Posts by Pat Rose:

    What to do if you receive an exploding offer?

    February 4th, 2014

    This week marks the beginning of on-campus interviewing for internships. Each day we will host employers who will be interviewing hundreds of students every day. Inevitably, some of those students will receive pressure to accept right away. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    1. “Can you let us know what your thoughts are by Friday?” If a recruiter says this, he wants you to check in and let him know where you are in your interviewing process. He may want you to say yes by that date, but notice that he has not said the offer is only good until Friday. A comment such as this is common, but it is not the same thing as an exploding offer.

    2. “We can only honor this offer until February 10. If you can’t commit by then we will offer the job to someone else.” This is an exploding offer. If the employer is one you have interviewed with through on campus recruiting, they are not following our offer policy, which clearly states that offers are to remain open for one week or until February 24, whichever comes later. Feel free to push back politely. Better yet, consult with your advisor here in Career Services. We can help you strategize and decide how best to ask for more time. If you prefer, we can with your permission call the employer on your behalf.

    3. For some research on exploding offers, please see Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s excellent recent post, “It’s Time to Eliminate Exploding Offers”:

    Good luck with your interviews!

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    Passion? What Passion?

    January 15th, 2014

    Students, if you can see the end of your Penn years looming in the not too distant future, this post is for you. It concerns passion. You may have been asked or are asking yourself what your passion is. You may even be tired of hearing well-meaning friends and relatives say, just follow your passion.

    If you actually have a passion, carry on. You are fortunate. You are also in the minority. Most undergraduates (and many graduate students as well) do not have anything resembling a passion. So don’t feel bad or inadequate if you don’t yet have a passion that is leading you to a particular kind of work.

    In my experience after watching the careers of numerous Penn alumni unfold, graduates discover their passion through the development of skills, and this frequently happens in the workplace. It is through the daily discipline of a job that you develop the skills and expertise you need to feel like you are really making a contribution. You feel good about yourself when you do something well. You become excited about the work, and your strong performance on the job. In this way you develop a passion for this work (and perhaps the industry), and you seek positions in the future where you can use and continue to develop these important skills that you can now demonstrate.

    What if you do have a passion, but it is for a political candidate, or a charitable organization, or a sports team, or any number of other things? You would do anything to work for that candidate, or that non-profit, or that team. This can be hard. The positions available may be volunteer, or extremely low paying. They could be routine, and give little opportunity to develop skills or to advance. But if by working in the organization you are meeting people, observing the roles they play, learning about the field and developing a vocabulary, then give it a try. After all, if you can’t take a risk at 22, when will you ever be able to do so?

    If you can’t make it happen (or can’t afford to), don’t despair. The world is full of people who pursue their passions outside of work as volunteers. In the meantime, you can be working someplace where you can make a living, develop expertise, and perhaps find a new passion, one that is potentially more authentic and long-lasting.

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    Timing may not be all, but it’s important

    December 10th, 2013

    In November we completed our career plans survey of the class of 2013. We had a tremendous return: 2,021 graduates responded, just over 80% of the class. A return this high is a reflection of the graduates’ willingness to let us know what they’re doing, but it also reflects the huge amount of work people in Career Services do to reach out and cajole those we hadn’t heard from. I am grateful to all.

    The results are extremely encouraging for current seniors. The members of the class of 2013 were employed full time at a high rate (almost 74%), up from 71% last year and 68% for 2011. Slightly fewer (16%) are going directly to graduate school, down from 18% last year and 20% in 2011. For the last two years 6% of the class reported that they were seeking employment by the November closing of the survey. This year, only 5.8% were still seeking, an extremely low number. The lowest we have recorded was 4% in pre-recessionary 2007.

    The employment by industry changes are worth noting. For example, the percentage of the full-time employed graduates working in finance dropped from 33% in 2011, to 31% in 2012, to 29% this year. Health care dropped to 6%; it was 9% the past two years. Consulting remains very popular: 19% are working in consulting, down from 20% last year but equal to the 19% in 2011. Similarly, education was the choice of 9%, up from 8% last year and equaling the 9% in 2011. Technology took 9% of those employed, up from 8% last year and 7% in 2011. These industry swings are modest, but interesting.

    Medicine and law remain the most popular graduate school choices, but fewer students are going directly into these programs each year. Of those who are in graduate school, 21% are in medicine, down from 22% last year and 25% in 2011. Law dropped from 19% in 2011 to 18% in 2012 to 17% this year. Engineering graduate fields jumped from 14% in 2011 to 17% for the second year in a row. The biggest change was in science. Those pursuing graduate degrees in science disciplines jumped from 8% in 2011, to 9% in 2012 to 14% this year. Clearly the demand for STEM graduates is influencing graduate school choices.

    For more information on the class of 2013, including top employers and top graduate schools, please see Combined with the decline in the national unemployment rate (it’s now 7%, a five year low), the survey results mean that seniors should feel confident that job opportunities will be available to them. It’s a good year to be graduating and starting a career.

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    Get Lucky

    October 3rd, 2013

    This week I attended a wonderful panel discussion featuring alumnae who were all varsity athletes. They discussed the success they have achieved in a variety of fields, and described how their experience as student athletes prepared them for their professional lives.

    One panelist made the following comment (I am paraphrasing): everyone’s career is the result of chance, typically a chance meeting with someone who introduced the person to a field, a company or an opportunity. Although it may not seem to be true when everyone you know is purposefully interviewing in OCR, the fact is that we end up in our life’s work by happenstance. In fact, there is a wonderful book that describes this: Luck in No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in your Life and Career by Krumboltz and Levin. Their Happenstance Learning Theory attempts to put clients in a position to transform unplanned events into learning opportunities.

    This is what we try to do in our work with Penn students. I myself do not believe in any kind of magic matching system that takes answers you provide on an instrument or survey and determines what is your best career fit. Such exercises may well be valuable in your self-assessment, as a way to learn more about your strengths, but they do not have The Answer, or the perfect match.

    By all means have a plan, at least for the short term. But be open to opportunities, ideas, directions that present themselves to you. Branch Rickey of Brooklyn Dodgers (and Jackie Robinson) fame once said, “Luck is the residue of design.” That is undoubtedly true. It is important to prepare yourself, and to plan. But luck can present itself in many guises, and may be hard to recognize. Be alert to opportunities as you face them, this year, and throughout your career, so you can make the most of them. May you be lucky, again and again.

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    How is this year different?

    August 28th, 2013

    Another start of another school year. What is different this time? Aside from the fact that we are starting a week earlier, the obvious answer is that you (in fact all of us) are a year older. We should be wiser, we should be more mature. Second, you are that much closer to graduation, and your future. If you will be finishing up in 2014, you should be thinking about career matters. You may be focused on finding a job, getting into a good graduate or professional school program, getting a prestigious fellowship, or if you are a doctoral student, perhaps finding a post-doc. Even those who will be graduating at a later time may be starting to think about internships for next summer.

    This is all well and good. Things here get off to a quick start. Our employer presentations begin tonight. Our workshops have already started. You can’t say, as you may have in years past, that Career Services is for another time. Now is the time for many of you. Take advantage of all we have to offer, now and throughout the year.

    So get going, but at the same time, relax. If you are like your Penn predecessors, you will do well, regardless of your path. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, you are not competing with your classmates. You are competing with young people throughout our country, and others well beyond our borders. You may also be competing with new technologies that are changing the nature of many jobs. Cheaper labor abroad can do many jobs more cheaply, even professional level jobs requiring graduate training. Sophisticated computer programs, using enormous data sets, have reduced the need for people in some positions or fields. Think about where you can make a contribution in this global economy. Don’t be afraid to dream. And don’t worry too much about where you start: a first job is a first job, the first of many you will hold.

    Second, don’t go about your career preparation with sharp elbows. I am reminded of last spring’s commencement address at Syracuse University, where the author George Saunders urged the graduates to be kind. It’s worth saying even before graduation: be nice to each other. (The text of the speech is available on the New York Times site, but it’s been hacked. Take a minute to find it if you can; it’s a great speech.) As Einstein is reported to have said, “everything that counts cannot be counted.” Being kind really counts. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s important.

    On behalf of everyone in Career Services, all the best for a great semester.

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