taking Stock

The end of an academic year is a natural time to take stock and evaluate. As a student, you are probably thinking about all that you have accomplished this year such as completing degree requirements, learning all kinds of new information, achieving successes with student or volunteer activities, or simply reflecting on how you’ve grown and changed as an individual. You are likely looking forward to new endeavors this summer including perhaps completing an internship, taking classes, traveling, preparing for graduate school, or starting a new post-graduate job.

Some of you may still be finalizing your next steps and that’s okay! Industries have a wide range of hiring timelines and some simply don’t hire far in advance of when they need an individual to start working. Career Services will remain open all summer and we are happy to schedule appointments with students and alumni either in person or via phone if you have questions about your next steps. You can easily schedule these appointments in Handshake. While you are logged into Handshake, don’t forget to take a look at the job listings! We have had almost 80,000 opportunities posted this year for Penn students and alumni on Handshake and new ones are added every day.

The Career Services staff has also been busy taking stock of how we can most effectively serve Penn students and alumni moving forward. As our long-standing Director retired last summer, it was the perfect time to assess our programs and services. To that end, we invited three external reviewers to campus in January who met with nearly 100 individuals including faculty, staff and students across Penn. Thank you to everyone who took part in these important discussions. The visit culminated with some excellent recommendations for us to consider. As we move into the summer, we will be drafting a strategic plan that will draw on these recommendations and align our priorities over the coming three years. We already have various initiatives planned for this summer and the next academic year including finding new ways to connect with students earlier during their time at Penn, implementing new career exploration tools and services, starting a Peer Career Advisor program, enhancing our website and other communication channels, and continuing to conduct outreach to a diverse set of employers. Stay tuned for more! Even though this academic year is drawing to a close, we are excited for the new things to come in 2019-2020.

Good luck on finals and best wishes for a wonderful summer from all of us in Career Services.

Spring 2019 in Career Services Starts With YOU!

We hope that you had a wonderful, relaxing, and restorative winter break. There is nothing like a new semester and a new year to get one thinking of all the possibilities that lie ahead. We also hope that you will include Career Services in your plans as you think about your future. We have lots in store for the Spring 2019 semester including a variety of career fairs which start next week! Check out our Creative Career Fair, Common Good Fair, a new Research Fair, the Spring Career + Internship Fair which spans a variety of industries, our Startup, VC and Data Analytics Fair, or the Penn Design Career Connection Day. Penn students are also invited to participate in several off-campus collaborative career fairs including the All Ivy Environmental & Sustainable Development Career Fair at Columbia and the Greater Philadelphia Teacher Job Fair held in Oaks, PA. Of course, while the volume tends to be lighter in the spring than in the fall, we still welcome employers to schedule on campus interviews in the spring as well as hold employer information sessions, all of which are listed on Handshake.

Do you have questions about how to prepare for career fairs? Create a resume? Wondering how to find a job in the entertainment industry or apply for a faculty position at a university? Apply to medical school? These are just some of the many topics covered in the workshops Career Services advisors will offer over the course of the semester. Explore the events calendar on our website to learn about all of our workshops or RSVP for them by logging into Handshake and clicking on the Events tab at the top.  While you are in Handshake don’t forget to sign up for our specialized industry-based CareerMail e-newsletters so that you will be sure to stay updated about information and events throughout the semester. (To sign up for CareerMail, click on your name in the top right corner of your Handshake homepage and fill out the career interests section.)  With the thousands of job and internship listings in Handshake, you are sure to find something of interest to apply to if you are seeking opportunities!

Finally, if you are just not quite sure where to start, that’s okay! Start by making an appointment to meet with a Career Services advisor. You can request appointments in Handshake by clicking on the Career Center tab at the top of the page. Appointments tend to fill up quickly at the beginning of the semester, but appointment times are added weekly so if you don’t see anything available when you first log in check back in a few days or stop by during our walk-in hours.

Here’s to a great spring semester!


The end of the semester is incredibly busy for most students with finishing class projects, studying for final exams, contributing to campus activities, and perhaps beginning or continuing with a job or internship search. With all of these demands, it can be hard to find the time to quietly reflect on the numerous things for which many of us can be grateful. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it reminds us to take time to appreciate – a practice that can get lost in the craziness of everyday life.


Given that it is my turn to post a blog on Penn and Beyond – and that Thanksgiving is tomorrow – I have two great reasons to reflect on all the things that I appreciate in my career. I am thankful for the opportunity to work at Penn with motivated and talented students who inspire me every day. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate regularly with committed and generous colleagues both in the Career Services office and the wider Penn community. I’m particularly grateful this year that after 20 years of working at Penn, I’ve been granted the wonderful opportunity to take on the new role of Executive Director of Career Services and build upon the career development work to which I have devoted my professional life. I feel incredibly fortunate as a first-gen student to have been able to earn degrees from three very different institutions. The educational experiences I have pursued have changed my life and opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world. I’m particularly appreciative to the many mentors I have had, including faculty and supervisors, who have taken the time to help me grow.

I challenge each of you to reflect on what you are thankful for during this holiday season. Who has changed your life for the better? Has a faculty member helped you to discover a new passion, learn a new skill, or think deeply about an issue in a new way? Did an internship supervisor mentor you and teach you how to perform at your absolute best in a new and unfamiliar work setting? Have your parents supported you through the high points in your life as well as the disappointments we have all experienced? As you think about your life and career, it will be evident that the vast majority of us do not make it “all on our own”, but owe a debt of gratitude to those who have helped, supported and encouraged us along the way. Hopefully all of you will enjoy some quieter time over the next few days. I urge you take time to reflect on what you have to be grateful for…and be sure to thank those who have helped you along the way.

Best wishes for a restorative Thanksgiving break!

Tips for the Second Part of Your Summer Internship

Most of you are probably well into your summer internship or research experiences. Hopefully you’ve settled in, established a good relationship with your peers and manager, and are continuing to learn new things every day. Following are a few items that you might consider for the second half of your internship to gain even more from your experience.

Network: There are almost certainly a core group of individuals with whom you work every day. Of course, it’s critically important to develop positive relationships with them. Many interns, however, find it beneficial to expand their networks by developing relationships with employees in other functional areas or departments that also interest them. If you would like to gain a broader understanding of your organization, try reaching out to others within it to see if they might have time for a cup of coffee or a lunch meeting so that you can learn more about their daily work. Even better, if you have a good relationship with your manager, perhaps ask him or her for an introduction to pave the way.

Volunteer for Additional Assignments of Interest: If you’ve already learned the core parts of your job, are performing well, and have some extra time, perhaps you might volunteer to help out with an additional assignment that could help you learn new skills and be beneficial to the work flow in your group. That said, if you are too busy with your current work or are struggling with it, it makes the most sense to focus on these core responsibilities instead of taking on new ones.

Request a Mid-Summer Review /Discussion: Some interns will have a formal, scheduled mid-summer review, although many organizations save formal feedback until the end of the summer or don’t provide it at all. If such a review is not already scheduled, it can be helpful to request one with your manager to solicit feedback that you can utilize for the remaining weeks of the internship. Ask what you are doing well and how you might improve. Try not to be defensive when you are given constructive criticism. While it might be difficult to hear, this feedback is ultimately to help you grow professionally and can be very valuable. The review does not have to be overly formal – it would be fine to simply ask your supervisor for a few minutes to discuss how the summer has been going in terms of your performance and how you might be even more productive during the remaining weeks.

Document your accomplishments and request a letter for reference. You are most likely super-aware of what you have been working on and your accomplishments this summer, but a year from now your memory might not be so sharp. Document your accomplishments (including outcomes and quantifications where you can) so that you will be able to include them on your resume and discuss them in an interview. If you feel comfortable, ask your manager for a letter of reference at the end of the summer. If he or she prefers not to write a formal letter, you could ask if they would be willing to serve as a positive reference for you in the future and if it would be ok for you to provide their contact information to prospective employers. Keep in mind that it is a good practice to notify a reference if you provide their contact information to someone in the future so that they will be prepared for a prospective employer to reach out to them.

Most of all, enjoy the rest of the summer! Internships provide an incredibly valuable chance to try out a career field and are not so easily attainable after graduation, so make the most of this great opportunity.

How Important Is GPA When Looking for a Job or Internship?

Let’s face it…. a strong GPA has never been detrimental when applying for jobs and internships. It can demonstrate that an applicant is intelligent, has a good work ethic, and takes his/her role as a student seriously. That said, I very often hear from students who think an extraordinarily high GPA is required to land an attractive job or internship. These comments don’t resonate with what I know to be true about Penn student outcomes… that most of them land great jobs with interesting employers, whether they have a 3.0 GPA or a 3.9 GPA. For that reason we recently embarked on a study to look more closely at the GPA ranges of Penn students entering various industries. We merged information from the Career Plans Survey for the Class of 2017 with GPA data at graduation. While we don’t have a 100% response rate to the survey, we did have information on a respectable 86% of the Penn undergraduate class, so know the results are grounded in solid data. What we found might surprise you.

The chart below shows the middle 50% of Penn GPAs for various industries. We have included below some of the more common industries that Penn students enter after graduation because we had enough data points to make the calculations meaningful. Penn students obviously enter many other industries, but we did not report on them because smaller numbers could skew the results more radically. (Note that MBB stands for the big 3 consulting firms – McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain; Bulge Bracket are the large investment banks, excluding boutique banks; and the Frightful Five Tech is Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Alphabet/Google.) The data clearly demonstrates that a 3.8 is indeed NOT required for any of these industries.

Middle 50% of GPAs for Penn Students Entering Various Career Fields

Employers consider a broad range of variables when deciding which students to interview. Yes, GPA is often one of those variables, but just as important are the skills students display on their resumes developed through coursework, internships, extracurricular activities, etc.

The non-tangibles are also essential. Has the student demonstrated an interest in the industry, job function and specific organization? Does the applicant demonstrate strong communication skills through the cover letter and on the resume? Has the applicant taken the time to network and get to know people at the organization? While it may not always seem fair, who you know (and more importantly – who knows you!) can make a big difference when employers decide which candidates they are going to call for an interview.

So, while an extremely high GPA is not a prerequisite for landing any of these jobs, a low GPA can present challenges when seeking jobs or internships. Here are a few things that Career Services advisors suggest to mitigate a lower GPA:

Consider why your GPA is lower. Some students may have a particular semester that is an anomaly because of an illness, difficult family situation, or simply being over-committed. Is there a way to explain this to a recruiter? For example, something like the following might work:

You may notice that I did not perform as well academically during the spring of my sophomore year. I wanted to let you know that I had mono that semester and was unfortunately not able to devote as much time to studying. I am happy to say that once I recuperated my grades rebounded, and for my most recent semester I achieved a 3.5 GPA which I consider to be more reflective of my abilities.

Did you do better in your major /concentration classes? Highlight that fact on your resume. Per Penn policies, be sure to include the number of courses included in the calculation. For example: Major GPA: 3.4 / 4.0 (7 courses).

Network, network, network. Once people get to know you (and your charming and engaging personality!), they are more likely to go out of their way to help you and more likely to overlook what might be considered a lower GPA. Make it a point to talk to people at the organizations of interest to you. Attend information sessions on campus, go to career fairs, or simply network by using the alumni tool on LinkedIn or the QuakerNet directory. While networking won’t guarantee you an interview, it can certainly go a long way towards making one happen.

Highlight Other Assets on Your Resume and Cover Letter: Every candidate should highlight their strengths on job applications. For some, that might be GPA. For others, it could be technical skills, great leadership abilities, or an amazing work ethic (demonstrated by working 20 hours a week and being highly involved in a campus club). Be aware of your personal strengths and highlight them on your resume.

Be prepared to talk about your GPA. While you don’t need to volunteer your GPA if not asked in an interview (and we recommend leaving it off your resume if it is below 3.0), you should be prepared to talk about it if asked. Take responsibility for it, don’t be overly defensive and don’t blame other people. Instead, think about aspects of your GPA that you might be able to talk about positively. For example:

When I came to college I did not have strong study skills and my grades suffered because of it. During sophomore year I discovered the college learning center and developed new ways to study more effectively. I’m happy to say that my GPA has risen every semester since.

Be flexible about the places you apply. Well known employers receive many thousands of applications from college graduates each year and can be very selective about who they interview and hire. (An article on CNBC.com reported that Goldman Sachs received over 250,000 applications from students in 2016.) There are thousands of other organizations out there that could be great places to work, but which are less well-known. Chances are that your resume will stand out more at a less well-known organization.

Talk with a Career Services Advisor. Career Services staff are here to help you with every aspect of your job or internship search and every situation is unique. If you have concerns about how your GPA may impact your job or internship search, please schedule an appointment to talk about your personal situation. You can schedule an appointment through Handshake (under the “Career Center” tab at the top) or by calling the Career Services office.