LinkedIn and Career Research

The fall semester is a good time to reflect on next steps in your job and internship searches. Career Services is here to assist you with navigating the process.  One of the most commonly asked questions from students is “How do I learn more about a particular field/company/speak with people who work there?”.  LinkedIn has become one of the most effective and efficient resources to facilitate introductions, create connections, and learn about employers, industries, and job opportunities.  Using LinkedIn as an information tool is an important aspect of your career exploration and job search.  It serves a variety of purposes such as:  branding yourself/skills, researching employers, as well as connecting with people who can share their insight on topics and career fields and answer your questions.  LinkedIn also provides a convenient and efficient way to network.  Networking is divided into two parts.  First, it can be viewed as an opportunity to gather information and second, it allows you to share information about yourself in order to achieve your career goals.  October is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with LinkedIn and start to establish some connections.  Some key aspects to remember when using LinkedIn:

    • When using LinkedIn, be sure to join the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Group. You’re eligible to be a part of this community while both a student and after you have graduated.
    • Remember that your profile is your brand. Therefore, you want to ensure it’s a professional looking photo (e.g. not from a social/party setting). The summary section on your profile is a narrative that describes your academic and professional background.
    • Linkedin enables you to learn about employers that interest you. You can elect to follow employers within the newsfeed in addition to identifying potential connections at that company who could share with you their advice and insight into their experience, culture and mission of the company, and the hiring process/recruiting process.
    • Connections may be defined as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree. The category next to a person’s name indicates how you might know the person and who you may mutually be connected to. This is very useful to know since you could then potentially reach out to a mutual connection and ask for an “e-introduction” with the alumnus/alumna. In the message, you could ask for a 15-20 minute conversation to ask the alum about his/her role, experience at the company and advice he/she may have for you as you move forward with your job search.
  • We can help you with using LinkedIn as a networking tool so feel free to come in for an advising appointment at Career Services. Appointments can be made by calling 215-898-7531 or through Handshake.

Designing Your PhD with Pipe Cleaners, Mind Maps, and Drawings

As the academic year starts again soon for graduate students and postdocs, it can often be a hectic time especially for those who are planning to be on the academic job market, teaching their own courses, conducting research, and writing chapters of their dissertation, among other things. It seems that there is always more and more to do. Before the fall begins, however, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on the things that you’re doing and how they fit into your life overall.

This summer, my colleague and I ran a pilot interactive workshop called Designing Your PhD for around 25 graduate students with the goal of having students spend time to think about what work values are important to them, what skills they have, and what things they enjoy doing. Based on the popular book, Designing Your Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, our workshop used the process of design thinking to help graduate students understand the career exploration process. The first stage of the design process involves understanding the user, which in this case is the student. Students had fun using pipe cleaners to visualize their concerns and aspirations about careers and used card sorts (based on the helpful assessments from ImaginePhD) to prioritize their top five skills, values, and interests. They also created mind maps that brought together different aspects of their lives (involving work, play, health, and love) and drew different versions of themselves that they can then “test” out as part of the career exploration process. We ended the workshop by discussing the MIND Career Exploration Road Map from UCSF to help guide students as they make decisions about their careers. It was by far one of my favorite workshops as we got to see what students created with their pipe cleaners, mind maps, and drawings.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend our pilot workshop, no worries! We’ll hold the workshop again in the future as well as with different departments and graduate student groups. Until then, however, make an appointment to speak with a Career Advisor about your career exploration plans. You can also check out some of these resources below so you can begin to reflect on your interests, skills, and values, explore careers that may interest you, and think about how you can design your PhD career in a way that you’ll find satisfying, productive, and rewarding:

Career Tips Through Life Experiences

Kevin Haines, Associate Director

Hello! My name is Kevin and I just started working at Career Services here at Penn about two months ago. Prior to working at Career Services, I worked at Penn Abroad where I advised students for their study abroad experiences along with summer internships. While Career Services and international education may seem like two opposite career paths, both jobs actually have a lot in common.

But let’s start from the beginning – Career Services was not a term I knew back in my freshman year of college. If I would have asked 22 year old Kevin back in May of 2000 something (I won’t give away my age that easily) where I saw myself in 2018, it would have definitely not been where I am today. And that is 100% O.K. Throughout the years after I graduated from PSU (We Are!), I wore a lot of hats in several organizations. I think one of the hardest things about college is not being exactly sure of what you want to do with the rest of your life. It’s a tough decision and one that arrives quickly. Here is one thing I think all students should know and understand: it’s alright to not know what you want to do after you graduate. I think I just heard a lot of gasps. But really, it’s okay. You may start a job and years later find yourself doing something you never dreamed of doing. It’s through your many life experiences that help shape the person you are and the future that awaits you. Here are some tips if you find yourself asking “what do I do next?” and have no idea where to start (whether you’re a freshman, senior, or alum!):

1. Your first job will not be your forever job.
Graduating from PSU, I thought I had it all figured out: I’d become a teacher and have summers off and live happily ever after. Wrong. Once I actually started teaching, it wasn’t until then that I realized I wanted something more. I learned a lot, and to this day enjoy being a teacher outside the classroom setting, but full-time teaching just wasn’t in the cards for me. So, all those student-teaching courses/semesters back in college only to find out that it wasn’t my passion – great. But here’s the thing: that’s normal and perfectly fine. Your first job out of college will not be the job you’re in for the rest of your life (for some maybe, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone these days). You’ll never know exactly what you like until you try it. But isn’t that what college is all about? Blood, sweat, and tears for four, maybe five years studying non-stop, writing countless papers, taking quizzes/tests, joining clubs, volunteering, etc. to help land your dream job the day you graduate? Sure, but also in those four or five years you grow as a person and your mind changes at least six times a day about what you want to do when you get older. Take a breath, enjoy the moment you’re in, and know that in the end it will work out. You may have to go through a lot of jobs before you land the one that you wake up smiling and ready to start the day at, but until then, learn as much as you can and network. Which leads me to my second point of advice.

2. Network, network, network! It wasn’t until I lived abroad in Madrid for a year that I realized higher ed was my calling, specifically the study abroad field. After teaching college-level Spanish for a bit, I started reaching out to people in the study abroad field and setting up informational interviews with them to ask how they broke into the field and where they started. It was through emailing these people I had never met that I was setting up connections that would one day help me get into the field. This was something

I was nervous about. “Why would anyone want to chat with me, a stranger, about how they got into the field? I’m sure they have a million other things to do.” These were some of the things that went through my mind before reaching out. Don’t be shy – reach out to someone to ask about their job and/or company. This is how you get a tiny part of your foot in the door and your name remembered in case you choose to apply to where that person works. People who truly love what they do will find five minutes to talk on the phone or meet in person (treat them to coffee if that’s the case!) to discuss their field and position. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Attend networking events, talk to friends, use LinkedIn (definitely a game changer as you can easily search for companies you’re interested in and then see if you have any connections), email, etc. There are so many ways to network and by doing that, you are getting your name out there and learning more about a job or company that interests you.

3. Study/Intern Abroad or Intern locally (if you can!). Once I started working in the study abroad field, I was a coordinator then switched schools and became an advisor. It was through my own study abroad experiences that I figured out what it was that I wanted to do – help students get an international experience where they can learn about themselves, live in a new culture, and gain experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If I never studied abroad spring semester of my junior year, I would have never been able to get the learning and traveling experiences I’ve had. It can and will be an expensive semester. However, thankfully, nowadays there are ways to get funding to help with that, whether it’s through campus/outside scholarships, financial aid, work study jobs, other on-campus funding, or program grants. Even if it’s just a week, or a month, a semester, or a year, any international experience you have will benefit you somehow. I once had to call the cable/internet company in Madrid myself and use my Spanish to explain what I wanted and set up a time for them to come out and install everything. Now, I know that sounds like an extremely easy task and pretty silly, but my Spanish was very limited and I was sweating the entire phone call repeating words and phrases and saying a whole lot of “vale, muchas gracias.” Being forced to do that made me step outside my comfort zone and push myself. From something that small, to being mugged and then going to court to point out which person mugged me (talk about terrifying, and it was all in Spanish!), all of those life experiences made me grow more confident in myself and grow as a person. I’m thankful that I was able to study abroad and I continue to be a huge advocate of it. There is so much world out there to explore and see, and there’s no better time to do it than when you’re an undergrad. If studying abroad isn’t an option, but interning is a possibility, that’s equally as amazing. While I’ve never interned abroad, I managed the Global Internship Program (GIP) through Penn Abroad (for about a year and a half) and helped send so many students abroad to all parts of the world. What I would give to be able to live and work in Nepal, Botswana, Singapore, or any other country for 8 weeks! Adding a study abroad or internship experience to your resume makes your resume jump out more and shows employers that you are ambitious, adventurous, hard-working, and up for a challenge. Not sure how to add those experiences to your resume? Make an appointment at Career Services and we’ll be more than happy to help!

4. Utilize Career Services! I must admit, when I was an undergrad at PSU, I never once stepped foot in the career services office. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I knew an office like that existed back in the year 20…whenever I was an undergrad. I think realizing something so resourceful as that office existed with internship opportunities, alumni I could have spoken to, workshops, career fairs, and career advisors, I would have had different summer opportunities. However, #noregrets. Since I’ve started working here at Career Services, I’ve been able to really see just how much information and how many resources we have for all students and alumni. Side note: just because it’s currently summer doesn’t mean you can’t get help from us! Sometimes, summer is the best time to meet with an advisor because it’s a lot quieter. Once the Fall semester arrives, the rush begins. If you need help with your resume, cover letter, mock interview, advice about a job, phone interview, or you just don’t know where to start with the whole job search process, we’re here for you. We’ve all been through it, so we understand what you’re going through. It’s our job and we are more than happy to help you. So, my advice for you is to stop staring at your computer screen trying to figure out a similar verb for “managed” or “worked” on your resume or how to address your employer – schedule an appointment and we’ll help you get through it!

I hope sharing some of my experiences has helped ease your mind a bit about planning for your future. Sometimes things work out differently than you thought they would, and that’s the beauty of it all – you’ll get where you need to be, just be patient, don’t give up, and believe in yourself. Until next time.

A Few Handshake Updates and Reminders

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been successfully using Handshake for almost six months. We’ve had over 10,000 students and alumni activate their accounts, approved over 7,600 employers to use the system, and had over 12,000 jobs and internships posted for Penn students and alumni. (In case you are curious, the top job functions have been education/teaching, finance, data & analytics, business development, and research – but there are lots of others!)

We hope the Handshake system has been working well for you! As a reminder, we wanted to post a few ways that you can optimize the system over the winter break to make it even more effective!

  • Complete your profile! If you haven’t already done so, take a few minutes to add details to your profile about your work experience, activities, educational background, and skills. You can even upload your resume so you don’t have to start from scratch. Once your profile looks great, you can make your profile public to employers so that they can find you for positions for which you might be a strong candidate. (If you have already finalized your plans and are not currently seeking, you can make your profile private so that you are not contacted.) As a new feature, you can also make your profile public to other Penn students and check out profiles from classmates who have opted to share theirs. Handshake can be a powerful networking tool.
  • Fill out the Career Interests section completely! The more Handshake knows about your career interests, the more effective it will be at populating your homepage with opportunities that are a good fit for you. Be sure to indicate what type of opportunities interest you (job, internship, networking, volunteering, etc.), the industries and job functions of interest to you, and where you want to live. Also, take a few minutes to indicate which CareerMail Communications you would like to receive. These are industry based e-newsletters sent out by the Career Services staff on a regular basis. It is one of the primary communication channels we are using this year, so don’t miss out on it.
  • Take a look at the Resources tab to find other career related resources available to you as a Penn student.
  • RSVP for events! (We will have lots more events listed in the spring once we get our room assignments from facilities!)
  • Schedule an appointment with a Career Advisor through the on-line scheduling system.
  • Download the mobile app, so you can do all of these things on the go! (Note that currently a mobile app is only available for the iPhone – an Android app is in the works- but even without the app Handshake’s website is mobile ready.)

Career advice for PhD students/postdocs on the Carpe Careers blog

By Dr. Joseph Barber

Are you looking for career advice that is focused on PhD students and postdocs? Do you have questions about how to navigate through your PhD program or your postdoc appointment to set yourself up for career success? Here is a summary of some of the recent posts you can find from the Carpe Careers blog on the Inside Higher Ed website over the last few months with answers for you!

Do you want great abs and a job in career fields beyond faculty roles? Find out why looking for quick fixes and easy options isn’t always going to be your best strategy by reading “5 tips for flat abs and an industry job”. There are no shortcuts when it comes to training for a marathon, but you may find that the same approaches you use for your fitness training can be equally helpful in your job search – read “why you should job search like a runner” to find out how.

Exploring your own skills, interests, and values requires a fair amount of introspection…, but that doesn’t mean you have go through this self-assessment and exploration process all by yourself. Read “You’re not alone” to find resources and support to help you figure out what comes next from a career perspective.

If you are finding your dissertation all-consuming in terms of the amount of time you are spending on it, then heed the advice in “Don’t let your dissertation run your life” to make sure that you are not missing out on professional development opportunities that might be helpful in your future job search. It is perfectly natural, after completing a 70-80 hour a week postdoc, to find careers that offer a more reasonable work-life balance to be very attractive. Be careful how you bring this subject up in job interviews, though, because there can be a risk of miscommunication. Read “How to discuss work-life balance” to get some insights on how to navigate these conversations with employers. And if you really want research to be part of your “life” even if it isn’t part of your daily work, then read “Crafting a research practice after the PhD” to learn about ways to continue to do research outside of an academic setting.

Employers in a diverse range of career fields often talk about their desire to find candidates with “leadership experiences”. While focusing on independent research may not seem to offer many opportunities to demonstrate leadership, your research, and the many volunteer experiences you have outside of your research, can help you to market your leadership skills. Read “Making leadership and service count in the job search” to find out how. And if you are looking for ways to be a better leader in your academic settings, then the post “On gratitude and leadership” provides some helpful insights.

Being a successful leader requires an ability to thinking strategically, communicate effectively, and build relationships with different groups of stakeholders. My organizations are highlighting their desire to find candidates who can also demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The post “Getting up to speed on diversity” provides useful information on ways that graduate students can talk about this subject confidently and authentically.

There are new Carpe Careers posts added every Monday – make sure you visit to get the relevant advice you need.