The HORROR of Not Having a Job Yet

By Claire Klieger

Remember getting caught up that build up to prom night fervor of “I must have a date!” because you’re pretty sure that your social future as you know it depends upon not looking like the loser that no one wanted to take to Prom? Perhaps (though probably not) even now you have the occasional Carrie-esque nightmares?

Left: Hooray! I'll be gainfully employed. Right: My life if I don't have a job offer by Thanksgiving.

For many seniors I’ve recently spoken with, it seems like the job search, especially during the OCR season, produces similar levels of anxiety. It may feel as though every person you know is telling you that you need to have a job and in a tough economy, pickings may be slim. You may have noticed frenzied-looking individuals resembling Penn students except for their oddly formal dress darting all over campus (sometimes the sea of stressed dark suits reminds of me zombies who instead of  mumbling “brains, brains, brains” chant “jobs , jobs, jobs”) or you might be in the midst of that tidal wave, yourself.

The on-campus recruiting process is very intense and it moves quite quickly –you go through all of these rounds at lightning speed and before you know it you (hopefully) have an offer and you think, wow, how did I get here? And, it’s wonderful (and safe) to feel like you have an offer and don’t have to worry about your future after graduation.

But I’m here to tell you NOT to play it safe. That doesn’t mean if you get a job offer through OCR that you’re thrilled with that you should say no because there might be something better that comes along. By all means, if getting that phone call causes you to literally jump for joy and the idea of seeing their business cards with your name on them makes  you salivate, accept and congratulations to you. However, if your reaction to an offer is more along the lines of well, it’s nice that somebody wants me; at least I’ll have a job (á la, at least I’ll be going to prom), think long and hard about whether or not you should say yes.

Again, let’s think back to those painful high school years. Were you so worried about having a prom date that you said yes to the first person who asked you even though you weren’t so excited about the offer? So, secretly you hoped that someone else better would come along and ask you. And, maybe someone did and you ended up having to crush the heart (and ego) of the person who had originally asked you. In the end, while not as drastic or ridiculous as in the film 1970s classic Stephen King horror film Carrie, there was probably lots of drama. In the job search, the stakes are actually higher. There are real and potentially severe consequences to reneging on a job offer later.

So, if you get an offer that you’re not sure you’re excited about, do not say yes just to have “something” for when you graduate. In the long run, you and your potential employer will be far better off waiting for the right proverbial prom date offer.

The Rules DO Apply To You!

by Rosette Pyne

Guess What?  The Rules Do Apply to YOU!

There are lots of rules in college…academic, safety, legal, procedural, financial, etc.  They are in place for everyone – not just for a few, not just for everyone but you!  You are part of the everyone – yes you are, believe it or not.  I know you want to feel special and you are special – you were admitted to an unbelievably prestigious Ivy League school, you have the red and blue in your blood forever.  But, the rules apply to you too!

Presently in Career Services, we have on campus recruiting interviews taking place.  Last year more than 12,000 interviews were conducted on campus.  WOW, that’s a lot of interviews!   But, there could have been many more.   How, you ask?  Well if students didn’t cancel at the very last minute other students could have taken their place. Oh I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “but I had xyz reason”…sure, sure.  Believe me when I say we have heard them all.  It’s kind of like the dog ate my homework, my computer crashed, my roommate didn’t give me the message… you get the idea.  With employers conducting ½ hour interviews in 48 recruiting rooms each day, there are many students coming and going.  Perhaps you think you won’t be missed, who will really care, and I just can’t make it no big deal.  Guess what folks?  It is a big deal.  Selection for an interview means you have been screened by the employer who may have looked at as many as 400 resumes to pick you.   You are invited and of your own freewill you sign up for an interview.  Then the day of interview arrives, but you don’t.  This is not about those students who are legitimately ill or have an emergency; unfortunately that does happen.  This is about students who forget about it, lose interest, or have a conflict.

What should you do?  Cancel as soon as you know you are not going to participate in the interview – don’t wait until two hours before your interview to call in and don’t brush it off by not showing up.  You must call 215-898-4068.  Do not call other Career Services numbers.

Our policy is clear on late cancellations and no shows.  Familiarize yourself with the process and procedures.  You can find them here.   If you are doing on campus interviews, the RULES DO APPLY TO YOU!

Responding Sincerely is Very Professional

Responding Sincerely is Very Professional

by Rosette Pyne

You receive an invitation by email, snail mail or in person…what do you do? Let’s see….you really only have two options – accept or reject. But many of you pursue what you believe to be a third option…don’t respond at all. Most invitations to events give you a bit of time to think about it, but then, oh no…. eventually you have to reply yes or no. But you don’t know what to do, so you do nothing at all. You check with friends and relatives to see if they are going, but many of them are just like you – waiting. What are you waiting for?? An invitation to an event you think will be more fun or one where you can hang out with your friends?? Are you waiting for a better offer? Waiting to see if you have a work or school commitment? Waiting, waiting, waiting …for Godot…till the cows come home…till it stops raining…what exactly are you waiting for?? Make up your mind! Meanwhile, the event organizer is waiting too. They are waiting to hear from you! In most cases, there is food to be ordered, tables to be assigned, hotel rooms to be reserved…well you get the idea. Or do you?? Make a decision and stick with it.

This brings me to the “say yes”, then don’t show up scenario. Over the past year, Career Services has organized numerous events that require an RSVP (comes from the French expression “répondez s’il vous plaît”, meaning “please respond”). Speakers come to campus, the response by students is overwhelming – so many want to attend, and the venue is changed to accommodate the larger crowd, more food is ordered, and well, you can see where this is going. Everyone is excited for the big event, but what happens? A significant percent  of students don’t show up and there is a venue that is too big with too much food. This happens more often than most could imagine; some are large events and others are small personal luncheons/meetings with employers, alumni and high profile speakers. With limited seating, you have taken someone else’s place, someone who would have showed up. Look, I’m not talking about an illness or emergency that keeps you from attending an event. I’m talking about behavior – your behavior and you know who you are. Guess what folks, it’s not professional!

Perhaps none of this will mean anything to you, until you are the organizer. You send out the invitation, you wait for the responses, some don’t respond at all, others respond yes and don’t show up and you end up calling the non respondents and paying for those that don’t attend. All the while you are thinking why in the world they don’t just let you know if they are going to attend. Will you think twice about inviting them to your next event? Sure you will..and if you don’t respond more than once to a friend you will be asking later why you weren’t invited to the next party.

Responding sincerely is very professional and if you by chance you were not taught this growing up, it’s not too late to apply the lesson beginning today. Respond in a timely manner and certainly prior to the deadline; it’s okay to say “no thanks I am unable to attend”, and when you say “YES” BE CERTAIN TO SHOW UP.

What Should I Ask Alumni?

By: David Ross

So you’ve just found that incredible lead and think this could be the big break you’ve been waiting for…there’s an alum working at a place of great interest to you. There’s just one slight problem – you’re unsure what to ask the alum and want to make the best impression possible. How should you proceed?

Carefully. Cautiously. Professionally. While there’s no “magic formula” here, you do want to think carefully and plan ahead before reaching out to alumni. Sometimes, I’m asked by students what are some questions to ask an alum? Here are a few ideas:

Can you share your thoughts on how to best prepare myself for a career in (insert career here)? Sure, we’ve all heard about pursuing internships and making connections, but depending on the field you are interested in, an alum’s perspective on some of the more subtle or less mentioned skills that are valued can be particularly helpful.

How did your Penn (and/or school at Penn) experience prepare you for your career? This question is a great way to really delve into the Penn connection you share and ways that you can leverage that experience.

In your experience, what are some attributes of individuals who are most successful in (your field)? Not only will this question shed some light on what it takes to be successful, it may also be helpful to evaluate if a certain career field is a good fit for you personally.

Are there any courses at Penn that you would recommend taking as preparation? A decision on what classes to take is up to each individual. However, an alum’s experience with certain courses he or she found helpful and useful may give you some new ideas to think about.

While asking questions can be a helpful way to begin a discussion with alumni, some individuals prefer a more direct approach and like to “cut to the chase.” Be careful with this as you certainly do not want to put an alum in an awkward position – especially if he or she does not know you. Think about it – would you recommend someone for employment at a company if all you knew about the person was based on one email or a phone call you received? Developing strong networking connections can take some time. And while it may not be easy to cultivate a contact, it’s very easy to make a bad impression in the process. Always keep that in mind.

Of course, there are many other questions you can ask alumni as well. But hopefully this gives you a few ideas to open the lines of communication and connect with alumni.

Does my Penn Degree Mean I Deserve an Emmy?

By Peggy Curchack and Claire Klieger

In the recent blog post, What Am I Worth?, we offered our take on what constitutes reasonable monetary worth.    Here we  address “worth” from another angle.   Now and again, we’ll get a question like this from a student:

“Shouldn’t I make more as a Marketing Assistant at BulgeBracket, Inc. than someone graduating from East Cupcake State? It was tougher for me to get in here and my classes are more difficult.”

Over the years we’ve heard from Penn students who believe that their Ivy League education should automatically confer access to higher titles and/or higher starting salaries than graduates from less prestigious institutions.  This would be like Emmy Nominees with degrees from Ivy League schools (Tony Shalhoub – Monk, Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock, Matthew Fox – Lost, Connie Britton –  Friday Night Lights, and Michael C. Hall – Dexter) assuming that they were a shoe-in for the award because, “Hey, I went to _________!” Can you imagine Matthew Fox (Columbia) interrupting Bryan Cranston’s acceptance speech with an outburst of “This is an outrage! Didn’t anyone look at my transcript?”

This mentality is likely to actually work against everything else you have going for you.  Your Penn degree is worth a huge amount:  it confers a lifelong identity in a select and highly-regarded community; it gives you access to options and opportunities for the rest of your life (including lifetime use of Career Services J); it opens doors that you probably haven’t even imagined yet.

But why should it mean that for the same work, at the same employer, you should be paid more?

Sure your Penn classes were really demanding – but were they all equally hard?  The graduate of East Cupcake probably thinks that s/he worked really really hard for a 3.9 GPA, and s/he probably did!  Throughout your career you’ll work side by side with — and probably report to — very smart, very hard-working people who did not graduate from schools with the prestige of Penn.  Let’s take the Emmy’s again.  One of the big winners of the night was Eddie Falco, a SUNY Purchase grad.   It behooves us to respect everyone with whom we work, regardless of academic background.

There are so many things that your Penn education gives you that grads from the East Cupcake States of the world can’t count on.  Just by seeing the Penn name on your resume, people will presume you’re well educated, have important critical skills, and can conduct yourself appropriately in professional situations. You also have access to alumni/ae networks of amazingly interesting people (most of whom will also get nostalgic about evenings at Smokey Joes, toast throwing at football games or late night debauchery in the Quad).  The Penn degree will always confer status, but which of us likes having that flaunted? (Think about how you would feel if you every time you went to a party or sat next to someone on a plane they said, “Hi my name is ______ and I went to Harvard”).

And, from the ridiculous to the sublime, we leave you with Emily Dickinson’s take on this issue:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—