But I Just Got Here… Career Planning and One-Year Degrees

by Sharon Fleshman

Back when I used to advise mostly undergraduate students, I would encourage first-year students to get settled academically and socially and to take advantage of the numerous extracurricular and student leadership opportunities at Penn.  For the most part, there was no need for them to be preoccupied about career decisions at that early stage.  However, I now find myself working with a lot of graduate students who are in one-year master’s programs. In other words, students who are in their first year are also in their last year.  If you are one of those students, it can be a challenge to juggle your coursework, field placements/internships (in some cases) and the job search.

As you’ve likely discovered, your time at Penn will feel like a sprint.  In a race, pacing is critical.  On one hand, you do not want to exhaust yourself by starting out too quickly.  Don’t immerse yourself in career planning to the neglect of your studies or building relationships with classmates.  On the other hand, it is not a good idea to have such a slow pace to start that you wait too long to pick up speed.

To get started, I would strongly suggest getting familiar with the Career Services website, which has many resources that you can access at any time.  Here are some other tips that I hope will help you to make the most of your fall semester:

Join a Career Services graduate student distribution list so that you receive timely e-mails about programs, events and job opportunities related to your career goals.

Make sure that you are aware of the timetables of various industries as it relates to hiring. While many organizations hire on a just-in-time, as needed basis in the spring, others may begin their recruiting process in the fall.  For instance, many business and technical companies use On-Campus Recruiting in the fall.  As you can see from the most recent blogs, a number of career fairs are held in the fall as well.  Government agencies often have structured programs that may require early application. See our Make an Impact webpage for more information on opportunities in the federal government.

Tweak your resume so that it will be easy to update and ready when you start applying for jobs. The Career Services website has useful advice on resumes as well as resume samples based on your academic program or career interest.

Start researching career options and develop a list of preferred employers and job functions. Check out the Career Exploration section of our website. Sometimes it can also be helpful to look at job descriptions to determine what is ideal to you.  To help you with this, the Career Services website lists links to job listing and company/organization websites, classified by career field.  Attend career services programs that are relevant to careers that interest you.  The Fall 2010 program calendar for graduate students is available here.

Start building your network. As you begin to get a sense for the careers that you want to pursue, you should make plans to speak with people who are in those careers and can provide perspective and guidance. The Penn Alumni Career Network and LinkedIn are two great places to start, particularly with informational interviewing.

Start planning for recommendation letters as necessary. While many employers request contacts for references by phone, there are some fields, such as K-12 teaching, that require letters of recommendation.  If your chosen career field requires a letter of recommendation or you anticipate pursuing doctoral studies at some point, start thinking about potential recommenders, including professors or field supervisors who you will encounter this fall.  Advice on requesting letters is available on our website. For online storage of confidential recommendation letters, Career Services has partnered with Interfolio. If you plan on applying for additional graduate school in the near future, speak with one of our Pre-Grad Advisors.

Get Organized. Even what I’ve mentioned above may seem overwhelming in terms of getting started.  Try to schedule your career planning so that you can be sure it’s not taking up too much (or too little) space on your calendar. Have some kind of system in place based on what works best for you.  For example, you might decide to dedicate a couple of hours each week to researching career options and conduct at least two information interviews per month.

Talk to a Career Services advisor.  It is often helpful to have a listening ear as you brainstorm about career options and networking/job search strategies, or make decisions about job offers. It is always necessary to have a second pair of eyes as you put the finishing touches on that resume. Perhaps you just need some assistance in getting organized. Wherever you find yourself in the career planning process, be assured that Career Services counselors are available to help you as you prepare to cross the finish line into next phase of your career.

Your Career: It’s a Family Affair

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family” (Anthony Brandt)

One of the most interesting classes I took in graduate school included a project where students created a “family tree” of relatives’ professions, going as far back as possible in their family history.  The goal behind the exercise was to learn about family impact on individuals’ career choices.  Sometimes family influence, especially parental expectations, has an obvious impact: ie “I am paying for your Penn education to get you the best pre-med training possible” – other times, it is much more subtle – ie “We just want you to be fulfilled and productive.”

When I have a career counseling session with a student, I am aware that in some way their family is in the room with us.   Families influence what we value (money, prestige, productivity, intellectual achievement, helping others).  Families influence the geographic regions we think are open to us in our work.  Families influence what occupations we are exposed to: know any Resort and Panoramic Illustrators?  How might you know to pursue a career like that unless your parents were skiers or you were raised at 5,000ft?

This is part of my family tree:

What are the themes here?  Is it surprising I might be a career counselor at an institution like Penn?  Even though no one in my family has held my kind of job before, most of my family’s career paths involved teaching and “helping” positions working with people.  Skills required: strong communication, assessment and problem solving, empathy.   Most of my family worked for themselves in private practices or worked in educational institutions.  No one (in all three generations) chose to spend time in corporate environments. Another theme is the level of education in my family.  My family let me know that they expected educational achievement and success but beyond that I got no direct instruction on what I “should be” professionally.  Despite this apparent freedom to choose, it’s easy to see in my case, that “the apple falls not far from the tree.”

Have you thought about the ways in which you have skills, interests, and other experiences in common with your family?  What have you considered to be an option, but don’t know anyone who has done it before?  What choices have already been made for you?  How important is your family to your career plans?  These topics are great for you to explore on your own, or with a career advisor.

Here is a link for parents about career planning for Penn students.  If this really interests you, you may have a career in genealogy to consider….

Sophomore Career Exploration

My name is Pat Cawiezell and I am the Graduate Assistant in Career Services working on the Wharton team.  I am making my first blog entry today so thought it would be appropriate to introduce myself to the regular readers of the blog as a new voice.

One aspect of my responsibilities in Career Services has been to accompany a group of Wharton Sophomores on business exploration trips along with a fellow graduate assistant from the office in Huntsman G95, Chase Palmer.  In the first semester Chase and I took a group to New York and visited the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and a separate group to Washington to visit the State Department.  One of the primary objectives of the trip is to expose students to careers outside the traditional Banking and Consulting paths that so many Wharton students choose and to showcase that there are in fact other options available.

At the end of January Chase and I took a small group of sophomores to the headquarters of Ashoka (http://www.ashoka.org) in Arlington, VA.  For nearly 30 years, Ashoka has been funding social entreprenuers all over the world that are making a real difference.  The hiring process for Ashoka is extensive, applicants will have six interviews before being hired, including one interview with one of the top three people in the organization.  In fact, walking through their offices Bill Drayton, the CEO and founder of Ashoka, was sitting in his office talking on the phone.  Being part of a small non-profit such as Ashoka can provide access to the organizational leadership that isn’t possible at the multi-national corporation level.

The following week (right before a big snowfall, we have had so much snow I don’t remember which big snowfall, I just remember that as the bus pulled up to 38th and Walnut flurries were just starting to fill the air), Chase and I led a larger group to New York for two company visits.  In the morning we went to PricewaterhouseCoopers to learn more about their consulting division.  It was a pretty traditional presentation, we met four Wharton alums that work for PwC, all in different stages in their career.  In the afternoon the group went to Bad Boy (unfortunately Puff Daddy was in Miami for the Super Bowl) and met with many different people from the Bad Boy empire.  The CFO is a Wharton alum, Derek Ferguson, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4188.html, and gave some solid advice about entering into the entertainment industry.

The striking difference between a corporate job at PwC and the environment at Bad Boy was evident to me, and I hope evident to the sophomores that attended the event.  At Bad Boy, every person we met, from Derek Ferguson on down to the interns that were there for the spring semester, had some level of relationship with Sean Combs.  You could usually tell what that level was from those that called him Puffy and those that called him Mr. Combs, but there is no question that Mr. Combs is involved in every level of Bad Boy and that if you go to work for him, you will have access to him.

I am sure that my vantage point as a 28 year old graduate student is different than the 19 and 20 year old sophomores that were the target audience of the presentations but I hope that as you consider your career path, you think about the things that are important to you and both the benefits and drawbacks of each possible job.  At Penn, there are lots of companies competing for students to hire but I hope you take some time to think about the organizations that don’t have the resources to wine and dine but could be a perfect fit for your unique interests and talents.

Career Decisions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s that time of year when many people– graduating seniors in the post-grad job search, sophomores getting ready to choose a major or concentration, juniors trying to decide what type of internship to choose, and even alumni who realize it’s time for a change– come to Career Services asking some version of the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

While there is no single correct answer to this question because there are a gazillion career possibilities out there, there are some basic considerations people should make to increase the likelihood that they’ll actually be happy in their chosen career. And in my opinion, since most of us spend so many of the waking hours of our adult life at work, we can’t afford not to be happy in our career.

To put it simply, your career path should be a good fit with your interests (activities you like to do or issues you care about), skills (your abilities and strengths), and values (your ideals and the lifestyle choices that are most important to you.) Once you’ve “self-assessed” your interests, skills, and values, the next step is to explore the job and career opportunities that may be a good fit for you.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbsc30/

For current students trying to find some career direction, Career Services and CAPS are partnering to offer the Career Exploration Seminar: Exploring your Potential, Finding Your Fit to assist students in the career discovery process. This seminar will lead students through a guided exploration of their values, skill sets, and interests. Participants will also take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which is an assessment that helps students understand work and personality fit, and the Strong Interest Inventory (SII), which matches students’ interests to various career options. While assessments aren’t tests that “tell you what to do,” they can provide a great starting point for successful career exploration.

For more information about the Career Exploration seminars, seminar dates and to register, visit the CAPS website. The first session is this Wednesday, January 27th.

You can find additional resources on Career Services Career Discovery page, and from the Career Services Career Exploration page for College Students you can view this short video on Career Exploration.

Career Exploration from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.