No Email Inbox is an Island…or “How the Internet is Forever”

It’s helpful to get reminders now and again about how everything we put out into cyberspace can be viewed. Sure, we’ve all heard that the NSA is likely spying on all of our communications but occasionally seemingly run of the mill and presumably private correspondence can make its way to the public sphere. Each year, we hear of cases where individuals’ attempts at creative job search strategies backfire—the original take on a visual resume, “hire me” commercial, or even email strains with prospective employers get passed around on message boards to the derision and delight of readers. Or, perhaps your light-hearted (if alcohol induced) email exchange with your career counselor makes its way to UTB. Sadly, not all appearances on social media can be as innocuous (and fun) as that. Just ask Kelly Blazek who has taken down all traces of her online presence after being featured in a story on CNN  about a nasty email she sent in a response to a request to join her job board on LinkedIn.


Increasingly, I hear feedback from employers that email messages from students are too informal. In the era when text message is king, most email communication has evolved to feel more like short-hand. While this can be fine in many situations, it’s important to remember that when speaking with potential employers, you will benefit from striking a more formal tone. Yes, it’s more time consuming, but having formal greetings and closings is the appropriate way to go and entirely worth the effort. Obviously, full sentences and spell check are a must. Also think about time stamps–even though you may be at your most productive at 3 am, that might not be the ideal time to send an email to the person who will be interviewing you next week. And, of course it goes without saying that answering email while under the influence of any illicit substance may not be the best idea, even if they can produce amusing results. Most importantly, however, is to always be polite. As someone who responds to hundreds of student emails a year, I can tell you that thoughtful and appreciative emails always inspire me to go out of my way to be as helpful as possible.


Happy emailing!

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Breathe: The Importance of Self-Care (Revisited)

By Sharon Fleshman

For the most part, Penn is a fast-paced place and it’s easy to pick up even more speed as the finish line (whether graduation or just the end of the semester) draws near.  Slowing down enough just to reflect on the day or think a thought through to completion can be a challenge.   In anticipation of the flurry of activity associated with this time of year – final exams, papers, job search concerns, and preparation for graduation, I have reposted some of my tips for self-care.

Begin with the basics. Eat healthy food. Get sufficient exercise and sleep. Make sure you get regular physical checkups. These steps are obviously important, but often so easy to neglect.

Debrief with others and with yourself. Process your experiences from a given day by speaking with a mentor or peer and journaling your reflections. Such debriefing can allow for shared insight and the closure to put the events of the day behind you, especially if they were stressful.

Turn down the volume. If you are especially busy with interactive classes and activities which involve a lot of conversation, winding down might mean establishing a space where there is less chatter. I’ve heard some students speak of prayer, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing as ways to do this. If you are engaged in lab research or other work that requires intense focus, taking a walk on campus for a change of scenery can replenish you.

Enjoy creativity in its many forms. Whether you are on the giving end or the receiving end, creativity can have an energizing impact. Read a novel or biography and immerse yourself in someone else’s story.  Write some poetry.  Listen to music that inspires you. Learn how to knit, crochet or quilt. Take up pottery, woodwork or photography. Check out an art exhibit at a local museum.

Maintain a solid support system. Don’t hesitate to get additional help from helping professionals, such as counselors, to address stress or any other concerns. Keep in touch with family, friends, mentors, advisors and others who have your best interest at heart. Cultivating a support system is a practice that you will need to continue beyond your time at Penn.

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Tough Interview Questions: Tell Me About A Time When You Failed At Something.

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

It’s time for another feature on tough interview questions. This time, let’s consider the popular question – tell me about a time when you failed at something. Now, technically this is not a “question” but if you encounter this statement in an interview it can be difficult to share an experience that did not end well. However, with a well-thought out response, you can make a favorable impression on your interviewer.

There are several elements to articulating a strong response to this interview “question.”  First, keep your story fairly succinct – mention relevant details, but try not to get too focused on extraneous information.  Next, choose your example wisely.  Your story should be authentic but try not to give an example that may suggest or imply you will have difficultly performing the tasks required in the job.  The “trap” to this question is just that – describing a failure that is closely related to the duties or responsibilities of the position.  Providing an example of failure that is similar to a task you may be asked to perform on the job may cause great concern for the interviewer.  I would also suggest explicitly stating that you take some level of responsibility for the failure – the more you try to blame the outcome on extraneous factors out of your control, the less likely you will make a favorable impression with your answer.  Finally, be sure to indicate what you have learned from the experience and how that has improved your skill set, approach or thought process moving forward.  This is a sign of maturity which is always a great thing.

At some point in our lives, we all fail at something.  For some people, the instinct may be to simply forget about it and it can certainly be difficult to talk about the situation at a later time.  If you are ever asked to discuss a time you have failed at something during an interview, keep the aforementioned tips in mind so you can be confident in the delivery of your answer.

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March Madness

bballIt’s that time of year again for . . . figuring out what to do after the semester ends. Oh, and basketball!

Some of you have already found and committed to your upcoming summer internships or full-time jobs. Others are scanning the sites, looking for teams, studying their histories, trying to pick what might be a winning combination for you.

Upsets? Perhaps the position you wanted didn’t come through? Keep searching—use our resources and come see us.

Seedings? Perhaps your top choice didn’t turn out to be as interesting as you had hoped when you did an internship, talked to recruiters at a career fair, or networked with alumni? If you are changing direction and now focusing on different career fields, use our resources and come see us.

Cinderellas? Perhaps you’ve received unexpected interest (or even an offer) from a recruiter or networker you met at a career workshop or panel? If you need negotiation tips, use our resources and come see us.

Pairings? Perhaps nothing or too many things interest you, and you are finding it difficult to make choices? If you need to begin exploring ideas and think it would be helpful to really think about what you want, use our resources and come see us.

One of the fun aspects of tournaments like the March NCAA national championships for men’s basketball and women’s basketball is the unexpected results. When your curiosity takes over and you’re intrigued by a professor’s or presenter’s experiences, a friend’s story about a past internship, or a company highlighted in a news article, explore it!

Finally, don’t panic. It may feel mad, but it’s not too late! Many students find their internships and jobs in the spring. Check our surveys to see when students in your program found their positions last year. Depending on the industry(ies) you’ve targeted, hiring may be done in the fall . . . or winter . . . or spring . . . or just in time (right before anticipated start dates). March is as good a time as any!

Whether you’re committed to your national-champion pick, or whether you’re ready to consider all the options, upsets, and possibilities along the way, Career Services can help.BlankBracket

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It’s that time of year again!

By Anne Reedstrom

No, I’m not referring to the beginning of spring or men’s and women’s NCAA basketball (Go Big 10!), but to Advance Registration.

Over the next couple of weeks, you will be pondering what the future might have in store for you, at least through next fall. If you think that future might include health professions school, there are things that you need to keep in mind.

Juniors: Get ready to embark upon your final year of undergrad! Think about the classes you need to take in order to finish things up – not just your pre-health requirements, but any classes in your major or pesky sector requirements that remain. The time may have come to finally face the monster that is Organic Chemistry Lab, but don’t let the dread ruin your senior year – you’ll do just fine. Lots of you will even end up liking it by the time you are done. No, I’m not kidding. This is also the time to make room in your course schedule for that irksome second English class – anything in the English or Comparative Literature Departments (or a cross-listing) will take care of it.

Sophomores: Soldier on, you’re halfway there. If you haven’t already had a semester where you doubled up in the sciences, now is the time to consider it. You’ve got a good handle on how to study for those hard classes and know about the multitude of resources available to help get you through, so go ahead and schedule something alongside Physics or Organic Chemistry. You will be juggling multiple science classes in medical or dental school, so this is good practice for the future, as well as a chance to show admissions committees (and yourself!) that you can handle it. Luckily, you’ll be able to balance your schedule with the really interesting upper-level classes in your major, now that you’ve declared one.

Freshpeople/First Years: You’ve almost made it through one whole year of college! Congratulations! Planning for the second year is pretty straightforward – take some more science. That’s it. No…that’s not it. Yes, you should take more science classes – move on to whichever one you want to take next; there is no specific order in which you should take them, excepting, of course, General Chemistry before Organic Chemistry. I like to point out the obvious. Beyond that, you should think about finishing up with whatever math might remain or scheduling a writing seminar if you didn’t already take one this year. Keep exploring those subjects that are interesting to you and knock out some more sector requirements while figuring out just what is exciting enough to make you want to major in it. The most important thing to remember, though, is to be reasonable in what you are expecting of yourself in a semester. If you’re still not really confident in your science classes yet, don’t double up or increase your course load to 5.5+ c.u.s. As far as being pre-health goes, you’ve still got a lot of time and it is better to take things slowly and do well than to rush and perform below your expectations and abilities.


While there are a great many things to think about when planning your schedule, there are also a lot of resources here at Penn to help you out. If you want to talk through or develop your plans go and see your advisor, a peer mentor, a sympathetic faculty member, or your friendly, neighborhood pre-health advisor! We have walk-ins weekly on Wednesday afternoons from 2.00-4.00pm and there will be a special session of walk-ins on Thursday, April 3rd from 12.00-1.30.

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