A Lession in Negotiating – or, the Perils of Fielding an Offer on a Car Barge

Mylène Kerschner, Associate Director

Negotiating has not historically been my strong suit. In fact, I once accepted a job offer over the phone while standing outside on a car ferry between St. John and St. Thomas. I was eager to move back to Philadelphia, and while I was waiting to hear from a prospective employer my sanity completely evaporated when I saw a 215 number calling my cell phone. I answered excitedly and when my future boss warmly offered me the role and indicated what my starting salary would be, emotions got the best of me. I couldn’t hide my delight, even though the salary was lower than I had hoped.

“YES!” I was shocked to hear myself exclaim, overjoyed. “Yes, definit…”

Shoot!! I had wanted to ask for more money! What happened?! I tried to recover.

“I mean. That sounds great,” I backpedaled. “But do you think there’s any flexibility on the salary?” There was an awkward pause on the other end of the line. (I’m fairly certain my future boss was laughing at this unorthodox approach to negotiating.) “Um. Suuuure. I will see what I can do.”
What had I done!? Of course she wasn’t going to “see what she could do.” I’d already accepted! Why would she give me a penny more?! I kicked myself the rest of the way into Red Hook. No additional money was ever offered.

(The scene of my negotiating crime. *SO* obviously not a good place to conduct employment business.)

Naturally, with this in my not-so-distant past, when I started back at Penn in a new role as an advisor for the first time, I approached negotiating conversations with trepidation. How could I advise a student on asking for more anything when I’d done such a poor job of it myself?

Realistically though, that fateful December day in the USVI taught me a couple of very specific things that I’m adamant about when I speak with students about negotiating.

Number one – You don’t need to answer on the spot! I absolutely should have asked for more time to consider. Heck, I should have asked for any time to consider! My enthusiasm got the better of me, and as I imagined being back near friends and family for the holidays, the practical side of my brain shut down. And that’s fine! It can be overwhelming to receive an offer, which is why there is ZERO obligation to respond immediately. Buy yourself a little bit of time to evaluate. No decent employer should force you to answer on the spot – it’s not expected.

“Thank you so much! I’d love to have a little bit of time to consider. By what date do you need me to decide?” Not saying these three sentences definitely cost me actual dollars in my paycheck.

Number two – Know your worth. Going in, I should have had a clear number in my mind of what I wanted to make based on research I’d done by industry and by location. I had spent so much time considering my own personal intangibles – being back home in Philadelphia, the fact that I’d be able to buy a box of Triscuits for less than $8, etc. – I hadn’t done my research and evaluated what I actually wanted to be earning, and what I could reasonably ask for based on my background. This made it all the easier for my emotions to take over during that call.

These are two pretty straightforward basics, but of course there are many nuances involved in negotiating and lots of things to consider before you even receive an offer.

I loved reading Ellen Pompeo’s story in The Hollywood Reporter about salary negotiation. The Hollywood Reporter points out that “actors typically hate discussing their paychecks in the press, but Pompeo… has chosen to do so… in the hope of setting an example for others.” And this is important. The more transparency there is with salary, the more parity there can be. So, resist the sentiment that it’s uncouth to discuss your earnings. Crowdsourcing can be valuable very literally when you’re considering an offer. Channel your inner Meredith Grey.

Also check out the Career Tools Series Webinar “Don’t Leave Money Behind: A Negotiation Webinar for Women,” whether or not you are a woman. Career Services director Pat Rose addresses everything from what to enter in the “Desired Salary” field on an application, to how to dodge the salary question if it arises during an interview.

With these resources and my two fundamentals, I’m confident you won’t field an offer unprepared and on a car barge between two Virgin Islands. And that makes me feel a little bit less terrible about the time that I did.

In the Spirit of the Holiday

Mylène Kerschner, Associate Director

In the spirit of the holiday that has just passed, I’d like to spend a few more moments thinking about giving thanks, especially in the context of the job or internship search. We know that we need to send a routine note of thanks following an interview, and an email is absolutely the best way to ensure that your message is received promptly. But what about thanking other people who have helped you along in your path to – and through – Penn? As a longer winter break approaches, think about taking a few moments to reach out to a high school teacher, a coach, or even a family friend to express appreciation. A handwritten note will likely surprise them, and will be sure to leave a fond impression.

I came across this article on themuse.com written by Ilan Mochari of Inc., and I thought it was so great, I wanted to share it here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-steps-to-an-utterly-perfect-thank-you-note

Ilan tackles some of the annoying obstacles that can impede the process of writing a handwritten note (the pressure to find the perfect card!), but also encourages you to be specific when composing a note of thanks, and to consider thanking someone with whom you haven’t spoken to or seen in some time.

Naturally, this could lead to grabbing coffee or lunch while you have some down time over break, and during that meeting you could continue a professional conversation about your path and your goals. We all know the value of a good informational interview, even with a close acquaintance.

Or, it could just make that person’s day during the hectic holiday season! And isn’t that a great reason to write, too?

Checking Out Career Resources at Lippencott

Mylène Kerschner, Associate Director

Are you a current Penn student? Have you ever explored all the amazing resources Lippincott Library has to offer? If not, what are you waiting for? You don’t have to be a Wharton student to take advantage of the research guides on everything from green business to the health care industry and from consulting to media. Lippincott also has great resources on international opportunities as well.

There are lots of ways to get in touch with Lippincott reference librarians and they can show you even more cool tools, including ways to research for other industries and identify what organizations are receiving seed and angel funding! So if you’re entrepreneurial, thinking about working abroad, or just curious about researching career options in general, a helpful researcher in Lippincott can assist:
Chat with them
Request a Consultation
Ask a Subject Specialist
Call us: 215-898-5924
Come to Lippincott Library
You can even chat with someone online too. Just go to their main page: http://www.library.upenn.edu/lippincott/ and find the chat box on the right side.
Lippincott is in Van Pelt, so you’re probably close by pretty often anyway

Of course Career Services can always be your first stop when thinking about career exploration, but don’t forget that our library system, and Lippincott especially, offers incredible resources that you should definitely utilize.

Congratulations on Graduation!!! Now, About Paying Rent…

Mylène Kerschner, Associate Director

Congratulations Class of 2017!!!! You have worked so, so hard for this and there is so much to celebrate! You’ve accomplished an amazing thing, and you should be proud. I hope you’re excited about your next steps. (Side note: if you’re still uncertain about those next steps, or need any guidance, Career Services is here! We are open all summer and are happy to meet with you to discuss your path!)

Now, I know at Penn it is especially tempting to compare your post-grad plans with those of your classmates. And of course, you know that your friends who went to Wall Street or to those well-known consulting firms are going to be bringing in big paychecks. By comparison, if you’re working in an industry with a different salary structure or if you’re living in a particularly expensive part of the world, you might have some anxiety about how to make ends meet out in the real world.

First of all, a reality check for those who might be feeling “less than” for not pursuing a career in finance or consulting. Your friends may be earning big bucks, but they are also putting in big hours. Maybe you’re bringing home less week to week, but maybe you’re also paid hourly, and your organization restricts how many hours you can be on the clock so they don’t have to pay out a ton of overtime. Or maybe the actual work you’d be performing in a finance or consulting role seems incredibly tedious to you, and instead you’ve found a role at a non-profit whose mission you’re passionate about with exciting projects and interesting colleagues. But of course on average, non-profits pay a little less than big corporations. Or maybe working entertainment is your dream, and you understand that you have to put in some time performing under-paid grunt work before you can become the next Shonda Rhimes (or go to a lot of auditions before you arrive as Penn’s next Elizabeth Banks)!

For many reasons, your first job out of college might not pay exactly what you were hoping it would. But that’s okay! I’m here to tell you: there is no shame in taking on a second job, especially if you can find one you enjoy. After I graduated from the University of Richmond and started working in Career Services, I still kept working a few shifts a week as a server at a country club. I knew the members, I had a great time with my coworkers, and I liked having a physical job that got me out from behind a desk. I didn’t really have to go to the gym because running around to check on my tables and carrying a ton of plates was a full-body workout. I enjoyed the work itself, it was nice getting a little bonus around the holidays, and let’s be honest: I had student loans to pay off. They weren’t crippling, but I had a monthly bill slated forever, before I’d even purchased a single thing. Those few shifts at the country club gave me some breathing room (and kept me from spending more money because I was busy with work!).

It doesn’t have to be waiting tables. Are you a morning person who likes hanging out at a coffee shop after you purchase your daily chai? Consider working there for a short shift in the mornings and perfecting your foam art.

Find it hard to resist the latest fashion trends? Retail could be a fun option (plus, employee discounts). Prefer something quieter? There’s always freelance work. It also doesn’t need to be something with regularly-scheduled hours. You can find temporary or part-time work through a staffing firm or a temp agency (Check out GoinGlobal’s US City Guides via our online subscriptions page for lists of temp agencies in a wide range of cities) And it may sound silly, but even babysitting can be an easy gig – especially if the kids go to sleep right after their parents head out. You can make money just providing peace of mind to a couple in need of a night out! There is zero shame in getting paid to do what you’d likely be doing at home anyway: scrolling through BuzzFeed’s list of 14 Times the Container Store Went Too Far…how did you even get to this page?

And! Aside from maybe the babysitting, the experiences you will gain in these roles will be incredible fodder for interviews as you advance in your professional life. Dealing with a difficult client? Meeting someone’s high expectations? Managing fifteen different things at a time and finding a way to prioritize? Check, check and check! Boy do you have stories to tell.

Now that last one, “managing fifteen different things at a time and finding a way to prioritize?” That probably sounds familiar to you. You graduated from Penn. You’re a hard worker. You juggled academics and volunteering and clubs and social activities here on campus. Likely, you could work two jobs after graduation and still have more free time than you did when you were living in University City! Except in this scenario, you’ll actually be getting paid for all that hard work!


PennLink has a new and improved look!

Mylène Kerschner, Associate Director

If you’ve logged into PennLink in the past couple of weeks, you’ve noticed things look a bit different. Things are cleaner and more easy to navigate now, but we thought you might appreciate a few general pointers regarding the new layout.

What’s the deal with this “Profile __% Complete” alert at the top of my screen?

Profile Percent Complete

Previously, employers could only see the documents you submitted directly to them via your applications. Now you have a profile similar to one you might have on LinkedIn. Click into the top part of the page to go into your profile and to edit it in order to increase your percentage complete. Your profile is still private, but you have the option to create a URL that you can opt to share with employers. Currently (as of Summer 2016), this is something that only you can send to employers. Employers cannot find it on their own.


By clicking “publish,” you will be able to click a link to create and share your URL:

Share it

Share Profile

One important thing to note here: while you can add a personal statement, update your education and include projects and experiences, you won’t be able to update your GPA on this page. To update your GPA you will need to click on “My Account” from the left toolbar.

My Account

Choose “Academic” to get to your Academic profile. Here you will be able to update your GPA. 

PennLink will also make smarter recommendations based on your searches:

Job Finder

And it’s even clearer to tell which jobs are OCR and which aren’t:

Campus Interview

You can also see the resume submission or job posting date along the right column.

It’s even easier to conduct and then save an advanced search, and now you can save more than twenty searches (the old version maxed out at 10). You can also create search agents which will send you an email when a new opportunity is posted that matches your criteria. Here’s a quick tutorial:

We think you’ll really like the new easy-to-use format of PennLink. If you have any questions at all about the system, about OCR, or really anything related to your summer or post-graduation plans, stop in to meet with a counselor, or schedule a phone or Skype call if you’re not in Philadelphia: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/appointments

We’re looking forward to having you back on campus soon!