A Halloween treat

Happy Halloween!

I hope you and your loved ones all managed to stay safe and (relatively) dry during the hurricane.   Career Services is up and running for business as usual today.  While we try and get caught up with scheduling appointments – here’s a classic Halloween themed blog entry.

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Forbidden Foods

When was the last time you spilled something on your shirt? Picture the shirt. Picture the stain. What were you eating? Had it ever happened before? Same food? Different food?

Now, where were you? With your friends? With your family? In a dining hall? At a restaurant? Let’s hope it wasn’t during a job interview!

There are many opportunities to spill something during an interview—especially during a meal. So whether you’re simply accepting a cup of coffee in the office or having lunch together with the interviewer, be careful. Your behavior is part of the interview and is being observed. The interviewer wants to see how you conduct yourself in a business and social setting and, if hired, if you will be able to represent your company in a professional manner.

So, plan ahead to avoid making a poor impression. There are many resources on dining etiquette on our website and elsewhere, even including videos. Check out some of this information to test your knowledge of manners and etiquette. Do you know which silverware to use? Which glass is yours? What to do when you drop your fork? (Don’t pick it up. Ask your server for another fork.) How to eat your bread? (Don’t fold it over and make a butter sandwich.) How to cut your food? (Don’t cut it all at once after you’ve been served). What to order? (Follow the lead of the interviewer.) How much to eat? (Don’t feel like you have to finish everything on your plate, but don’t order too much.) How to order dessert? (Don’t.)

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You Don’t Have to be a Brain Surgeon for this One…

A colleague sent this video clip to me, it’s pretty funny, though you can see the punch line coming a mile away.

The kernel of truth in the silly scenario is that despite the fact “it’s not brain surgery” – or rocket science – people really do have problems connecting with others, especially in networking environments.  You might be brilliant in your studies or your field (or perhaps just a little arrogant), but it really does take practice for some people to know how to talk about themselves in a way that is engaging or even accessible to acquaintances.  Even more importantly, being able show an interest in others, and to ask good questions, will get you as far as any impressive accomplishment you have under your belt.  Networking is a skill that you will need to find a job and to stay up in your profession.  And, I will dare to say… networking can also be really helpful, fun and interesting.

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When your thumbs do the talking, take extra care

Thx, C U soon, Same 2 U, Lv and miss u, R u kidding?, LOL :-)

Text talk. It’s such an efficient way to communicate with friends and family when we’re on the go. The list above comes from a quick scan through my recent iPhone messages from family, friends, and co-workers. If you’ve ever seen me on Locust Walk, you’ve probably seen me fiddling with my phone, writing texts, talking to my dad, and checking email.

I’ve come to realize this technology is a blessing and a curse. My smartphone makes it easy to keep up with current events and what’s going on with work when I’m not at my desk. And sending “miss u, love u” messages and photos of my three year-old to my parents, siblings, and in-laws takes much less time than calling everyone. But do I need to be so obsessive about checking email? Probably not. And an emoticon could never replace my daughter’s smile when she hears the voice of a loved one who is miles away.  But enough of my musings about my own bad habits…

At work I recently received an email that simply said “+ Jennifer”. For a moment I thought this was a weird reference to Orwell’s double-plus type Newspeak from 1984.  But after rereading the email I came to the conclusion that since Jennifer (not my colleagues real name) had been left out of the previous email  “+ Jennifer” meant ‘Jennifer, I’m sorry I didn’t include you in my previous email. Please join us at the meeting tomorrow. I look forward seeing you then.” Or something like that.

Then I thought, wow, that’s really unprofessional. And then I remembered how just a few days earlier I nearly sent a co-worker an email from my phone that read, “Thx c u tomorrow.”  But before I hit send I (thankfully) realized I was in email NOT messages so I thumbed my way back and typed out a more coherent response.

For years I have groused with colleagues about the increasing number of students who are too informal and unprofessional in their email tone, often neglecting to use capitalization or proper punctuation. I frequently remind students that even if they write informally when emailing me with questions, they should use a more professional tone and take care with their grammar when writing to professors, prospective employers, alumni, and other networking contacts.

But my near miss made me realize how easy it can be to stick with the informal texting language when we’re switching so quickly between texting, email, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. on our smartphones. But my advice to students, and myself, remains the same. When corresponding via email in any type of professional context, take the time to write a thoughtful, well written, grammatically correct message with a professional tone. (Note, professional can still be friendly and shouldn’t be stodgy).  The recipient may or may not be a stickler for this kind of thing, but if he or she is, you might not receive the response you were hoping for, or you might not receive a response at all.

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The Two Month Job Interview

By Barbara Hewitt

Many of you are well-entrenched in your summer internships at this point…hopefully happily engaged in projects and getting adjusted to the work culture. Such summer experiences often provide wonderful opportunities to learn new skills, build your resume, and network with professionals. They also allow you to see if a particular job or industry is a good fit for you personally and if it aligns well with your skills, interests, and personality.

For those of you (particularly rising seniors) in structured internship programs, the summer also often functions much like an 8 or 10 week job interview. While you are assessing the employer, the employer is also evaluating you on a daily basis to see if they want to offer you a full-time, post-graduate position. This is your chance to really shine – to show you are competent, a team player, articulate, and a good overall fit with the organization.

I attended a meeting last week comprised of recruiters from most of the large investment banks in New York and college career counselors from the Ivy League institutions. This is an annual meeting and provides a great opportunity to network, learn about trends, and generally discuss any concerns that might have cropped up over the course of the year…and did the recruiters express concerns this year! It seems that the summer interns at the banks have been making some major mistakes. (The complaints were not of ALL interns nor were they Penn specific, but they were shared by all of the recruiters present.) Here are some of the things they mentioned interns doing during the first few weeks on the job:

  • Openly sleeping during training sessions or simply not paying attention. You might be able to get away with this in class (although extremely rude!), but it is totally unacceptable in the work environment.
  • Losing company property. One firm reported that four interns lost their Blackberries during the first week.
  • Underage drinking. Several firms sponsored social events in which alcohol was available for students over 21. Wristbands were provided to indicate age. Interns who were not yet 21 were seen drinking, and it was quite clear that it would be extremely unlikely that these students would receive a return offer at the end of the summer. Hiring ethical employees is of the utmost important to most firms, and at a bare minimum they expect their employees to follow the law. Other recruiters reported that students of legal age ordered multiple drinks (as many as four…) during “last call” so that the company would wind up footing the tab for excessive drinking.

Some of these things may seem minor and students often believe they will go unnoticed. They do not. Everything you do during the summer is carefully monitored by most employers and play into your final evaluation. It is up to you to put your best foot forward if you hope to receive a full-time offer….work hard, pay attention to the company culture and norms, network, and ask for projects if you have extra time. In sum, do everything you can to show that you can be a real asset to the organization. If in doubt about anything, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more feedback you can get early in the summer, the better you will fully understand and be able to meet the employer’s expectations.

Best wishes for the remainder of a productive and fun summer!

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