Discover Your Work Values

Jamie Grant, Senior Associate Director

Today, April 25, 2019, is National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.   The University of Pennsylvania does this day up in grand style – and thankfully provides opportunities for children across our entire community to see their parents – and our students – at work, study and play throughout our campus.  It is my sincere hope that by participating in this day, and pursuing other experiences like this, my young children will be informed and inspired in their pursuits of careers and purpose. 

At one of the events today, my eleven year old son was ecstatic when he figured out how to get his little Lego robot to follow a path on the floor – I wonder, will he become a roboticist?  He and I were both fascinated by the amazing discoveries at the start-up companies in the Pennovation Center, and by the trainers at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center – will he become a veterinarian?  A writer?  A teacher?  An entrepreneur launching his own start-up someday soon?  I find that working in a place like this, not just today but every day, inspires me and keeps me learning all of the time – feeding directly into my strongest work values of Knowledge and Aesthetics.

When you were eleven, did you have a vision of your future?  Did you dream of a career path?  Maybe you were younger when you set on your goal; maybe your goal was solid, but changed due to any number of circumstances in life.  Maybe your goal – and your life’s path – is still evolving.   All of these places to be in your career journey are just fine.  If, like me and my young son, you can find something that lights you up, that makes you feel like you are living and working in a career or a place or with people with whom you share or feel appreciation of your work values, you may just find the “perfect” path for you no matter the industry or job title.

For more information on identifying work values and an exercise to help you clarify yours, please visit   Whether you are considering an organization for employment, deciding on an internship or job offer, or in the process of examining what it is you hope to pursue some day, you will undoubtedly find that knowing what is important to you makes that journey that much easier.

Character Strengths

By Jamie Grant, Senior Associate Director, C’98 GEd’99

I recently attended a professional development session in which we discussed the impact of positive psychology and the importance of finding opportunities in life that play to our strengths, impacting our performance and job satisfaction in addition to the way we manage life issues.  Through completing a free online – and quick – assessment of “character strengths” through the VIA Institute on Character as recommended by our instructor, (, I learned a bit more about myself, and I have taken just about every career-related assessment out there!   It also helped me to understand why working in Career Services has always felt like a rewarding and just-about-perfect fit for me.

I work with many students as they begin the career exploration process, and some who are literally deciding on an offer that day.  Many of the same types of questions come up for both types of advising appointments – students wonder where they fit, what kind of work might be best for them, where are they going to be “happy” and how to get that job.  It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate your potential for strong performance AND satisfaction with your work by reading a job description, or even going through a rigorous interviewing process during which you get to ask all of your questions!  Hopefully, by exploring things like your “character strengths” and getting a grasp on when you are most likely to feel engaged and fulfilled professionally and personally, you may get a strong(er) sense as to what types of roles, organizations and career paths are ultimately your ideal fit.

And as always, please don’t hesitate to connect with an advisor here in Career Services to discuss this process or any other career related questions or concerns on your mind!   Warmest wishes for a restful and deservedly long winter break to all of our current students!

The Confluence of Career Planning & Decision Making

By Jamie Grant, C’98, GEd’99
Senior Associate Director for the School of Engineering & Applied Science

September and October are such interesting months in career advising, as there is a truly full spectrum of questions. It’s a time of beginnings – the freshmen are here, it’s the start of a whole new school year, new classes.  Yet, it’s also a time for many students to be making career planning decisions all along that same spectrum – what kinds of internships do I want to pursue, where are my skills and capabilities the best fit, which full-time opportunities should I go after.  In a few particular industries, it’s “go” time for full-time and internship roles – deadlines to accept or decline offers are looming, even if candidates were able to get an extension from organizations excited to have a commitment from an amazing and skilled Penn student like you.  Others career fields and organizations are just getting started.

No matter where you or your path(s) of interest fall within this process, we’ve got you in Career Services.  At any time of the year, we’re happy to guide you and help you explore all the possibilities, weigh the decisions and go through the pros and cons of your choices in a methodical, objective manner.  I know this can be tough – just this week, I’ve helped new students brainstorm relevant skills and experiences to include on their resumes, helped a soon-to-be graduate compare two similar offers, down to stock options and healthcare plans.  Such objective discussions perhaps may not be possible with others in your support system – I remember my family and friends all offered their own advice on my job search and decision making, and how much emotion and subjectivity defined those conversations.

Before you meet with one of us, you can certainly start some of this thinking and exploration yourself with the tools on our website.  It’s never too early – or too late – think about the impact of your values, skills and interests and how that all ties together with your educational plans and career path.  And know that we as advisors have years of experience helping candidates look at all the angles and weigh the options, present the best versions of themselves throughout the application process, and pursue and achieve whatever “success” may look like for each individual.

Becoming the American Ninja Warrior of Job and Internship Applications

Jamie Grant, Senior Associate Director

Have you ever applied for an internship or job online? If your first response is “yes,” and your immediate second is “but it’s like applying to a black hole!,” you’re not alone!  It’s VERY time- consuming yet required, and you may rarely – if ever – hear anything back.  What a waste of time, right?!!

But, with roughly 90%+ of employers using some form of an online platform, called an “Applicant Tracking System,” to accept and review applications, chances are you’ll HAVE to tough out the crazy challenge – like training for American Ninja Warrior J and hopefully making it to the finish line!!  Let me share with you some tips and tricks to make sure you have at LEAST a fighting chance to get to the interview – and hopefully/eventually an offer!

First, let’s break it down.

An Applicant Tracking System is just software – a front end application interface for candidates of every level, and a back-end database and interface for the recruiter or hiring manager.  When you create a profile and submit an online application, you have created a record for yourself in the database that employer is using. You, the experienced professional, and every level of person that that organization may hire, uses the application portal (and this can explain sometimes that you’re asked what feel like some totally irrelevant questions – but stick with it, Ninja!  You can do this (especially with a little help from AutoComplete)!  ATS systems do a few specific things for an employer – parse resumes (extract information from your document, if it can*), store resumes for later search, allow for keyword searching, filtering, and generating the oft-dreaded “auto-emails.”

Second, almost everything has to do with keywords.

How does one search a database of potentially hundreds or thousands of submissions for a particular job? 10 out of 10 times, it’s a keyword search (usually Boolean for you search-experts) on the many resumes the computer has already “parsed.” The more keywords on which the recruiter is searching that your resume contains, the higher percentage “rank” your application receives.   The higher your rank in the results, the more likely you are to get pulled – by a real human being! – for the next step in the process, an interview!  It’s kind of like “Search Engine Optimization” – how does a website show up at the top of your search results and get the clicks the site host wants? It’s all in the keywords.

Creating or adding into your “Skills” section may be a great work-around if the keywords you think are most relevant are not naturally fitting into other sections of your resume. And, using an important skill more than once – i.e. including it in your Skills section as well as calling it out as a tool used when you’re describing your experience – can be helpful as well, for the frequency by which you use an important keyword can boost your ranking.

Third, let’s be friends!  🙂  The goal is to make your resume as “ATS-Friendly” as possible. Preparing your resume for the online application process has almost NOTHING to do with design and layout and visual appeal (sorry, friends using InDesign or Latex), and EVERYTHING to do with simple file types that can be easily parsed by the ATS (think .doc, .txt – not all systems can even handle PDFs) and your appropriate use of keywords as they are relevant to the job. Try to stick to one page, use measurable statements of results when possible, etc.  There are several resources online for “ATS Friendly Resume Design,” so check one out to see if your own document could use a few friendly edits!

I and the advisors on our team use a tool often to help students “optimize” their resumes for the online application process called You can certainly give a site like Jobscan a try or two for free, to see where you may have gaps in your skills and help you sharpen your document.  But please know that long before there were online systems, there were Career Advisors like those of us in Career Services.  Years of training and thousands of resumes later, our teams here can help you figure out how to make your updates, trim out the no-longer-relevant stuff, maximize keywords, and more!  We’re open all summer, so please reach out if we can help!

Dear Advisor: What do I do!? I don’t have a summer internship lined up!!

I have met with many students in the past few weeks who begin our session with a familiar refrain for this time of year:  “I don’t have an internship!” or “All my friends have internships for summer!” or “It’s SO late, I’ll never find an internship now!”

One of the things that always comes up as we work to dismantle the panic-stricken feeling and replace it with actionable steps is that, frankly, the month of April is still in many fields and parts of the world considered early for summer internships.   Now, I don’t want to give any false hope or reassurance – it is always best to start early so you don’t miss applying for opportunities of interest – but there are, even today, internships open for college students of all years and in a variety of fields.

While these may all not be in your interest area, a search for keyword “Summer Intern” on brings up almost 1,000 hits of opportunities posted within the last 15 days.   But don’t limit yourself to “intern” as your keyword – get creative.  Dig into the Advanced Search page and throw in some keywords that interest you – “Analytical” or “strong communication skills” or “within 5 miles of (fill in your zip code here)”  Also recognize that some employers eschew the word Intern for other job titles, but can offer an experience you may truly value.  I hope this may lead you to an opportunity you’ll want to pursue if you’re seeking at this stage – and to help ensure your resume communicates the best you have to offer, visit a Career Services advisor – we are here and happy to help you!