Snow Day Career-Related “Fun”

Yesterday was a rare commodity on Penn’s campus – a snow day!  The excitement of receiving the text message that you now have received the gift of an unexpected day off never gets old, does it?  So while you may be eagerly planning a day of sleeping in, bingeing on Netflix, and maybe a little fun in the snow, here are five equally exciting career-related tasks you could work on during your next unexpected day off!

1.Update Your LinkedIn Profile

When I meet with students and ask them if they have a LinkedIn profile, almost all answer affirmatively.  But with a little questioning, it is often revealed that they haven’t worked on it in awhile and could use some updating.  If you are on the job market, you have to assume that anyone who might be interested in speaking with you will look you up on LinkedIn.  As a job candidate, you want a potential employer or networking contact to see the most complete picture of you possible.  Check out your profile and make sure it is the most accurate and up-to-date version of you that you want them to see.

2. Review Your Career Interests in Handshake

As a job seeker, you have hopefully already fully activated your Handshake account and filled out your profile completely.  But as time goes on, your interests, experiences and job or internship goals may shift.  Perhaps the last time you updated your interests you were looking for an internship, and now you’re looking for a full-time job.  Maybe you have gained exposure to new industries and have narrowed your career interests.  Make sure to revisit your Handshake profile to make sure you are receiving the Career Mail newsletters that interest you most, and that your profile is complete and up-to-date for viewing by employers.

3. Check Out Upcoming Events on Handshake

New employer and Career Services events are added almost daily!  Log into Handshake and click on “Events” at the top of the page.  Click on the star icon for events of interest to be reminded of upcoming events which may be helpful in your job or internship search.

4. Organize Your Networking Contacts

Hopefully you have spent the last few months collecting networking contacts (and if you have not yet started, it is never too late to start!)  You may be collecting contact information from alumni, career fair contacts, or people family and friends have recommended to you.  Maybe you have a stack of business cards sitting on your desk just waiting to be organized.  In the long run, you will find it much more helpful to have all of your networking contacts organized in one place.  You can organize them into an excel spreadsheet, or use one of the many networking apps out there.

5. Catch Up on the News of the Day

Take a few minutes to read some of the national and international headlining news stories.  While much time is spent during interviews discussing your qualifications and interest in the position on the table, many employers will be interested to hear about your thoughts on other topics.  Keeping abreast at what issues are being covered in local and national newspapers will not only make you a more interesting candidate, but you might learn something, too.

Now go out and enjoy the snow! 

Career Services and CAPS Programming

Looking for a job or internship can be stressful.  Asking yourself big questions about what you want to do “with the rest of your life” can feel weighty and challenging at times.  Working with a career advisor at Career Services or seeing a counselor at CAPS can help with the natural stress and uneasiness that comes with job searching.  In addition to individual appointments, did you know that Career Services and CAPS collaborate on programing geared toward your job search?  Both Career Services and CAPS fall under the umbrella of the Vice President for University Life, and so it is only natural that we work together.  Below is a sampling of the programming we have scheduled for the fall semester; register today for a topic of interest!

Participating in any of these workshops will provide you with tools to develop career readiness competencies that will be valuable as you transition from the academic environment to your professional life, including:

  • Building personal and professional development strategies and goals
  • Managing stress and balancing work/life commitments
  • Identifying and expressing your values, skills, and strengths

These workshops cover a wide range of information on self-exploration and career development, including three tools that Career Services and CAPS offer to students:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): provides a foundation for understanding individual differences and preferences, and applying that understanding to the ways people think, communicate, and interact. This tool identifies your basic “personality type” which can be related to future career choices & working environments.

Strong Interest Inventory: reflects your interests in relation to occupations. Compares your interests to the interests of people happily employed in a wide variety of occupations and identifies job titles related to your interests. Understanding your Strong Profile can help you identify a career focus and begin your career planning and exploration process. This assessment is ideal for undergraduate and Master’s students.

CliftonStrengths: identifies your strengths and relates them to your educational and career plans. Helps you gain insight into your areas of greatest potential.  CliftonStrengths is not a career assessment and will not tell you what career you pursue, but can provide valuable information about who you are and the type of work environments in which you are most likely to thrive.

Students will need to register for these programs in order to complete the free assessments prior to the workshop. To see a complete list of workshops and to register, visit:

How to Start Writing your Resume or CV

One of the primary components of your job search tool kit is your resume or CV.  But where to start if you have never written a resume or CV before or have not updated these documents in many years?  The internet has thousands of samples to choose from, but where to start?

Career Services’ website has multiple samples of job search documents to help you get started on your written materials.  The samples we have on our website are from real Penn students and alumni who have agreed to share their resume or CV with other Penn students.  Spend time looking at the samples on our website that match your educational background.  A resume for an undergraduate from one academic discipline will not look the same as a CV from a PhD student.  We offer not only samples to help you get started, but also general advice about the types of information you want to include.

You want your resume or CV to speak about you as an individual, so use the samples as a guide and not a template.  Look at multiple documents to help generate ideas about what types of information you might include on your resume or CV given both your educational background and your career focus.

Penn has lots of resources to help you with your writing – check out a list of resources on campus to assist you, including resources specifically designed for international students. 

Once you’ve written a rough draft of your resume or CV, bring it to Career Services for a critique.  You can either make an appointment or come to walk-ins.  See our schedule for the appointment and walk-in hours that apply to you.  And once you have used your resume or CV to secure an internship or job, send it to us and we will add it to our samples!

5 Back to School Tips for Graduate Students!

The start of the new school year is an exciting time and full of possibility.  Whether you are a graduate student new to Penn, or one who has been here for several years, there are many things you can do to make the most of your graduate school experience.  Many of these tips have the added bonus of helping you to further discern your post-degree professional plans!

  1. Many graduate students suffer from “imposter syndrome,” in which an individual cannot take pride in their accomplishments and instead feels that they are fraudulent in their successes. They may feel that they have mislead others about their intelligence and live in fear of being found out.  This is a very NORMAL worry for graduate students.  To avoid falling into this trap, check in with your advisor regularly and spend time with your colleagues.  Your program chose you for a good reason!
  2. Connect with others outside of your academic discipline. Graduate students are very busy and it is very easy to surround yourselves with others who are focused on the same area.  Penn has many clubs and organizations specifically for graduate students
  3. Visit Penn’s Graduate Student Center. They have excellent programming for grad students, and provides a way to connect with students in other schools and departments.  Getting involved with people outside your immediate academic circle will widen your friendship circle, give you a breather from your research and lab work, and provide potential networking contacts.
  4. Take advantage of the tools available to graduate students interested in learning more about their career options. The Individual Development Plan (myIDP) tool from Science Careers, is an excellent resource for STEM students pursuing PhDs.  Create a free account and use it to create a personalized and strategic plan.  Imagine PhD is a similar tool for students in the humanities and social sciences and is launching this fall. 
  5. Visit Career Services early and often! Our team of career advisors work exclusively with graduate students and we can meet with you individually at any time during your time at Penn.  Whether you are certain of your career path, are looking for a “plan B,” or don’t know what you will do with your graduate degree, we can help you.  View a complete list of services for graduate students here.

We in Career Services look forward to working with you this fall and beyond!

Five Quick Tips on Informational Interviewing!

Dianne Hull
The summer can be a great time to meet with people for informational interviews. You have probably spent time being interview-ED, but this is your chance to be the interview-ER, where you can hopefully gain some interesting tidbits which will help you in your future job and internship search, as well as hopefully making some connections which can be useful down the road.

1. Do not be afraid to ask!

Many people are anxious about asking others to take the time to speak with them about career options. Remember, you are not asking for a job, you are simply asking for advice. By asking someone for advice, you are implying that they have expertise and knowledge. This is a compliment and many people are flattered that you would even ask them. It is most helpful to ask for informational interview from people whom you have some sort of connection with – alumni are a great place to start.

2. Prepare Ahead of Time

Brainstorm your questions ahead of time – think about what you want to learn from your meeting, and create as many questions as you can think of. You may want to break your questions into two categories, one that is more generic and could be asked of other contacts, and another list of more specific questions, which may only apply, to this particular person and their career. Do not plan to get to ALL of your questions, as you hope to have a conversation that flows naturally.

3. Research Your Contact and Their Career

Thanks to the internet and social media, you should be able to do some background research on your interviewee. Utilize LinkedIn, alumni databases, and old-fashioned Google searches to gain a good understanding of this person’s background – where did they go to school and when? What did they study? How long have they been at their current employer? Not only will this information help to frame the questions you want to ask, but also you will not waste time asking questions that you could have easily found answers to yourself. And your interviewee will be impressed with your preparation!

4. Use Your Time Wisely

When you initially schedule the informational interview, be sure to indicate how much time you think your meeting will take – no more than 30 minutes – and ask if that works for them. Be mindful of the time throughout your meeting. The best way to do this is to wear a watch, as you do not want to be checking the time on your phone during your meeting and create the misconception that you are checking on texts or social media.

5. Follow Up and Final Questions

At the conclusion of your time, be sure to thank your contact for their time and expertise. It is always a good idea to ask them if they have other contacts they might think would be useful to you. You never know whom they might refer you to that might be helpful. After your meeting, be sure to send a thank you note. Make the note specific to your conversation and offer to provide your contact with updates as you progress in your job search. Keep in touch on a periodic basis and will help to keep the door open if they learn of opportunities that may be of interest to you.

Visit Career Services informational interviewing page to learn more about questions to ask. Schedule an appointment with a career advisor to learn more about making informational interviewing work for you!