How Do I Get The “Inside Scoop” About An Organization?

By Barbara Hewitt

There are many ways to learn what it is like to work for a particular organization. One of the best ways to do so, of course, is to talk to people who work there…ask them about a typical day, the things they like (and don’t like!) about their work, and to describe the culture of the organization. As a Penn student, you have access to a variety of useful networking tools including PACNet (the Penn Alumni Career Network), the Penn Internship Network and the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Group on LinkedIn. All of these can be very helpful to connect you with Penn alumni and current student who can help you research an organization.

If you are a regular Penn & Beyond reader, you probably were already aware of these resources, so I am focusiglassdoorng this blog post on another resource – Glassdoor.  This is a terrific site which provides “user generated content” to help job seekers find out more about specific organizations. You can research salaries for specific positions, read reviews from people working at the company (currently or in the past), and find out what interview questions job seekers were asked for specific positions at particular organizations. Although not all organizations are represented, over 238,000 are, so the chance of finding information on companies, particularly larger ones, is pretty good. While Glassdoor usually requires users to post a review or a salary before they can access all of the information on the site, they realize that many college students have not worked previously, so they have created a mechanism for students to access it without having to supply such information. You can find the login link which will allow you to forgo entering your own information through the Online Subscriptions link on the library part of the Career Services website. Login with your PennKey and PennKey password to gain access to Glassdoor and dozens of other subscription-based resources available to Penn students.

Can you be a freelance scientist?

Dr. Joseph Barber

There are many venues to do scientific research, including the obvious ones: higher education institutions like universities, pharmaceutical companies and start-ups, and government facilities. But is it possible to be a freelance scientist with the flexibility to work on multiple projects as part of different collaborations all dictated by your own goals and schedule? A colleague of mine from graduate school makes the argument that, depending on the type of research you are doing (or are interested in doing in the future), it is possible. Indeed, this type of approach could be part of a changing trend within higher education as a whole. Read her article here, and then read up on how self-promotion is important to marketing your skills and abilities to different audiences.

Consider the possibilities…pursue your interests…be yourself…

By: David Ross

If someone asked me about my philosophy on the job and internship search, my response would be the mantra displayed in my office: “consider the possibilities…pursue your interests…be yourself.”  It’s very easy to be consumed with the end goal of your search – securing the job or internship – without focusing on whether the job or internship is a good fit for you.  With that in mind, here are some things to think about:

–  Consider the possibilities.  It is not uncommon for those seeking employment to apply for multiple positions – and it is very easy to focus on the number of applications submitted opposed to the details of any particular position.  So instead of simply applying for positions based on company name, position title, location or other criteria, look closely at each job description and try to imagine yourself in the position.  Think carefully about what you are specifically hoping to gain from the job.  And do not be afraid to explore opportunities that differ slightly from your previous experience or can leverage your knowledge and existing skill set in new and exciting ways.

–  Pursue your interests.  As you navigate the job or internship search, it can be tempting to focus on the advice of others.  There can be comfort hearing validation from someone else about the type of work you hope to pursue.  I am not saying you should not leverage the help of others as you progress in your search – just be sure that the actual jobs or internships you are pursuing match your interests and you are making the important decisions.  After all, you will be the one working in the position and you will have to deal with the ramifications of your choices – not anyone else.

–  Be yourself.  Always be yourself.  Try not to be someone else or who you think the ideal candidate would be.  Demonstrate the competencies and abilities you do have as you proceed with your search.  Be proud of who you are and what you have already accomplished.  Be true to yourself, your values and beliefs.  Some employment opportunities will be a great fit for you and others may not – and that is ok.  Focus on finding work environments where you feel comfortable enough to be yourself.

Working in the Complaints Department

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.

* There is a fair amount of information out there about how negativity affects the workplace. See this article on complaining in the workplace and note Wharton Professor Sigal Barsade’s work.  (Also see:

Career-related blogs to look at before the next asteroid arrives

Dr. Joseph Barber

There is so much information on career-related topics discussed on various websites that it can be overwhelming trying to find the answers to your unique questions. Not all information is appropriate, correct, objective, or useful, and so how do you tell the good from the bad? Well…, one way is to develop a professional relationship with the person giving that information. After all, the more you know about that person, the better sense you will have about whether their advice will be relevant to you. And if you are looking for a way to get an in-depth perspective on someone without the hassle of actually getting to know them in person, then blogs are a good way to go. Some bloggers are only too happy to reveal absolutely everything about themselves, and this makes it very easy to put their career advice into context and then follow and ignore as appropriate. Even without the drama, though, most blogs offer a personal perspective that you might find refreshing in the mostly anonymous information-stream of the internet. Here is a small selection of blogs you might want to take a peek at as you are pondering your career next steps – you know…, before the next asteroid/meteor crosses our paths again.

1) The Undercover Recruiter:
“The Undercover Recruiter is the #1 recruitment and career blog in the UK & Europe. We aim to please recruiters, HR folks, jobseekers and anyone in the career industry”

2) Lindsey Pollak – next generation career expert:
“Lindsey Pollak is a corporate consultant, bestselling author, keynote speaker and recognized expert on next generation career and workplace issues. She is a Global Spokesperson for LinkedIn and the author of Getting from College to Career

3) Fumbling Towards Tenure:
Career advice, resources, and an honest look into the long, convoluted, and sometimes frustrating process of applying for tenure-track faculty positions and working within academia

4) Career Rocketeer:
“Career Rocketeer is one of the industry’s leading career search and personal branding blogs, welcoming ambitious career entrepreneurs of all ages and professions who are driven to “launch” their careers to greater heights”

5) Ms. Career Girl:
“I hope Ms. Career Girl provides you with real stories you can relate to, the modern career advice you are seeking and a bit of entertainment along the way.  The content on this blog will help you figure out how to achieve YOUR career goals, whatever those may be”

6) Pearls of Wisdom:
“I post once or twice a week on Pearls of Wisdom on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process”