It’s Time to Go Shopping

Planning to look for a full-time job or internship this coming year?

With the beginning of the school year fast approaching take a look at your wardrobe to be sure you are prepared for potential interviews with employers.

For many organizations women and men will need to wear a suit.  tia

Find one that fits you and your budget and when you look in the mirror you say “I feel great in this”.   With a suit it is to better to lean toward the conservative side, but for some industries, a bright color would be appropriate.  Check out the webpages of the organizations that interest you and see how their employees are dressed in the ads.  Along with a suit, you need a shirt, blouse/shell (women you know what I’m referring to), shoes, socks for men that match the color of your trousers, stockings for women (if you wear them), and a tie for men.  I suggest 2 shirts/blouses and 2 ties.  I’ll leave the socks up to you.

Most of our Career Fairs are business casual dress.  This means a nice pair of slacks for men or women, a button down shirt or sweater set (for women), sobiz casualcks and shoes.  Women may choose to wear a skirt instead of slacks.  Business casual is not blue jeans, shorts, t-shirts, flip flops or sneakers.   Men may choose to wear a tie.

Women, have appropriate accessories for the wardrobe you choose…less is more.

Some organizations, many of which are in the tech sector, are totally casual – jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, etc.  The clothes are casual, but they are clean!

You’ll feel good knowing you are set to go for that first employer interaction!

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Context Is Everything

I am retiring this summer after nearly 27 years as a career advisor to graduate students and 36 years at the University of Pennsylvania.  I’ve had a wonderful career and have been quite fortunate to work with great colleagues in Career Services, faculty, administrators, graduate students and postdocs, as well as fellow graduate student career advisors around the country.

Retirement is a time when people are permitted — almost expected — to share words of wisdom.  I’m going to leave you with a few of the axioms and quotes that I both use in my own life and try to pass on to the students with whom I work.

“Context is everything.” 

Don’t just say, “I would like a higher salary.”  Instead, do some research and say, “I see that the salary range for new science writers (or whatever) in the Northeast is $__ to __.  Because my four years of graduate training required me to be able to explain complex systems to both experts and non-experts, and because I have experience with editing software (or whatever) very similar to the one your company uses, I believe my salary should be closer to $__.  I hope you will consider this.”

“Go out while the lights are on.” 

This is a twist on “quit while you’re ahead’ which often refers to getting out of something that is rewarding might go bad.   What I mean here is that when you’re doing something well and it’s being acknowledged by others that it might be a good time to move on to something else such as taking on a new project.  And for older workers, when possible it’s nice to leave while you’re very much appreciated.

“Never end a sentence with a preposition.”

While I personally follow the rule to not end sentences with prepositions I’m fully aware that the trend is to not care much about this anymore.  So read that phrase to mean that it’s important to pay attention to your writing.  So much of what we do involves writing and how you write emails and even Facebook postings says something about you and can be how people first get to know you.  Good writing makes a good impression.

“You are not what you know but what you’re willing to learn.”

That quote by Mary Catherine Bateson, a writer, anthropologist and daughter of world-renowned anthropologists, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, has been on my door for at least the last ten years.  I read it to mean that you should never be satisfied with what you know but always engaged in learning.

“The world does not care about what you know but more about what you can do with what you know.”

 This quote is from Thomas L Friedman, author and New York Times columnist paraphrasing Harvard education expert Tony Wagner and underscores something we discuss regularly with graduate student job seekers:  show employers what you can do with your skills and your knowledge.

And, finally:

“Each time I go outside the world is different.  This has happened all my life.” 

I have had this quote, by two American poets, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser up on my bulletin board for the last eleven years.  It stresses the importance of being open to new possibilities.  Try not to make assumptions.  Appreciate that change happens constantly and embrace it.   Understand how your world of work is changing and be able to incorporate that understanding into your planning and your narrative.

By what quotes and maxims do you live and work?

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A Timely Reminder: Reneging is NOT Okay

This post, one of the most popular on our blog, was originally written in 2010.  However, it remains timely today as students heading into jobs and internships have to understand that reneging on a commitment can have consequences well into their future. - Editor

Why Reneging on an Offer is Bad for Your Career Mojo

By Claire Klieger

This is the time of year when people start to feel desperate about jobs or internships and may be tempted to accept something, anything, just because it’s a job and a job right before graduation equals peace of mind. So you’re thrilled to get any offer and you say yes so your parents and friends will stop hounding you about what you’re doing after the semester is over and you breathe a big sigh of relief. I mean, ok, so it’s not your dream job but the places you were really excited about never called you back. Except…sometimes they do.

Bad KarmaOccasionally, you’ll later hear from an employer that you’re a lot more excited about that you’re invited for an interview or even that you have been offered the position. And here’s where things get difficult. You may hear from family members and friends things like, “Awesome!  Just back out of that other job offer. What does it matter now that you have what you want? Plus, if you’ve just said yes on the phone and haven’t actually signed anything, it’s not like it’s legally binding anyway.” However tempting, this is seriously bad counsel.

Despite what you may hear, employers consider a verbal acceptance as good as signing a contract. While you’re not legally obligated, you’ve made a verbal commitment and there are definite consequences to reneging on an offer:

1)       First and foremost, you can be pretty sure that you are ruining your chances of chances of ever working for that organization. Employers’ memories are long and you will forever have that figurative little black mark on your file.

2)      In addition, you may be affecting your chances of working at similar organizations. Keep in mind that most industries are relatively small and that the people you angered by saying no may tell (warn) others in the industry about you. As you can imagine, this is particularly damaging in instances where the offer came through on-campus recruiting where recruiters from competing organizations all know each other, making it much less likely that such an individual would have interviewing options with any of those organizations in the future.  In fact, we’ve even seen cases where the thwarted recruiter has called the employer with which the student is defecting to explain the situation and the new employer has pulled their offer (leaving the student with no offers).

3)      Reneging on an offer damages the Penn reputation, and as such, future recruiting opportunities for Penn students. When you renege on an offer the employer doesn’t just think negatively about you, they also think negatively about Penn. In fact, we’ve often had to do serious “damage control” with employers who had one or multiple reneges from Penn students. It may only take one instance for them to conclude that “this is just the way Penn students are” and be less inclined to consider applicants from Penn in the future.

The way to avoid being in that situation is to not accept an offer without carefully thinking it through. You should never tell an employer yes if your plan is to continue to look until you find something better. It’s not fair to them and it’s untrue to you. There are always jobs out there and it is far better to wait for the right thing to come along than to damage your own career reputation by going back on your word.

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Earbuds & Success


From the looks of it,  this blog should be about earbuds.  It is, kind of.  I want to offer a few basic rules to make sure your earbuds don’t get in the way of your success in your new job or internship.

First, let’s consider a scenario:

It’s your first day on the job and the phone rings. You answer and an upset client is on the other end. You freeze, and get a bit freaked out, because it’s an important client and you don’t want to mess up, on your first day.

What do you do?

This is a scenario that many of you may experience on your first day.  It is one of many situations where you’re not quite sure what to do because you’re new.  So, what do you do? Listen, ask, and observe.  Sounds quite obvious, right?

You’re right.  These three simple words/rules – listen, ask, observe – can teach you so much.  Yet, if you have a moment where you tune out, maybe put in your earbuds and turn on some music to help pass the time or focus on a project, you could miss out.

I recently spoke with a new colleague here at Penn, and she reminded me of just how much you can learn from eavesdropping – the good kind. How do you handle an upset client on the phone? Listen to how another colleague handles an upset client.  What is going on in the office?  Look around and observe. How do you get invited to an important meeting, or even know if one is taking place? Again, listen and see.

These are three little things that can make a BIG difference in your first few weeks on the job. You may just get invited to an important meeting or lunch.  You can learn how to handle difficult situations. It’s important to make a good first impression. So, remember – listen, ask, and observe. Avoid putting in those earbuds to pass the time, because opportunity could pass you by.

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no shows are a no-no

Perhaps you’ve received an invitation to a friend’s wedding recently, or are planning to attend an upcoming graduation party. When you attend these events, do you let the host or hostess know of your plans to attend? If your plans change, do you then let him/her know you no longer plan to be there? While the setting may be different, the same etiquette applies to professional commitments and events, such as a Career Services appointment or workshop. RSVP etiquette extends beyond weddings and formal gatherings.

Take a Career Services appointment for instance. If you have committed to an appointment time and then are a “no show,” you have taken an opportunity away from another student who may have gladly scheduled that time. You also have a counselor who has blocked out time specifically for you in his or her day. Throughout the academic year, Career Services hosts workshops and panels, some of which require a response for attendance. The individual planning one of these events may want to ensure proper headcount if outside speakers will be present or if space is limited. If an RSVP was requested, it is best to notify the individual who extended the invitation that you are no longer able to attend if your plans change. The same goes for giving Career Services a call when you anticipate that you will miss your scheduled appointment.

While busy schedules can certainly distract us from fulfilling obligations that are no longer priorities, courtesy still applies. Many times, this simple gesture will allow a fellow student to take your place. It may also ensure a speaker does not present to an empty room. Even more, your professional reputation will remain solid.

Professionalism and etiquette go hand in hand. It can be easy to overlook, but a little communication can go a long way in creating a positive professional image. Next time, avoid “no show” status.  If you decide you can longer go, then say so.

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