Alumni Perspective: There’s More Out There Than Just Finance

by Lee Yanco W’10

payperpost-realrank-decisionsAs OCR goes on and Juniors scramble to secure internships for the summer, it may be hard to imagine any job outside of finance and consulting. Most internships offered through OCR are focused on investment banking, sales-trading, and consulting gigs due to both the nature of these industries’ hiring cycles and the good reputation of Penn students.  As a result, it may seem like your future lies on Wall Street.



Stop, ask yourself, and answer the question, the most important question you can ask yourself when looking for a job: What do you want to do? The emphasis is on the word YOU, because this job search is about YOU and YOU alone, and only YOU can decide what you want to do and what YOU want to get good at.

While I’m sure there are some of you who truly are passionate about finance, my gut tells me more of you are interested in other areas. You should never do something just because it’s the default choice – you will end up hating your job and daydreaming about doing the things you really want to do. And after a year of working in tech, I promise you it is totally possible to spend your working years having fun in a job you love instead of making a salary doing something you hate. There is nothing worse than spending 5 days a week getting better at something you don’t want to get better at, it’s an existential time waste.

At AppNexus, we specifically look for interviewees who want to be here and want to be in tech, for the simple reason that those who like their job and want to do their job will do the best at it and be the best people to work with. Those who have a passion for technology will succeed, those who fake it are quickly weeded out.

However, finance and consulting have one advantage over these other opportunities with regards to OCR – they offer formal training programs for new employees that quickly acclimate fresh graduates to their industries, teaching them the industry-specific skills they need to succeed. Other industries either have not caught up to finance and consulting in campus appeal, or otherwise don’t have a structured educational program in place to train complete newbies to the industry. Because of this, it may seem daunting to stay from the “standard” path.

So, how do you go about showing non-finance companies you are passionate and worth considering despite your lack of skills?

Simply put, there isn’t any way to do it but to do it. You can sit around and tell interviewers you enjoy tech or fashion or healthcare, or you can do something and then SHOW interviewers your passion for tech or fashion or travel. Enjoy tech? Teach yourself a little code and launch a website or two. Enjoy fashion? Create a samplebook or perhaps get your own clothes custom-made. Enjoy healthcare? Join your professor in a research project and get your name attached to a paper. There are many ways to take initiative and get something done, a little work on your end can reap huge dividends later.

When I graduated I took a consulting job through OCR and proceeded to dislike everything about my choice  for the next year. I struggled through banal work,  thinking that this is just how the working world is: show up, do something you don’t enjoy, rinse and repeat for 45 years and then you can finally enjoy yourself. When they mercifully fired me after a year (the best thing they ever did for me), I threw myself into what I actually cared about: technology. Even though I did not really know how to code, I taught myself the basics and project-managed a few ideas I had to fruition, launching two web services. Those eventually failed, but simply because I went out and actually DID something, all of a sudden I was getting interest right and left from technology companies. That got parlayed into my current job at AppNexus, where I’ve spent the past year doing something I love and succeeding in a field I want to succeed in. You can do the same, there’s nothing stopping you except you.

Good jobs aren’t looking for grunts like they do in finance and consulting. They’re looking for people who are passionate, they’re looking for people who want to love what they do. Finance and consulting jobs may claim to give you a broad-based skill set, but employers in your chosen field aren’t looking for investment banking skills, they’re looking for people who have demonstrated passion above all.

Find something you love and pursue it. The most important person in your life is you, and your time is far too precious to be spent doing something you don’t enjoy.

SP2 Career Plans Surveys – You might just get inspired!

Are you exploring career options related to your School of Social Policy and Practice degree? Are you in need of some inspiration and advice from recent graduates? Look no further than the Career Plans Survey reports on the Career Services website. These reports are compiled each year and offer information on the post-graduate plans of recent Penn graduates.  Reviewing this information can be a helpful starting point if you’re wondering how or even where to begin your job search.

Why not check out where other SP2 graduates have landed? You may learn of organizations that you were not aware even existed. You may also get ideas if you plan to move to a different area of the country. Are you interested in a less traditional career track? You will find that alumni of SP2 have paved the way. Even beyond salary and employer information, the SP2 Career Plans Survey reports summarize the valuable advice of these same outgoing students. You will find tips on networking, job search strategies that worked for others, as well as words of encouragement. I recently met with a School of Social Policy and Practice student who benefited from these reports just by reading the job titles listed. She was able to cast a wider net in her job search with a better understanding of some of the types of positions available to new MSW graduates. The survey information also confirmed her salary expectations. From here she’s researching organizations and plans to schedule informational interviews – all from reviewing the data available on our website. Why not give them a try?

Advice from the Poet

Happy New Year, welcome back to campus, and welcome to spring semester. I hope it will be a good one for you. May you take courses that will introduce you to new material that will excite you, will challenge you, and with luck will help prepare you for a future of purpose. That future will come soon enough. Enjoy this semester.

I read a speech recently that quoted the German poet Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The advice Rilke offered is good for all of us, not just aspiring poets:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

May you live the questions in your life now, be they career questions, or personal questions or philosophical questions. And may you then gradually live into the answers. Have a good semester.

Using your liberal arts education for the common good – Q & A with Wyn Furman, CAS 2009

Wyn Furman graduated from Penn in 2009 with double majors in History and French. She is currently the Manager of Community Research for The San Diego Foundation, a community foundation that stewards philanthropic funds on behalf of the San Diego region. She recently shared her thoughts on her nonprofit career with Career Services.


1.       What got you interested in working for a nonprofit, and in the philanthropy field, specifically?

My interest in working in the nonprofit sector developed when I realized how much I had benefited from the generosity of others—particularly in receiving my education—which made me want to “give back” through my work. Arriving at Philanthropy was a happy accident. In our field, we feel that people don’t graduate from college hoping to enter our line of work, probably due to a lack of familiarity with this part of the nonprofit sector. As a result, some of us are hoping to introduce more intentionality to this career path by encouraging young talent to pursue philanthropy sooner.

2.       Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and why it’s important?

Primarily, I serve our donors by helping them learn more about the issues and organizations to which they would like to dedicate funds. This includes providing background on challenges our region faces and even evaluating organizations’ financial position via tax records (which I enjoy, even though I was a history major!).  In addition to the research component, I also solicit reports from organizations that describe the work they do with grants from our donors.

The aim of my work is to help donors feel more informed when deciding which organizations to support. This is great for the community because we help donors act on their passions. For instance, we’ve had donors who read about an organization in the paper call us to vet the organization before making a grant. In those cases, we’ve helped turn news coverage into dollars that support the community!

Our capacity for research is also among the services that help distinguish The Foundation from other institutions that manage charitable funds, like banks. Although my role is “behind the scenes,” I think it is important because I provide tools that help my colleagues strengthen their relationships with donors, and that help donors feel more connected to the community. It’s a win-win that ultimately benefits our region.

3.       What are the different hats you’ve worn since joining the San Diego Foundation?

I started by helping to coordinate Our Greater San Diego Vision (, a campaign that engaged 30,000 people across the greater San Diego region in planning for its long-term future. After more than a year and a half in that position, the bulk of the project was complete, so I chose to apply for the newly created position of Manager, Community Research.

This work draws on the regional knowledge I gained by working on Our Greater San Diego Vision. The nice thing about moving from a programmatic role (working on the Vision) to donor stewardship is that I have a solid understanding of the responsibilities and priorities of our two major areas of operation, and relationships throughout our organization. This has led to being engaged in some exciting projects and discussions in which I might not otherwise have been involved.

Continue reading “Using your liberal arts education for the common good – Q & A with Wyn Furman, CAS 2009”

The (Adaptable, Resourceful, Multitalented) Versatile PhD

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.