What to do if you receive an exploding offer?

This week marks the beginning of on-campus interviewing for internships. Each day we will host employers who will be interviewing hundreds of students every day. Inevitably, some of those students will receive pressure to accept right away. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. “Can you let us know what your thoughts are by Friday?” If a recruiter says this, he wants you to check in and let him know where you are in your interviewing process. He may want you to say yes by that date, but notice that he has not said the offer is only good until Friday. A comment such as this is common, but it is not the same thing as an exploding offer.

2. “We can only honor this offer until February 10. If you can’t commit by then we will offer the job to someone else.” This is an exploding offer. If the employer is one you have interviewed with through on campus recruiting, they are not following our offer policy, which clearly states that offers are to remain open for one week or until February 24, whichever comes later. Feel free to push back politely. Better yet, consult with your advisor here in Career Services. We can help you strategize and decide how best to ask for more time. If you prefer, we can with your permission call the employer on your behalf.

3. For some research on exploding offers, please see Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s excellent recent post, “It’s Time to Eliminate Exploding Offers”: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140113134951-69244073-it-s-time-to-eliminate-exploding-job-offers.

Good luck with your interviews!

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Passion? What Passion?

Students, if you can see the end of your Penn years looming in the not too distant future, this post is for you. It concerns passion. You may have been asked or are asking yourself what your passion is. You may even be tired of hearing well-meaning friends and relatives say, just follow your passion.

If you actually have a passion, carry on. You are fortunate. You are also in the minority. Most undergraduates (and many graduate students as well) do not have anything resembling a passion. So don’t feel bad or inadequate if you don’t yet have a passion that is leading you to a particular kind of work.

In my experience after watching the careers of numerous Penn alumni unfold, graduates discover their passion through the development of skills, and this frequently happens in the workplace. It is through the daily discipline of a job that you develop the skills and expertise you need to feel like you are really making a contribution. You feel good about yourself when you do something well. You become excited about the work, and your strong performance on the job. In this way you develop a passion for this work (and perhaps the industry), and you seek positions in the future where you can use and continue to develop these important skills that you can now demonstrate.

What if you do have a passion, but it is for a political candidate, or a charitable organization, or a sports team, or any number of other things? You would do anything to work for that candidate, or that non-profit, or that team. This can be hard. The positions available may be volunteer, or extremely low paying. They could be routine, and give little opportunity to develop skills or to advance. But if by working in the organization you are meeting people, observing the roles they play, learning about the field and developing a vocabulary, then give it a try. After all, if you can’t take a risk at 22, when will you ever be able to do so?

If you can’t make it happen (or can’t afford to), don’t despair. The world is full of people who pursue their passions outside of work as volunteers. In the meantime, you can be working someplace where you can make a living, develop expertise, and perhaps find a new passion, one that is potentially more authentic and long-lasting.

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Timing may not be all, but it’s important

In November we completed our career plans survey of the class of 2013. We had a tremendous return: 2,021 graduates responded, just over 80% of the class. A return this high is a reflection of the graduates’ willingness to let us know what they’re doing, but it also reflects the huge amount of work people in Career Services do to reach out and cajole those we hadn’t heard from. I am grateful to all.

The results are extremely encouraging for current seniors. The members of the class of 2013 were employed full time at a high rate (almost 74%), up from 71% last year and 68% for 2011. Slightly fewer (16%) are going directly to graduate school, down from 18% last year and 20% in 2011. For the last two years 6% of the class reported that they were seeking employment by the November closing of the survey. This year, only 5.8% were still seeking, an extremely low number. The lowest we have recorded was 4% in pre-recessionary 2007.

The employment by industry changes are worth noting. For example, the percentage of the full-time employed graduates working in finance dropped from 33% in 2011, to 31% in 2012, to 29% this year. Health care dropped to 6%; it was 9% the past two years. Consulting remains very popular: 19% are working in consulting, down from 20% last year but equal to the 19% in 2011. Similarly, education was the choice of 9%, up from 8% last year and equaling the 9% in 2011. Technology took 9% of those employed, up from 8% last year and 7% in 2011. These industry swings are modest, but interesting.

Medicine and law remain the most popular graduate school choices, but fewer students are going directly into these programs each year. Of those who are in graduate school, 21% are in medicine, down from 22% last year and 25% in 2011. Law dropped from 19% in 2011 to 18% in 2012 to 17% this year. Engineering graduate fields jumped from 14% in 2011 to 17% for the second year in a row. The biggest change was in science. Those pursuing graduate degrees in science disciplines jumped from 8% in 2011, to 9% in 2012 to 14% this year. Clearly the demand for STEM graduates is influencing graduate school choices.

For more information on the class of 2013, including top employers and top graduate schools, please see http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/files/Class2013CareerPlans.pdf. Combined with the decline in the national unemployment rate (it’s now 7%, a five year low), the survey results mean that seniors should feel confident that job opportunities will be available to them. It’s a good year to be graduating and starting a career.

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