In today’s economic climate, the journey to employment can be like a winding road, where you can approach a turn and not know what to expect around the bend. To seek fulfillment and meaning in your work is a worthy pursuit, though you may feel like you’re on a detour when goals you set when you started your academic program seem out of reach. It is possible to look beyond dashed or delayed expectations to options that you hadn’t considered. To become open to other opportunities requires that you consider the “goal behind the goal.” In other words, what do you see as the overarching mission that moves you toward your specific career goals? How can you leverage your skills to move toward that mission right now?
As you rest up and regroup during winter break, consider some of the possibilities:
The Federal Government is currently a major source of career opportunities. You may be surprised at the variety of fields and disciplines represented. Career Services is working with the Partnership for Public Service to make students aware of the careers available with the Federal Government. Check out our Make an Impact website for more information.
Perhaps you are the enterprising type and should pursue some form of entrepreneurship. This could involve a number of short-term projects that will allow you to establish a track record that leads to permanent employment. On the other hand, you may find that owning your own business, whether part-time or full-time, is a good fit for you. Take a look at the resource list from our previous workshop on creative self-employment.
If you are considering non-profit careers, take a look at the following excerpt from our recent alumni panel on the State of Things: The Impact of the Current Economy on Non-Profits. The panelists were Nancy Burd, Founder/President of The Burd Group, Nancy DeLucia, Regional Director at the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and Katherina Rosqueta, Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, who noted that her career path was “never about choosing a sector, but about making a difference.”
The week before winter break is typically a very quiet one here in Career Services. Most of our students are either in finals or already off campus and our employer contacts are similarly enjoying a brief respite before the New Year. I suspect that my colleagues, much like myself, were expecting a very quiet day around the office today. So imagine my surprise when we came into work this morning and found this:
It seems that Grandfather Winter was wreaking a little havoc in the Career Services conference room and On Campus Recruiting offices over the weekend. Perhaps he’s frustrated he didn’t get a pre-select slot with Goldman Sachs or just jealous that Mother Nature is always stealing his thunder. Regardless of the reason, we’ve spent the better part of the day bailing out our offices, trying to salvage important paperwork and cherished personal items before the ever growing flood waters wash them away.
Our dreams of a peaceful morning went down the drain. Thankfully, however, we are a high spirited staff. Moans and groans quickly turned into laughter and smiles. Those of us with good boots teamed up and waded through the water to move boxes of files and personal effects to higher, drier ground. Though as I write this the water is still pouring in, there’s little more we can do except wait for things to dry out.
It may sound cliché, but there are parallels here to your entry on the job market. As you go through the job search process, you are no doubt hearing about what a difficult task lies ahead and great proclamations about the shaky state of the economy. As time marches on without the security of employment, it can indeed feel like the flood waters are rising. Still, you have to press on. Let’s use today’s actual flood as an example of how to cope:
1. As the late Douglas Adams famously stated: DON’T PANIC. Any lifeguard will tell you that panicking in an emergency is a one way ticket to drowning. Keep your head about you. No matter how bad things may seem, panic and worry aren’t going to help. Make a game plan and set goals that will keep you high and dry – for example, set aside dedicated time to work on your job search and use it wisely. This can mean applying to jobs, revising your resume, searching resources like PAC Net, or even consulting with Career Services over break. Focus your energy instead of trying to swim without direction.
2. MOVE AWAY FROM RISING WATERS. Much like there is little point in me standing in the OCR office while icy waters rise up above my ankles, it’s equally important for you to set aside time where you are not focused on your job hunt. Go for a walk, read a book, wait in line for hours to see Avatar, finish that one last essay that you promised you’d complete over break…just step away for a moment. Though we obviously want you to stay committed to your search, becoming overwhelmed isn’t going to help you. Make sure that you use at least some of your break as an actual vacation!
3. DON’T KICK LEO OFF THE RAFT. Titanic – the timeless love story of a girl, a boy and the icy waters that came between them. Yes, we all swooned when Leo bravely plunged into the murky depths so that Kate Winslet could live, but let’s face it – she’s probably not a factor in your job search (If she is, please let us know how in the comment section!).
Just as the Career Services staff teamed up this morning to clear out the water damaged sections of our office, you should remember that you don’t have to fight your flood alone either. Many of your peers are going through the same thing you are – draw on them for support, encouragement and advice. Don’t kick your friends off the proverbial raft – even if you are competing for the same jobs. Celebrate each others’ successes and carry each other through difficult times. Career Services is here to help as well – tossing you a life preserver if you need it through resume and cover letter reviews and job search guidance…even during the break.
4. WEAR REALLY GOOD SHOES. A good pair of gortex boots will keep your feet dry during a flood and a tough, positive attitude will get you through your job search. Not only will it do you a world of good to stay optimistic, but potential employers are more likely to respond to someone with a “can do” attitude rather than someone who acts as if they’ve lost the job before they even get it.
As you can tell, it’s been an interesting Monday. Have a safe break – and we promise to dry out before you get back! In the meantime, as you traverse your own flood waters, feel free to call or e-mail us over the break – we’ll re-open on January 4th…come hell or high water!
Once the semester stress is behind you and you’ve had some time to rest up and celebrate, I imagine many seniors will start to focus on your post-grad plans. Even through, for many industries, the application timeline won’t begin until later in the spring semester, there are some things you can do now to better position yourself when you do start applying for jobs. Below are a few tips and resources to help you get started.
FIVE JOB SEARCH TIPS FOR WINTER BREAK
1. EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS: Spend some time exploring career possibilities by looking at some of the websites below. This can be an overwhelming project but it’s an important first step.
Career Plans Surveys for the Class of 2009 and earlier years – you might be surprised by the wide variety of paths your predecessors have chosen. And hopefully you’ll be encouraged to see that while only about 30% of the College Class of 2009 had accepted job offers by the end of December, almost 75% of them had accepted job offers by the end of May. (The 2009 report is preliminary. It will include more detailed employer information soon.)
What Can I Do with this Major?—These PDF’s provide a helpful overview of career paths related to specific majors including suggestions for types of employers and advice on preparing for those jobs.
2. RESEARCH EMPLOYERS: Once you’ve narrowed down your preferences for types of work, industries of interest, and where you hope to live, it’s time to start developing your wish list of prospective employers and build your list of favorite job search websites.
Vault & Wetfeet Guides – Yes, these two companies make great books to help students land i-banking and consulting jobs, but they also publish career and company guides for other industries like entertainment, fashion, retail, green, healthcare, pharma, marketing, PR, and many others. You can download the career guide books for free from our Online Subscriptionspage.
PennLink – This is where employers who specifically want to hire Penn students post jobs. Under the “Advanced Search” tab, you can set up a Search Agent to schedule weekly emails of new jobs that match your interests so you don’ t have to log into PennLink every day.
Career Resources by Field – From Anthropology and Arts to Sciences and Sports, you’ll find job search websites and transcripts from alumni speakers. There are similar websites for Wharton, Engineering, Nursing, and Graduate programs.
Online Subscriptions– this page includes log in and password information for over 25 job search websites including Art Search, Ecojobs, JournalistJobs, Policy Jobs and many others.
GoinGlobal – From GoinGlobal you can access international country and U.S. city guides that include lists of job search websites and links to local chambers of commerce which all have extensive employer directories for their regions.
3. TALK TO PEOPLE WHO DO WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO: Yes, I’m talking about networking. Outside of trying out a job through volunteering, interning or actually getting the job, talking with people who do or have done the job is one of the best ways to figure out if a career is right for you and to gather advice for landing a job in a particular field or within a specific company.
PACNet – Penn’s alumni career networking database is an easy way to connect with Penn alumni who have volunteered to be career mentors. They are a great resource for information and advice.
LinkedIn – Linked In, which is basically a professional version of Facebook is one of my favorite job search tools. If you don’t already have an account with an up to date profile, you should. Here are a couple of tips for making the most of LinkedIn for your job search:
PEOPLE Search – If you don’t find what you’re looking for in PACNet, you can search for alums (or even people with whom you don’t have a common affiliation) who work in the fields and/or organizations that interest you. You can view their profiles to see sample career paths and you can send direct messages to ask for advice. While this is more like cold calling, if it’s done respectfully and professionally, it can be worthwhile.
GROUPS – There are thousands of groups (i.e. alumni, specific industries, etc.) in LinkedIn where people share job postings and other career-related information, and they also serve as a forum for asking questions and gathering answers from more experienced professionals. Joining the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Group is a great first step.
Unless you’re heading straight to graduate school, it’s likely that it will be a while before you have such a long mid-winter break again, so sleep in, eat well, and enjoy good times with your loved ones.
Good luck with your remaining finals and papers. I hope you all have a safe and fun break. We look forward to seeing you in 2010!
When it’s time to decide on a job, there are many factors to consider, both before and after you receive an offer. For example, location tends to be pretty important. Ask yourself “where do I see myself living?” There are many more options than New York City! Try to visit a place at least once before you contemplate moving there, and evaluate: Do I like the weather… the people… the nightlife? Do I already have friends there? Can I even afford to live there?
To help you consider your geographical options, Salary.com allows you to see the cost of living in different cities, and how far that salary can really go. Remember that you’ll be looking not only at rent, but also perhaps utilities, cell phone bills, student loan repayments, the price of transportation, groceries, entertainment and other activities.
City Data.com is also a great website that posts detailed information on the average climate, average age of the citizens, median income, and crime statistics on every major (and even minor!) city in the United States.
As you’re interviewing and hopefully getting the offer you want to accept, you have to decide not only if the position right for you, but if the company itself is as well. Ask yourself, will I fit in with the company culture? Will I enjoy working for this company? Does it adhere to my values?
Look beyond the base salary and examine “the complete package” being offered – many “costs” of employment can have a significant effect on your paycheck. For example, does the company offer and contribute towards good health, dental and/or vision insurance? Does the company make 401K contributions, or offer stock options, tuition assistance or reimbursement? (No, it’s not too early to start thinking about these things!) Sure, most places have coffee machines and other basic “perks,” but consider what other things you may need or enjoy. Would you enjoy a free membership to the company gym? What about discounts on transportation, dining or entertainment? Some companies such as Google go well beyond the basics, offering such options as an on-site doctor or fitness classes. It truly is worth your effort to consider “the complete package” when you get an offer from a company.
When commuting to and from work on SEPTA regional rail, there is plenty you can learn from staring out of the window (at least, before you fall asleep and start drooling). For example, I have seen one house next to the railway line that seems to have a horse in its garden. Being social creatures with long legs that need stretching, a garden-living horse doesn’t sound like the best idea. I have seen a taxi graveyard, where old, battered taxis rust mostly in peace, their innards strewn over the ground and picked over for anything useful. The newer, working taxis reside in the lot next door. Perhaps their proximity to the graveyard makes them stay more reliable on a day-to-day basis, as if to say to them, “stay working, taxi, or you know where you will end up”.
The other day, I saw a sign along the railway track that read “Resume Speed”. Now, working at Career Services, my brain is specifically attuned to terms such as CV and résumé, and so it is perhaps not surprising that I completely misread this sign.
“Résumé speed? What on earth is résumé speed, and why are train drivers interested in the speed of job application materials?” I would have said, if I wasn’t on a train full of people who would have thought me somewhat crazy to be talking to myself early on a Thursday morning.
Fortunately, the commonsense part of my brain stopped drooling, and woke up in time to set me straight. Of course, the sign was actually telling train drivers to return to some speed they were travelling at before they had slowed down for something. Yes, that makes much more sense. However, it did get me thinking. Is there such a thing as ‘résumé speed’ when it comes to job applications. It wouldn’t refer to the speed of creating a résumé, because that should be a slow, careful, and continuous process. It might refer, though, to the speed at which employers read your résumé. In certain cases, ‘résumé speed’ is extremely fast – much faster than the regional rail at any rate. You often hear that employers may spend only 30-45 seconds reading your résumé. No-one knows for sure if this is accurate, but it would probably be a good idea to write your résumé as if you only get 30-45 seconds to impress. You résumé should showcase those key skills that are most applicable to the job you are applying for – and thus your résumé will look different for every job to which you apply. If you want to know how successful you have been at getting the message across about your skills, hand your résumé to a friend, count to 30, and then snatch it away from them. Ask them what stood out the most from their brief reading of the document. If they say the fancy font you used for your name, the funny e-mail address you have (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org), or the fact that the résumé was hard to read, then this means that you probably need to spend some more time on it.
If leadership and staff management are key requirements for the job you are applying to, then what you want, of course, is for your friend to say something like, “Oh my…, you certainly have a lot of leadership experience; that’s a jolly good show, old chap”. In this case, your friend is English, pretending to be English, or being possessed by the ghost of an Englishman. But if your foreign/strange/possessed friend can spot the skills you are highlighting, then so too will potential employers.
You are now clear to ‘resume speed’, and we’ll see you at Career Services where we have more advice and assistance if you need it.