How Voicemail Greetings and Email Addresses Affect Your Job Search

by Alyssa Perkins-Chatterton, Administrative Assistant for the College team

When looking for a job we all know that first impressions and professionalism are very important. However, many people often overlook the image they are portraying to potential employers when it comes to their voicemail greetings and email addresses.

First, let’s discuss the power of a professional email address. Your email address is always listed on your resume as an avenue to contact you. Employers are going to take you more seriously and think of you in a much more professional manner if you list a professional email versus let’s say, Let’s face it, it’s fun to have a silly email address but that is not what employers are looking for. Instead you should use an email that incorporates the name you use professionally or even your Penn email.

Now that your resume (and professional email address) has passed the screening and impressed the recruiter or hiring manager, let’s make sure your voicemail will represent you in the best way possible. Unless you are expecting a call from a number that you know, most people just let the call go to voicemail. That is okay, however, I find that many people fail to set up their voicemail in the first place. If this is the case, how is an employer going to reach you to let you know they are interested? There are many talented candidates vying for the same spots so you wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity just because you hadn’t set up your voicemail, or your voicemail is full. Many people also leave the generic robot message that the phone comes with. Example: “You have reached 123-456-7891. Leave your message at the tone.” While this is fine, it is always nice to put some personal touch to your message. That being said, your “personal touch” should be professional. Do not rap your voicemail message to the tune of your favorite Jay Z song or make a haiku. While this may be funny and entertaining to your friends and family, a potential employer would hear that and think twice about even picking up the phone in the first place. Remember, it is important to convey a professional tone to potential employers so just record a concise message saying who they reached and that you will get back to them as soon as possible.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

This Is Halloween

by J. Michael DeAngelis

Author’s note: A version of this blog originally appeared in 2012.  I was unfortunately reminded of this particular entry today after hearing about some very poor behavior from a student during their job search process.  Perhaps Halloween just brings out the worst in some people?

When I was little, I had what I think was the greatest record collection a four year old could have. One of the crown jewels of my collection was a Walt Disney’s Trick or Treat, which retold one of the great Donald Duck cartoons of all time:

Oh, Donald, you irascible mallard!

“But Michael,” I can hear you say, “what does this have to do with Career Services?” Well, there’s a lot that we can learn from Donald, especially when it comes to attitude. Donald thinks pretty highly of himself. His refusal to give Huey, Dewey and Louie any candy stems not just from selfishness, but from a feeling of superiority. The unabashed glee that Donald has in outsmarting his nephews and Witch Hazel is comically evident throughout, but what’s funny in a cartoon is often destructive in real life.

Now, obviously, I don’t think that any of you are planning to stick firecrackers in your recruiter’s suitcase. Still, I have seen many people on the job hunt sabotage themselves because, consciously or un, they exude a Donald Duck like attitude. I see this not only here at Penn, but also in my second career in the theater arts.

There is a very fine but distinct line between having confidence and being smug. For example, I was recently looking to hire a small staff to work with me on a project outside of Career Services. A young woman came to interview for a position and, on paper, she seemed perfect. Her resume was good and she seemed enthusiastic about the project. Within in minutes, however, my feelings had changed. She spent the entire interview talking about how she and her friends had been “robbed” at a local awards ceremony. She began by saying that she was smarter than anyone on the awards committee and that her level of experience should have made her their top consultant. I was immediately turned off. Talk about overselling yourself. Worse, she continued by openly bad mouthing those who had won awards – including people I considered friends. If she hadn’t done so already, this sunk her. A real Donald Duck.

Be proud of what you’ve done. Feel free to speak of your talents and achievements. Wow potential employers with everything you bring to the table…but be mindful of ego and hubris. In the interview room, don’t be a Donald Duck or, as the song says, “your nightmares will come true.”

Speak in an interview without saying a word

By Jamie Grant, C ’98, GEd ‘99

I chose psychology as my undergraduate major because so much around the subject fascinated me – study what you love, right?!  One particularly interesting area of the field that can have impact on you – or, at least, your interviews – is the psychology of color.  What do your apparel choices say about you – before you ever begin speaking about your interests, skills and accomplishments?

Fast Company magazine recently published an article by Stephanie Vozza, entitled “Why You Should Never Wear Orange to An Interview” as part of their category “How to be a Success at Everything” (love it!).  Understanding the power of color and its implication on how others perceive you may not necessarily make up for a lack of experience or qualifications, Vozza writes, but can certainly help you make the most of your first impression.

As examples:

  • Black conveys leadership.
  • Red is a color of power.
  • Blue gives the impression the person is a team player.
  • Gray reads as logical and analytical.
  • White gives a feeling of being organized.
  • Green, yellow, orange and purple are associated with creativity.

The article goes on to echo an idea we share in Career Services every day – know your industry. Navy can be a wonderful choice for a suit if you are applying to a conservative field – but in a creative environment, navy may just be too conservative and send the wrong message.  Brown can imply passivity and staidness, Vozza writes – NOT a good thing to project when you’re applying for a role in a fast-paced environment that may require adaptability, flexibility and leadership skills.  Gray may be an excellent fit all around, and certainly you have the option of accent colors like purple, blue, or green – shirts and/or ties for gentlemen, blouses, scarves, or other accessories for women – chosen in hues suited to the industry for which you are being considered and the image you hope to project.

And, as the title of the article says, avoid orange – the hiring managers interviewed as part of the base of this article said it is the color most likely to lead them to think the candidate was “unprofessional.”  Besides, what Quaker wants to wear Princeton’s colors, anyway!!?



The “Foreign Culture” of Job Searching

CultureRecently I was reading a career book when one sentence jumped out at me. “In many ways, conducting a job search is like adapting to a foreign culture.” Aha! I thought. This is exactly what career exploration and job searches are like for a number of the international students I advise (actually, for almost all students to some extent, since most students have not yet had full-time professional jobs, so it can be a “foreign culture” to them too).

Adapting to new situations is not unusual for university students. Luckily, most of you are able to rely on the advice of friends to interpret what we advisors suggest to you during orientation sessions and workshops. Some of you are brave enough to raise your hands and ask us, “What exactly do you mean?” or “Can you give us an example of how yoFish master-art-adapting-foreign-office-cultureu would actually do that?” Often, it seems easier just to ask your friends after the session. The problem is that, depending on the topic (careers in this case), your friends may not know much more than you do. (Or what they know may be very specific to their individual experiences.)

What I appreciated about this book is that it gives clear and specific instructions about how to actually do whatever is suggested. It doesn’t assume that the reader has the experience (or the social skills) to inherently know how to implement many career suggestions. It even gives examples of common mistakes.

Here’s one:

“Adam is like many job seekers I coach: frustrated and discouraged. He graduated near the top of his class with a degree in computer science. With some help from his father, Adam put together a resume, drafted a cover letter, and began applying for software testing jobs on internet job boards. After sending more than 40 resumes, Adam received an invitation for a telephone interview. Confident about his technical ability, Adam anticipated no problems answering questions.

The interview did not go as planned. Adam hadn’t kept a copy of the job advertisement, and had a hard time answering specific queries about his qualifications. Since he hadn’t done any research on the company, he wasn’t prepared to explain why he wanted to work there. When asked about whether he had experience using a specific tool, Adam responded, “No,” even though he was proficient with one that was very similar (and could have called attention to this.) The call lasted ten minutes.” (Bissonnette, 2013, p. 16).

Sound familiar to anyone? This skilled young graduate didn’t realize that he was entering a foreign culture, the world of work. All of us who explore new cultures need to learn their languages and norms in order to interact with the people native to those cultures. Here’s one cultural example for Adam’s case. Job applicants need to understand that simply wanting to work at a company is important toFit that employer. It helps the employer determine if you fit their company culture. Yes, you need to have the skills necessary for the work, but once an employer has determined that you have the skills they need, they want to understand why you want to work there. Responses such as, “Because you’re a famous company” or “I’ve always wanted to work for a company like yours” are not sufficient. Your response needs to indicate both what you know about the company and that you’re enthusiastic about working for them. Adam could have said something like, “For one of my class projects we tested a programming language you use, so I was interested in reading more about your company when I saw this job posting. When I read about your projects, the languages you use, and how you invest in new employees, I knew this would be a good fit.”

The book goes on to provide specific examples and definitions and to point out common errors. As another example, there is a section on mistakes made during interviews that focuses on four common errors: “long, rambling responses to questions,” “very, very short answers to questions,” “being unprepared,” and “not showing enthusiasm.” I know from the many mock interviews I’ve conducted that these are frequent mistakes among all students—in any class year, in any degree. Just explaining your skills isn’t enough. Preparation is essential so that you know what types of answers are appropriate and that you know a lot about the job and company. Being authentically enthusiastic is key.

So, for full disclosure now. The reason this book so carefully explains the norms of this “foreign culture” and provides many examples, clear explanations, and detailed worksheets is that the targeted audience of this book is those of us who find social skills difficult to understand and master—namely those on “the spectrum” with Asperger’s Syndrome.

I’m not trying to say that I think most students struggle with development of basic social skills. I am trying to say that this book might be helpful to many students, especially those who want to understand how and why to communicate with potential employers—in other words, how to understand the employer’s culture. The author attempts to “explain the ‘whys’ behind aspects of the job search that many people with Asperger’s Syndrome find confusing or silly.” (Bissonnette, 2013, p. 19). How wonderful to have a resource such as this for students on the autism “spectrum” who are exploring their career options! But, I’m also excited that there are tips in this book that I find potentially helpful for any student navigating a “foreign culture,” especially international students who want to find job opportunities in the U.S. Actually, I think many students might benefit from this book’s straightforward advice. For all of us it can sometimes be confusing to understand and adapt to a new culture.

The book is The Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome: Find the Right Career and Get Hired, by Barbara Bissonnette, published in 2013 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers (London and Philadelphia). The quote in my first paragraph above is from Bissonnette, 2013, p. 12. The four examples of interviewing mistakes are from Bissonnette, 2013, p. 136.

culture balloons

Wrapping Things Up

by Beckie Stokes, Operations Assistant

intern mugHere we are, knee-deep into August already. Hopefully you’ve been able to spend your summer not only getting some good quality rest and relaxation, but also logging in some awesome internship hours. Since you’ll be wrapping up and heading back to good old Penn soon, here are some things you should remember to do before you bid adieu to your summer employer.

-Ask your boss for honest feedback. You’ve spent the whole summer working and learning new skills, but maybe no one has let you know how you’re doing in the big-picture sense. Now is a great time to schedule a sit-down with your supervisor to see how they viewed your performance, where you can improve, and (hopefully) hear some positive things about your work.

-Talk to and conduct informational interviews with people in your company. You have such great access into a particular industry right now. Don’t pass up the opportunity to pick the brains of people who are actively involved in it. You should do this regardless of whether you loved or hated what you did. If you loved it, great – get some insight into what the real day-to-day of full-time employees is like and what your future might hold. If you ultimately decided that this position or department wasn’t for you, talk to some people outside of the department to see what their work is like – it could be that you still love the industry or company but would ultimately seek a different position.

-Have a talk about your future with the company. Did you love what you did this summer? Awesome! Have a sit-down with your boss to talk about next steps. Some industries make offers at the end of the summer; some tell you they were pleased with your performance and invite you to keep in touch as graduation approaches. Either way, you should take action to make sure they know that you would like to come back if they’ll have you.

-Start making the “goodbye” rounds, but do it before your last day. This is a great time to let your colleagues know how much you’ve appreciated working with them, and chat a bit about your plans for the future. Make sure you have their contact information so you can keep in touch, regardless of your plans to return to the company. This is a great opportunity to expand your network and start nurturing your connections in the field. Starting this process at least a couple of days before you leave ensures that you’ll be able to talk to everyone (heaven forbid your favorite colleague calls out sick on your last day!) and that you’ll have enough time for more than a ten-second “See ya!” on the way out the door.

We hope the end of your internship and the end of your summer are enjoyable and productive. And if you do get that end-of-summer offer and need help negotiating, our door is always open. See you soon, Quakers!