What’s in a name?

by J. Michael DeAngelis

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene ii.

When I first left college and moved out on my own, I shared a house with four other people just outside New York City’s Lincoln Tunnel.  Though it wasn’t that long ago – these were the days before everyone had a cellphone and we still relied on a land line house phone for the majority of our calls.

We had several phones – one downstairs, one in the hall and one in my bedroom.  Only one person had a room downstairs, so that phone went mostly unused.  The phone in the hall had a terrible habit of puling the jack out of the wall every time you picked it  up, so that phone mostly went unused.  That meant almost everyone used the phone in my room all the time…and the phone rang a lot.

One morning, I was enjoying a rare day off of work and trying to take full advantage of sleeping in.  The house was empty and I was in slumberland when…RING.  RING.  RING. RING.  Ugh.  I groggily reached for the phone.  A very chipper woman was on the other end.

Voice: Hello!  May I speak with Pete please?

Me: I don’t think he’s home at the moment.  Can I take a message?

Voice: This is his boss, I just wanted to run some new assignments by him.  It’s rather lengthy.  Maybe I’ll just e-mail him…do you have his e-mail address?

Ooooh.  This was a tougher question than it seemed.  I DID have Pete’s e-mail address, but I dared not say it.  You see, Pete had a fairly unusual e-mail address, which was taken from the lyric of a song he wrote – a sort of in joke between his friends and fans of his band.  I wanted to make sure Pete got his assignment, but I also didn’t want to cost him his job if his boss took offense at his e-mail address.   I decided to take a chance.

Me: Well, I do have it, but it’s odd.  His e-mail is SATANandTHEBOY@hotmai…”

I was cut off by riotous laughter.

Voice: That’s hysterical.  And that’s so Pete.

Image courtesy of Frankieb via Flickr

Crisis adverted.  Pete got his assignment and his boss got a good laugh.  Still, it was close.  What if his boss had been a very religious person?  Or just didn’t understand why someone would have the word Satan in their e-mail address – after all, it’s probably not the most professional sounding.   That night, Pete informed me that he did, in fact, have a business e-mail that was just his name  – simple, clear and no room for misinterpretation.  I promised him I would only give that one out to potential employers in the future.

Flashforward to the present and my job in Career Services.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve retold the story of Pete and his e-mail to students who use their personal e-mail accounts on their resumes and job correspondents.

Imagine yourself as an employer.  How would you feel if you got job applications from email handles such as “LAXGurl86,” “QTPie,” “PennDrinker”, “Partytime” or “KittenLover89”?  Exaggerations, obviously, but not that far off from actual addresses that I’ve seen on resumes, cover letters or electronic correspondence.

Think before you send.  Remember how much time you’ve put into making your job application look professional.  Think about how hard you’ve proof read your resume and cover letter.  An employer is going to take EVERYTHING you submit to them into account – including your e-mail address.  The same goes for what you name any documents you attach.  Don’t apply to Coca-Cola with an attachment called “Pepsi Resume.doc”!

Keep things simple.  Use your Penn e-mail address or, if you’re using a personal account, a simple, professional account such that uses your name (eg. firstname.lastname@email.com).  Be remembered by your name and for your outstanding resume – not your novelty e-mail address.  Though Pete’s story has a happy ending – it was a lucky one.  Not every employer is going to have a sense of humor.

Satan and the Boy

What Am I Worth?

by Peggy Curchack

Here’s a question I received from a student a while back:  “Should I be willing to take a job for $25,000?  Isn’t that like insulting me, or inappropriate since I have a Penn degree?”

I see two different issues here:  one is “what is a reasonable salary?”  The other:  “doesn’t the fact that I have a degree from Penn enhance my worth?”  In this blog, I’ll address the salary issue.  Stay tuned for another blog about the “worth” of a Penn degree.

I maintain that no salary is insulting if it is within the boundaries of the industry standards.  Some fields traditionally have paid well (i-banking, consulting), others pay middling (web development, economic research), others pay terribly (women’s shelters, arts organizations, entry-level positions at ad agencies).  The fact that some of your classmates will be offered $60,000 in one industry doesn’t mean you’ve been dissed if you get offered $30,000 to teach in a private school – and take it!

It’s regrettable that there isn’t greater equity among salaries paid in different fields (or, at least, I think it’s regrettable), but that’s reality.

And while many of you have come to enjoy a level of comfort that you’d like to maintain, think hard about what you really need to be fulfilled and challenged.  One’s earnings and one’s “worth” are often equated, but not for any good reasons.  And certainly what you earn in your first job out of Penn is not what you’ll be earning forever and ever (though some fields never pay a lot).  People who hate their jobs are unhappy people, no matter what they earn.

For the number of you with truly daunting loans to pay back:  I wish I had simple words of wisdom, but I don’t.  However, think hard about whether your life will be over if you don’t live in, let’s say, NY.  A dollar goes way farther in Philly or Baltimore or Boulder than it does in Boston, SF, or NY.

The Walt Disney Company
©Walt Disney Company

Finally, a personal belief:  all kinds of people have ended up making good money doing things they are passionate about.  I like to fantasize about Jim Henson coming home from the University of Maryland one weekend and, responding to his grandmother’s question “What are you going to do with your life?” saying “I’m going to make puppets”.  If there is something you know you adore doing, and feel passionate about, do it – you might even find it remunerates better than you expect.

Back to School Shopping for Professional Attire – Dress for Success But Don’t Break the Bank

By Kelly Cleary

We all know we should dress to impress when it comes to professional networking and interviewing, but what does that mean, exactly? We know it doesn’t mean jeans, t-shirts, or anything you’re likely to wear to an 8am class or a party on Friday night.  But what should you wear to employer information sessions (which begin the night before classes for full-time OCR positions), alumni panels that include networking receptions, career fairs, or first or second round interviews?  (The info session and employer links above provide some tips on what to wear to these events.)

If you’re planning  to interview for post-grad jobs or internships in the upcoming year, you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe, but it’s a good idea to have a few key pieces of professional attire in your closet, or at least at your disposal (your roommate’s closet?) If have clean and pressed articles of these types of clothes that fall into the same color scheme (black, gray, dark grey, some neutral tones),  you should be in good shape for recruiting season.

What to wear? The Basics

  • A dark suit, ladies can opt for pant or skirt suits
  • Dress pants, again dark shades are preferable
  • Dress shirt(s) in conservative colors (white, blue, other neutrals)
  • You can also add a professional looking sweater, ladies can go with a blouse
  • A blazer, if you can find one that works with one or two pairs of your dress pants
  • Dress/professional shoes that work with your color scheme (black shoes make a black/grey color base easy) with dark socks
  • For Men: a tie or a few
  • For Women: conservative (just above or below the knee) skirts or dresses can also work well.
  • This About.com article offers more detailed advice on what to wear.

Where to look for your new professional attire? Yes, you can easily spend a chunk of your hard earned summer cash on new clothes, but you don’t need to do so. Here are some suggestions for finding professional clothes while staying within your budget.

Hand-me-downs – check big sis, big brother or maybe even mom and dad’s closets. I’ve always been really fortunate to have a mother who dresses well and is about my size. I’ve also scored some great clothes from my sisters once they were gainfully employed and happy to pass on last season’s suit or shoes.

Discount stores – you can find great deals on suits, slacks, shirts, ties, blouses, and shoes at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Kohl’s.

Sales at department stores and specialty stores – If you hit the sales right or remember to bring in those 20% coupons (which can sometimes be found online), you can purchase some of these wardrobe staples at great prices at stores like Macy’s, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic.

Your friend’s closet – Most of us have friends who seem to have endless closets of really great clothes, and some of those friends are also willing to share. When I was in college one of my suitemates worked at Ann Taylor so she had a closet full of stylish professional clothes. Several friends treated her closet like a library for interview clothes. Unfortunately for me she was 5’8 and I was 5’2. She was also finance major and I was an English major, so at the time I was more than a little intimidated by her career path focus and interview confidence… but that’s another blog story.

For more tips on business etiquette and professional dress read the article on p. 89 of our career guide Pathways. (Note, this link takes you to the 09-10 guide, but hardcopies of the 10-11 guide are available in Career Services and it will posted online soon.)

And the Offer Goes To…

By Claire Klieger

No, it’s not Oscar time, but the sense of anticipation or anxiety about whether or not you might get a full-time offer from your summer employer can be just as intense for rising seniors.  However, only a few industries (consulting, financial services, consumer products and technology) typically make post-graduate full-time offers almost a year before you would actually be starting in that position. This is because of the cyclical nature of entry-level roles in those fields—that it is common for people to work for two years and then leave—which allows those employers to predict so far in advance what their hiring needs will be for the upcoming year.  For this very reason, these are the same employers that often participate in on-campus recruiting, so, if you secured your internship through OCR it’s very possible your firm will be making full-time offers to some interns at some point in late summer or early fall.

Regardless of what type of organization you’re working with this summer, if you’re interested in future opportunities with your employer, there are ways to broach the topic with your supervisor. How you approach it depends on your experience at the organization and how serious you are about really wanting to work there.  Here are some tips:

1. Demonstrate your interest. Start by thanking your supervisor for your wonderful learning experience this summer. Explain how the experience has helped you realize that you are really interested in pursuing a career in… (whatever type of work you’re interested in at the organization). Then say that you would certainly be interested in future opportunities at the organization and ask if it would be possible to stay in touch throughout the year.

2. Don’t give a false impression. Be wary of giving the false impression that you would –definitely- work there if you had an offer if that’s not really the case. Avoid saying things like, “I would jump at the chance to work here full time” (unless you actually mean it—as in, if they offered you a job tomorrow you would say yes without hesitation).  The last thing you want to do is give the impression that you would accept an offer if made if you’re not sure that’s true. Remember, the working world is small and you don’t want to burn bridges.

3. Express your interest in future opportunities without committing yourself to anything. You could say something like, “I’ve had a wonderful experience this summer and I really appreciate the opportunities afforded me and all that I’ve learned.  I realize you probably don’t know what your future hiring needs may be, but I’d certainly be open to opportunities that may present themselves in the future.” Notice how I didn’t say “love” or “definitely” or “thrilled” anywhere in there?

4. If you had a negative experience, don’t push for an offer. If you know that you would never in a million years take a full time job with your employer, don’t initiate any kind of conversation like this. Instead, figure out how to focus on the positive of that experience so you can talk effectively about it in future interviews (we can help!).

More than just “Small” Talk

…as you engage in your first job search or if you’ve been in the world of work for some time, chances are you’ve found yourself in a professionally related situation that required “small talk.”

by Jamie Grant, C’98, GEd ’99

Recently, I met with a student who was traveling for a job interview; the organization’s offices were an hour from the airport and he would be picked up and driven back by the person overseeing the interview process.  Overshadowing the candidate’s preparation for the interview was concern about what he could possibly talk about during the long car ride with a stranger-slash-potential boss. The weather?  Sports?   Politics?  Music?  While this was an extreme situation, as you engage in your first job search or if you’ve been in the world of work for some time, chances are you’ve found yourself in a professionally related situation that required “small talk.”

Like the business etiquette lessons you will find so useful throughout life, the ability to make small talk is an important skill to practice and develop, and one that will be more beneficial than you might think.  Small talk can put you at ease during the job interviewing process, while meeting new colleagues or clients or at social events.  It is a large component of successful networking; developing rapport with another through conversation and interest in a shared topic is an ideal way to create affiliation and forge strong and longstanding relationships.

So, how might you develop or improve your small talk skills?  One strategy I have found very helpful is to read widely.  In just a few moments, you can be well prepared for any situation that may involve small talk by reviewing the latest headlines of the New York Times or Washington Post, easily accessible online.  Another fantastic resource I use often is National Public Radio, or NPR.  Broadcast across the country and designed for an eclectic listener base, NPR frequently plays interesting short stories or interviews that cover everything from current events to art and lifestyle topics as well as entertainment and music of many genres.  I have had several interesting discussions with new acquaintances on brief excerpts from StoryCorps on NPR (a famed oral history project preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress).  The above mentioned sites are just a few of many widely available resources to aid you in developing a repertoire of topics to discuss.

Another key to effective small talk is to be observant as well as a careful listener.  As you speak with someone new to you or who has been a colleague for some time, pay special attention to detail.  You may learn that someone enjoys food by an innocuous comment made over a catered business lunch, leading to a spirited conversation on the area’s best restaurants.  Or, a comment admiring someone’s jewelry or bag could inspire that person to share the story of where it was acquired and how much they enjoyed traveling to the country in which it was purchased.  But, you say, what if the other person doesn’t respond or engage with my attempt? Remember that small talk is not formulaic, nor can it be forced.  You may be surprised, though, how pleased others are to engage in conversation with you when you have an interesting way to start.