Liberal arts majors have confidence! You’ve got what it takes to be the *most* successful candidates in today’s job market

By Kelly Cleary

The merits and inadequacies of a liberal arts degree are common topics of conversation this time of year as sophomores declare majors (“What are you going to do with that?!”) and seniors navigate their way through the post-grad job search. I overhear these conversations on Locust Walk and read them on the blogosphere and in the news. But every day I meet with Penn students and alumni who debunk those myths and demonstrate the reasons why a liberal arts degree is one of the best ways to prepare for careers in today’s knowledge-based, global economy with its labor market that relies so heavily on creative, analytical problem-solving, innovation, and effective communication across cultures and platforms.

The trick is for liberal arts majors to be able to recognize and build on their strengths, and persuasively communicate those strengths to prospective employers.

Every year the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys employers who hire recent college graduates and publishes the “Top Ten Skills for Job Candidates” as part of its annual Job Outlook report. As you look through the list below, it should be a clear reminder that a degree from the College at Penn, combined with electives and extra-curricular activities, provides students with countless opportunities to practice and develop all of these skills—and indeed prepares students extremely well for success in their future careers.

Top-10 skills and qualities employers seek in their job candidates:

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  2. Ability to work in a team structure
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell or influence others

Source: Job Outlook 2013, National Association of Colleges and Employers, “Top Ten Skills for Job Candidates”

For seniors, as you continue to write and submit job applications and practice for upcoming interviews, think about which experiences during the past four years helped you learn, apply, and excel in these various skills– and prepare yourself to tell those stories to demonstrate your qualifications to prospective employers. Underclassmen should also think about how they can build on those skills and fill in any gaps they might have through future major courses, electives, extra-curricular activities, research, volunteering, and internships.

The Career Opportunities for Liberal Arts & Sciences Majors page includes information about the myriad of careers College grads pursue and advice for marketing your liberal arts degree.

Finding an amazing summer internship – with a little help from your friends

By Kelly Cleary


Few academic semesters start off in such a busy, sometimes stressful, frenzy as the spring semester for juniors and sophomores who are trying to figure out what they’ll be doing next summer. The fun and relaxation of winter break are distant memories as students try to balance sorting out their course schedules and figuring out the best approach to finding a summer job (and homework, and work-study jobs, and extra-curriculars, and Rush, and returning from study abroad, and so much more.)

Yes, you have OCR, PennLink, iNet, hundreds of industry specific listings on Career Services’ Online Subscriptions page, upcoming career fairs, walk-ins with career counselors, and Penn alumni with whom you can connect with via PACNet and Linkedin— all great resources for finding internship openings and advice for getting your application noticed. But did you know that some of the best resources for figuring out which industries or employers might be a good fit for you, learning about what an intern actually does at a particular employer, and seeking advice for putting together the strongest application are fellow students who have already been through the process?

No, I’m not suggesting you hang out on Locust Walk passing out postcard size versions of your resume (although that would likely get you noticed.) I’m suggesting you talk with your friends and classmates, especially upper-classmen, who have been through the internship search process before, and ask them for advice.  

The recently updated Penn Internship Network, a searchable database with nearly 1,700 current Penn students who have volunteered to speak with other students about their internship, is a fantastic resource for connecting with other students who share your career interests. Search options include industry, major, locations, how students got their job, and a keyword search function. Keep in mind that while the volunteers are usually able to provide helpful information and advice, they are not expected to help you “get the job.” To use this resource, go to (Pennkey is required to gain access.)

And why the Beatles to start this blog? Nearly every time I look at PIN with a student and we scroll down the list of former interns who match his or her targeted search I hear, “Oh my gosh! That’s my friend!” Some of the most helpful internship search resources are closer than you think.

Career Services extends a hearty “thank you” to all of the students who have signed up to be listed in the network.

If OCR’s not for me, what should I be doing now?

By Kelly Cleary

If you’re on Penn’s campus this month you’ve likely seen many seniors in dark suits spending their afternoons attending information sessions and career fairs and their nights updating their resumes, applying to On Campus Recruiting (OCR) jobs via PennLink.

But what should you be doing now if you’re not interested in working in for the finance, consulting, consumer products, and technology firms that recruit on campus in the fall? It is nearly impossible to provide a “one size fits all” job search timeline since each type of position you apply for comes with its own industry-specific protocols, but if you’ve asked yourself the question,” If OCR’s not for me, what should I be doing now?” here is some advice:

  • If you’re not sure where to begin, visit our Career Exploration page where you can access career interest inventories, resources for researching different kinds of careers, handouts on “What Can I Do with My Major?”, and specific information on first jobs and graduate schools for Penn alumni.
  • Ready to start looking? If you have an idea of the types of jobs or industries that might interest you (and it’s smart to keep an open mind about this), then visit our Job Search page where you’ll find tips for finding a job and specific resources for job postings. Since most industries don’t hire for post-grad positions until the spring, for now you can develop your wish list of prospective employers and gather a list of favorite job posting websites. Now is also a great time to network and do informational interviews with alumni and others who work in your field of interest.
  • Considering a Gap Year or a Year of Service? There are many interesting and worthwhile alternatives to starting a traditional first job. Our Year(s) of Service/Gap Year Programs website highlights many opportunities and resources. If you’ve met with me, you may know I’m a big fan of heading abroad or doing a year of service after graduation if you’re inclined to do so. My first job after college was as a teaching intern at an international school in Italy. I didn’t make much money, but it was an amazing experience that certainly helped shape my career path. Some of these Service programs and some government agencies do have earlier deadlines.

 The Policy & Government Fair on Friday September 28th  will be a great opportunity for you to learn about some of these post-grad options.  Registered attendees include service programs such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and Americorps, as well as the U.S. State Department, the FBI, U.S. Courts, Americorps, American Enterprise Institute, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who will be hiring for internships and full-time positions. For the full list of registered organizations, go to:

For more resources on public service related careers, visit our new Common Good Careers website. The International Opportunities Fair on October 25th will be another great change to learn about post-graduate service programs and jobs.

To make sure you don’t miss out on these types of events and opportunities, join our Common Good Careers and International Careers listservs for updates on related events and opportunities.

To subscribe to either of these listservs, send an email from your Penn account (NOT from a GMAIL or another account connected to your Penn account) to: with this command in the body of the e-mail:    SUBscribe CommonGoodCareers  AND/OR  SUBscribe InternationalCareers

  •  All of that said, be open to OCR opportunities  since some consulting, marketing or research positions might be attractive to “Non-OCR types” If you’re not an “OCR-type” you still might enjoy and be very qualified for some consulting, marketing, research, paralegal or government positions that are available through OCR (which really just means they collect resumes through PennLink and conduct interviews in our On Campus Interview suite in McNeil instead of interviewing people at their office or by phone or Skype.) Create and schedule a Search Agent in PennLink to make sure you don’t miss out on any OCR or general job postings that match your interests.

You have enormous flexibility over when you start your job search, but it almost always takes longer than one wishes to find a job, especially in a tough economy. For most job hunters, three months is the minimum amount of time it takes to find a job you want (this would mean if you want to start in June 2013, you’d start applying in March or so.) Good luck with your search!

When your thumbs do the talking, take extra care

Thx, C U soon, Same 2 U, Lv and miss u, R u kidding?, LOL 🙂

Text talk. It’s such an efficient way to communicate with friends and family when we’re on the go. The list above comes from a quick scan through my recent iPhone messages from family, friends, and co-workers. If you’ve ever seen me on Locust Walk, you’ve probably seen me fiddling with my phone, writing texts, talking to my dad, and checking email.

I’ve come to realize this technology is a blessing and a curse. My smartphone makes it easy to keep up with current events and what’s going on with work when I’m not at my desk. And sending “miss u, love u” messages and photos of my three year-old to my parents, siblings, and in-laws takes much less time than calling everyone. But do I need to be so obsessive about checking email? Probably not. And an emoticon could never replace my daughter’s smile when she hears the voice of a loved one who is miles away.  But enough of my musings about my own bad habits…

At work I recently received an email that simply said “+ Jennifer”. For a moment I thought this was a weird reference to Orwell’s double-plus type Newspeak from 1984.  But after rereading the email I came to the conclusion that since Jennifer (not my colleagues real name) had been left out of the previous email  “+ Jennifer” meant ‘Jennifer, I’m sorry I didn’t include you in my previous email. Please join us at the meeting tomorrow. I look forward seeing you then.” Or something like that.

Then I thought, wow, that’s really unprofessional. And then I remembered how just a few days earlier I nearly sent a co-worker an email from my phone that read, “Thx c u tomorrow.”  But before I hit send I (thankfully) realized I was in email NOT messages so I thumbed my way back and typed out a more coherent response.

For years I have groused with colleagues about the increasing number of students who are too informal and unprofessional in their email tone, often neglecting to use capitalization or proper punctuation. I frequently remind students that even if they write informally when emailing me with questions, they should use a more professional tone and take care with their grammar when writing to professors, prospective employers, alumni, and other networking contacts.

But my near miss made me realize how easy it can be to stick with the informal texting language when we’re switching so quickly between texting, email, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. on our smartphones. But my advice to students, and myself, remains the same. When corresponding via email in any type of professional context, take the time to write a thoughtful, well written, grammatically correct message with a professional tone. (Note, professional can still be friendly and shouldn’t be stodgy).  The recipient may or may not be a stickler for this kind of thing, but if he or she is, you might not receive the response you were hoping for, or you might not receive a response at all.

Penn Model Supervisor, Patricia Rose, or why good supervisors make for happy (and productive) employees

The Career Services staff is celebrating today. On Tuesday evening our director, Patricia Rose, was presented with the Model Supervisor Award at the University of Pennsylvania’s Models of Excellence program.

Helping the committee prepare Pat’s nomination last fall, and seeing her accept this much deserved award yesterday evening reminded me of just how important a supervisor is to a person’s day-to-day satisfaction with one’s job and career success. In other words, a supervisor can help (or prevent) happiness with work, the place where you spend the great majority of your waking hours.

When I interviewed at Penn five years ago, I remember being surprised and impressed with the continuity and commitment of the staff. At the end of my interview, I asked the committee what they liked most about working at Penn Career Services. They responded, nearly in unison, “working for Pat!” This collective response was followed by examples of the way she works tirelessly to make sure her staff are well supported, but never micromanaged; how she encourages innovation and building on one’s strengths; how she models and expects both excellence in our work as well as work-life balance; and the respect she shows for each person in the office. And clearly that respect is reciprocated– we all appreciate her smarts, high energy, wisdom, caring nature, honesty, and warm sense of humor. All of these qualities have helped create one of the most productive, fun, challenging, and rewarding work environments I have had the privilege to work in. I have never had a case of the Sunday Evening Blues while working for Pat Rose, and I know most of my colleagues feel the same way.

So, what I hope for our graduating seniors and underclassmen preparing for jobs and summer internships is that they are fortunate enough to have a supervisor like Pat. Early in your career you rarely get everything on your “ideal job” wish list (challenging/rewarding work, super salary/compensation, the right employer, dream location, fine colleagues, etc.), but having a great supervisor is something to seek out, rather than something to consider as an afterthought once you’ve received an offer. A great supervisor will teach you, push you, and keep those Sunday Evening Blues at bay.

Thanks for being a great supervisor, Pat!