Thoughtful Career Advice for Penn Students and Alumni, written by the staff of the University of Pennsylvania Career Services office and selected special guests.
Rosanne Lurie is a Senior Associate Director in Career Services serving graduate students and postdocs. She has a M.S. in Counseling, with Career and College specializations and over 15 years experience advising graduate students in a range of disciplines.
Recently I met with a group of interns at Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES). This is a department at Penn that hires both undergraduate and graduate students into internships that range from Human Resources to Sustainability to Safety and Security. Each intern I spoke to had such varied duties, and varied goals for their time after their internships; what they had in common was a need to wrap things up well at FRES. I coached them at our meeting, and now want to share a tip for all students who are in the last stages of summer internships. My advice? Read this great blog by my coworker Anne Marie. The ideas in it will help you get motivated to transition from your work or internship experiences, and capitalize on what you have already accomplished over the summer. Summer: It’s a Wrap!
Editor’s Note: A version of this blog originally ran in June of 2012.
June 21st is Take Your Dog to Work Day! Employees across the nation will collectively bedazzle their furry best friends with tours of their cubicle, the water cooler and perhaps even the view from the corner office. If your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi-friendly company culture, how would you know where to look for work? To find a good fit with your next position and organization (no matter what your priorities happen to be, pet-friendly is just one example), take advantage of Career Services’ resources to help current students and alumni learn more about the places that they might work.
Researching employers with Career Services’ online resources
Researching potential employers is a critical element of every job search. It is extremely important at the beginning when you need to identify your options, and necessary during the application and interview stage, to help you communicate the match between a prospective employer’s needs and your relevant skills, values and accomplishments. Before you are called to interview, do your best to find out the following about the organization:
Mission; product/service (i.e., what is the purpose of this company/organization?)
Sector: non-profit, private (for-profit), public (government agency)
Structure and management
“Clients” and competitors (i.e., who receives the services of this company, and who else is targeting this group with their services
The hiring process
Career Services offers several online resources through our library subscriptions pages to help you research potential employers. You must log in with your PennKey and password to access the subscriptions, which are listed alphabetically. For those interested in exploring industries such as consulting, healthcare, and investment banking, Wetfeet.com and Vault.com are particularly useful. These reference resources allow you to read overviews of various major industries, discover the “major players” (i.e., biggest, influential companies), and learn more about typical position types within each industry.
We also subscribe to ReferenceUSA, which provides contact information as well as specific company data for United States businesses in particular (as well as some Canadian and other international businesses). If you use the advanced search option, you can get information on credit ratings, company histories, executives’ names, and even the company’s local “competitors”.
For international students, GoinGlobal and H1VisaJobs offer databases which can help you identify the companies who have applied to the federal government in 2010 for H1Visas (this gives you a head start if you know a company is willing to hire international candidates, or is familiar with H1 Visa hiring procedures.)
Use networking as a tool to find out employer or industry information you can’t get through your online research. If you are a current Penn student or alumnus/a, be sure to use PACNet (our online networking database) to identify alumni who can give you the “inside scoop” on a particular organization or field.
Once you use these resources to research an employer, you will be better able to:
Connect your accomplishments to the performance criteria that the organization is looking for.
Identify the most important skills, qualifications and experiences that are in demand in a given industry.
Assess an organization’s potential workplace needs and how you can contribute given your work style.
Show how your goals match those of the company (given its mission, size, structure, and market specialization).
Understand how your values match those of the organization; and how the environment will help you be productive.
Employer research makes for a more effective job search, and in fact for a better fit once you land an offer and start your new position. You (and possibly your pet) will be glad you put the effort in.
Post Script: How would you know where to look for work, if your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi friendly company culture? While there are plenty of websites focused on pet-friendly employers – unfortunately it seems the number of corporate pet friendly employers is pretty limited, with Amazon.com rating as one of the top.
Right about now, some of you may be actively interviewing for jobs and internships, or in the process of receiving and deciding on job offers. A big mystery is knowing “what you are worth” and evaluating the offers to make sure you are getting fair compensation, and the work conditions that will make you happy to accept the offer. You can read tips on our website, “Deciding on Job Offers,” or gather data from Career Plans Surveys(including salary information for recent graduates) or learn about negotiation strategies. Below is a short collection of blog entries written by career services advisors that provide great advice to anyone at this stage of the job search:
Last week I went to a comedy show in Old City where the comedians and most of the audience were in their 20s, perhaps some in their early thirties. One comedian, riffing on the strange habits of co-workers, began his set up with this question to the audience: “How many of you don’t like your jobs?”
Guess what? There were about 3 people, including myself and my friend (a law professor) who indicated we were happy with our work. I imagine this crowd of Millennials isn’t exactly a random sample; but with all these dissatisfied employees, needless to say there were some good implications for MY job as a career counselor. Clearly there will be a demand for the kind of service I provide from the upcoming generation.
And so I began to wonder, what was going on? Was this about the economy and the lack of opportunity for 20-somethings? Was this about the contagion of emotions, so if you work in a place with a negative atmosphere or are surrounded by friends with discontented attitudes you too may adopt the negative mood? Is it just plain cooler to complain?
I admit I don’t yet have an answer to the questions posed. I could see that there may be some positive value in being collectively disgruntled, a strength in feeling that if things aren’t “right” at least you can commiserate.* But my reaction is to consider the opposite approach: that finding what you like in work gives you the energy to address problems or make changes and a sense of purpose and satisfaction. For example, there I was on my time off, finding the opportunity to think a little more deeply about my work while listening to the audience laugh at the pitfalls of a comedian with a coworker who blamed the office printer for the flatulent noises coming from his cubicle.
Few individuals find their work life perfect, but each can make the choice of focusing on what they do enjoy. Like today’s Millennials, I graduated from college into a recession, and along with many other young people landed two part time jobs doing entry level work that was not very intellectually engaging. Even so, I found that I enjoyed a feeling of professionalism, because I knew the employers I worked for needed my efforts, I liked helping people, getting recognition for my work, and organizing and implementing my own projects. Eventually I chose my profession, returning to school for a graduate degree in counseling based on the insights I gained from my administrative positions.
You can find your work in the “complaints department,” perceiving your experience as bad if there are elements you don’t like, but even a job with clear limitations – one that is frustrating or “dead end” – can give you something positive in the future including an ability to face challenges, know yourself better, and at the very least make a memorable joke.
Graduate students and postdocs may be aware of Career Services’ many resources on academic careers and the academic job search. But are you also familiar with the resources we have for PhDs/ABDs who are considering a career beyond academia? The Versatile PhD is one of the valuable tools Career Services provides to help you in your decision making and your job hunting.
The Versatile PhD is a web-based resource that you can use anytime, from any computer. It includes:
A thriving, supportive web-based community where you can participate in discussions, network with real “Versatile PhDs” (humanists, social scientists and STEM trained individuals working outside the academy) or, if you prefer, just read and learn.
An online collection of compelling first-person narratives written by Versatile PhDs who describe how they established their post-academic careers and give their best advice for you.
An associated LinkedIn group where you can begin to build an online presence and network with Versatile PhDs in a wide variety of fields.
Free online “Career Panel” discussions where Versatile PhDs working in a given field share their specific professional experiences in that field and answer questions from members. Online panels in 2012 included Careers in Market Research, Careers in Corporate and Institutional Research and Careers in Program Evaluation. Panels from prior years are archived on the site.
Coming up on November 12-16, 2012: Entrepreneurship for STEM PhDs featuring STEM PhDs currently running businesses they started from the ground up, or working in small start-ups. The panel is presented in an asynchronous format; participate anytime during the week.
University of Pennsylvania graduate students and postdocs have access to all the content areas on the website, including the upcoming panel – go to the Career Services Reference Library (on the left side of Career Services homepage) and click on Online Subscriptions. You will be asked to provide your PennKey and password to access The Versatile PhD.