CS Radio – Episode 68: “International Edition”

Inspired by a recent blog post by our colleague, J. Michael and A. Mylène take a look at some of the challenges facing international students at Penn and catalog some of the many resources available to them through Career Services, Penn and globally!

Enjoy!

Show Notes

Resources for New International Students – Crossing Your “t”s and Dotting your “i”s

By Dr. Esther H. Ra, Career Advisor

When I lived overseas in Seoul after college, it was thrilling, yet intimidating trying to find my groove in a city that was foreign, but yet now my “home.” I had a couple touchpoints throughout the city that helped me get through the first few months there. I was very grateful to the kind souls who showed me where I could shop for groceries (in the basement of a department store), how to pay my utilities bill (at the bank!), and how to navigate the bus terminal to various cities (unlocking the key to visiting extended family). I remember those first few days of walking around and soaking everything in, while trying to make sense of my whereabouts. It was an exhilarating and formidable time. When I think back, I am so thankful to the kind friends and colleagues who took the time to share valuable resources with me. These resources set me up for success and helped me enjoy my experience in what is now one of my very favorite cities in the world!

Similarly, on Penn campus, many new international students and colleagues have joined us on our campus. The fall 2018 semester is in full swing and already the onslaught of a new year and its classes, events, and activities are upon us. If you’re an international student or colleague, are you ready to conquer this semester? Has the semester already been filled with some anxiety and trepidation? Do you feel overwhelmed by the assignments, deadlines, “to-do lists”, and activities? All of this is exhausting for any student, but if you’re a student who is living in a different cultural context than your own, it can be downright daunting. Below is a breakdown of some of the resources on campus at your fingertips:

Penn Career Services: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/
Our office services students and alumni of all undergraduate schools and most graduate schools. We strategize with students to define career goals and develop their potential. We offer resume, CV and cover letter reviews, as well as mock interviews. In addition, we conduct a plethora of practical workshops and events related to networking, including career fairs, meet and greets, and employer information sessions. Be sure to be registered on Handshake to access jobs and announcements from our office: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/handshake

Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn (CAPS): https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/caps/
As the counseling hub for the University, CAPs offers free counseling and confidential services to all Penn students. They offer appointments for life’s transitions and challenges, and work with you to develop coping strategies for situational contexts.

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS): https://global.upenn.edu/isss/advising
I’m sure by now you are very familiar with ISSS’ services and with advisors who can assist you with visa questions and immigration processes. This office is instrumental to Penn’s international students and I encourage you to use their expertise to make the most out of your experience on Penn campus.

Marks Family Writing Center: http://writing.upenn.edu/critical/wc/
The Marks Family Writing Center is a resource center that can be utilized by both undergraduate and graduate students for feedback on any writing needs. If you’re having trouble developing a paper, writing a cover letter, or struggling to create a PowerPoint for a course you are taking, the experienced staff at the Writing Center can lend a critical eye for great feedback. With a little bit of prior planning, this is an amazing free resource, you can utilize to brainstorm and organize your writing projects. We have had many students, particularly international graduate students tell us that it was a great place to visit when struggling to draft their first cover letter.

Penn Tutoring: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/tutoring/
This center at Penn is for undergraduates only. They offer supplemental help for your academics with tutors who are an ace in the subject area you may be struggling to understand. Again, with a little bit of planning, this free campus resource could be a wonderful aide to any bumps in the road with adapting to the academic rigor that is Penn. We’ve had many students tell us that this has been an invaluable resource and a great help to becoming acclimated to classes on campus.

Weingarten Learning Resource Center: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/lrc/lr/
Did you know that Weingarten Learning Resources Center has programs especially designed for international students’ and their transition to Penn’s campus and its academics? Many of them take place at the beginning of the semester. Some of the workshops offered may help with organizing your semester, discuss cultural differences and expectations in the US classroom, as well as equip you with research skills and citations.

I hope these places on campus can serve as touchpoints for your time on Penn Campus. You’ll be so glad you crossed your “t”s and dotted your “i”s when you did (an American idiom for being detailed and thorough). Welcome and we wish you a successful semester!

Handshaking – a guide to making the right impression

Dr. Joseph Barber

Take a moment to think about your handshake. When was the last time you shook someone’s hand? Why did you do it? Were you standing or sitting? Did the other person have a strong handshake? What impression did they make on you? Now, being very honest, rate your average handshake on a scale of 1-5 on the following criteria:

  • Firmness (with 5 being very firm)
  • Moistness (with 5 being very dry)
  • Confidence (with 5 being very confident)

How did you score? Some of you probably know you have a firm handshake because you have given this a lot of thought, but for those of you who haven’t thought about it, or who generally get creeped out by the prospect of touching another person dirty, sweaty hands, you might find it much harder to rank yourself across these categories. Now, in terms of moistness, this will generally be dependent on the situation and the environment. A handshake in the middle of summer just before a really important job interview is likely to be the perfect storm of moistness. Nervousness and moistness go hand-in-hand (you see what I did there!). In terms of confidence, this is really a combination of several variables: the confident thrusting forth of your hand to greet someone, the length and firmness of the shake, your body language while giving it, and the way you look into the eyes of your handshaking partner and introduce yourself with a strong tone of voice. Yes, the good, old-fashioned handshake can say a lot about you, and it is critical to get it right in order to make your first impressions count – whether at an interview or just meeting new people at your next conference or as part of your broader networking outreach.

Is a bad handshake such a bad thing? Yes…, and especially when the person whose hand you are shaking has a professionally firm one. A weak handshake automatically sets you apart in their mind, and gives them something negative to associate with you. People make up their minds about a new person they are meeting quickly, and once an initial impression has been made, it can become harder to change this perspective. A weak handshake followed by a great interview is not going to be a disaster, but a weak handshake followed by just a half-decent interview might leave your interviewers seeing your performance in a more negative light. A weak handshake can give people a bias towards seeing other negatives in you. You don’t want that to happen. A strong first impression can help you prevent that.

In the global world of work, it is important to know that different cultures have different ideas about handshakes. If you are an international student in the US, then the firm handshake is something you will need to learn and use, and a firm handshake is appropriate for greeting men and women. A firm handshake communicates a strong, confident personality. Please note, firm does not mean crushing. How firm is firm enough? Well, if you are trying to open a door, you need to grip the door handle firmly enough so that it doesn’t keep slipping out of your hand, right? In fact, you would look fairly foolish trying to open a door with a limp handshake grip. Since door handles are hard metal, there is no benefit to trying to squeeze the life out of them – you’ll just end up hurting yourself. So, the firmness of the grip you use when opening a door might be a good starting point for the firmness of a good handshake. If you still feel confused about the difference between firm and painfully crushing, find a friend or two and practice! Get feedback from them on what is weak, firm, or just too much.

Here is some general advice about implementing a successful handshake:

  • Where possible, stand up to shake hands.
  • If you are already standing and moving towards people, then you can start the handshaking gesture about five feet from your target.
  • Make sure you are facing the person, with good eye contact, and a confident greeting when you reach out – as this will prevent you from standing there with your hand out looking like you are directing traffic while they are still busy talking to someone else.
  • Dry hands are ideal. This means that if you are at a networking event or conference, don’t leave the bathroom until every part of your right hand is totally dry after washing them. Everyone has to pee, and so the likelihood that you will meet someone you wanted to chat with somewhere near the bathroom is actually very high. No matter how many times you swear to your handshaking partner that your hands are wet because you just washed them (not a great first impression to have to make this argument), somewhere deep inside their subconscious they will fear the worst!
  • As you are engaging hands, Keep your thumb pointing up – don’t try to engage with a palm up or palm down approach.
  • Move your hands forward and don’t grip or squeeze until the web of your hand (between the thumb and your first finger) has firmly engaged with the web of your partner’s hand. A strong forward motion helps you to lock your hands together.
  • Don’t bring you hand in from the side as if you are slapping someone on the back – this messes everything up!
  • The shake should last 2-5 seconds, with 1-3 up and downs, giving you enough time to say your name, listen to their name, and then respond back with their name (e.g., “It is great to meet you, Trevor”). Shake from your elbow; you don’t need to engage your shoulder to do any heavy lifting.
  • Maintain eye contact during the shake.
  • Finish one introduction and shake before you move onto the next one in a group setting where you are meeting more than one new person.
  • Shake at the beginning of a social interaction, and shake at the end. Just make sure that the parting shake is much better than the starting shake if you had any issues with the first one.

Your handshake is easy to improve, and with enough focus on the moment in time when you are meeting new people or reconnecting with people you already know, you will be able to make a good impression on people in your professional network.

Networking for International Students

Dr. Esther H. Ra, Career Advisor for Nursing, Education, and Social Policy & Practice

According to Merriam Webster online, it defines networking as: Networking: noun net·work·ing \ˈnet-ˌwər-kiŋ\

1: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Here at Penn, we are proud to have in our midst a diverse body of scholars who come from across the globe. It is not unusual to rub shoulders with a student with multi-lingual fluencies or who was born and educated overseas before arriving at Penn. Such students are wonderful assets to our Penn community and we, here at Career Services, have the pleasure of advising them on career-related topics and helping them to navigate the job search, whether it be in the United States or abroad. Many of the questions I often address with our international students pertain to the nuts and bolts of networking, which include: How do I start networking in a foreign country when I don’t know anyone? When and how should I say what I want to say and how should I proceed? Also, students have sometimes expressed self-consciousness in their English language skills when approaching Americans, who may be of higher status or individuals who they have never met. These are all valid concerns and make networking daunting even for a native English speaker, however, they should not deter students from reaching out and making connections with the community around them.

Why is Networking Important?

Why network? Do I have to reach out to individuals I do not know very well and strike up professional conversations with them? The answer is yes. Often, I will hear from students that they prefer not to bother others or be in such awkward situations, however, networking is essential to delving into the hidden job market. Without proactive networking, it is difficult to tap into the stream of positions that never even make it onto an organization’s website. According to LinkedIn, a study reveals that 85% of jobs are obtained through networking1. Many jobs are shared internally first to identify a qualified candidate before being posted publicly. If a qualified candidate is located prior to a job becoming public, often the positions are filled accordingly. Networking is instrumental to obtaining a desired job, so it is imperative to be intentional about reaching out.

The Greeting: Handshake, Eye contact, and Smile

Perhaps, one American civility that may be quite universal in all professional settings is the handshake. Typically, handshakes are used when greeting an individual for the first time and sometimes even thereafter for subsequent meetings. Some tips to remember are:

Be firm. When shaking a potential employer or interviewer’s hand, be sure to give it good shake. It need not be extremely vigorous, however, a weak handshake, often called “the dead fish handshake” can be remembered negatively and leave a bad impression. A firm handshake, one where a firm grasp of the palm and fingers occurs, connotes confidence and ability, while a weak handshake, one where the fingers do not grasp the other’s palm and fingers, connotes introversion and anxiety.

Make eye contact. When shaking an individual’s hand, be sure to make good eye contact. In some cultures, it may be rude to look directly into someone’s eye, however, in professional settings in the US, it is expected and acceptable to meet someone’s gaze, particularly when greeting them for the first time. When speaking, it is also important to make direct eye contact from time to time, to display feelings of interest and commitment to the conversation.

Share a smile. Generally speaking, Americans appreciate neighborliness and conversation. After shaking hands, making good eye contact, be open and share a welcoming smile. A warm smile can go a long way while networking, positioning yourself as friendly and accessible. Such a simple act can open doors for more casual conversations, as well as, light-hearted moments between potential interviewers, which can make the process seem less intimidating.

Informational Interviews

Take advantage of informational interviews, especially while at Penn. Do take the time to set up informational interviews with professors, colleagues, classmates, and alums. Yes, it takes a bit of legwork to find individuals to network with, but the gains after doing your initial research, will pay itself forward after graduation. Also, so many individuals, such as alums and professors, are very willing to help, one needs only to inquire. Many alums have often been in the same position and have expressed a willingness to speak to current students to help begin their networking journey. Please check out our resources on Penn’s Career website for more information on dos and don’ts of networking: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/networking/howto.php

Resources for International Students

There are several sites I encourage international students to peruse: 1) Penn Career Services: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/

Our website, of course, is chockful of practical and useful information for all students, including international students. The networking section outlines protocols that may help familiarize students with typical American networking interactions. We also have networking tips located in our video archives, which can also be accessed and viewed.  2) Another website that is extremely useful is GoinGlobal: http://www.goinglobal.com/

This is a comprehensive global website that helps the career search by country, profession, and topic.

3) Last, but not least, many of our international students have sought out the help of Marks Family Writing Center on Penn Campus: http://writing.upenn.edu/critical/wc/

The Center is a wonderful place to receive regular help on writing cover letters and any other correspondence. It is always recommended that students, international or not, receive feedback on their resume and cover letter, or any other communication. Of course, advisors in our office are always more than willing to look over your resume/CVs and cover letters. However, if you are not able to get the documents to us in time, be sure a classmate or family member can take a look before submitting an application.

If you are a Penn international student and need any help with career-related issues, please come in and visit us! Allow us to help you navigate the sometimes choppy waters of networking. Penn’s Career Services advisors are here to help. We look forward to meeting with you!

Informal Networking Opportunities

By: S. David Ross, Associate Director

Much has been written about networking and its importance in the job and internship search process. When meeting with students, I try to make a distinction between formal networking and informal networking. While formal networking opportunities include events such as career fairs and information sessions where the assumption is that attendees will “network” with each other, it can be easy to forget that informal networking can lead to some interesting possibilities. A recent experience reminded of the value of informal networking.

While on my commute to work one morning, I was standing next to two individuals engaged in conversation.  Everything else was so quiet that the only thing you could hear was the loud conversation.  After a few minutes, it was very clear the two individuals did not previously know each other – they just happened to be sitting near each other and decided to strike up a conversation.  I noticed that one person was a college student seeking advice and the other a working professional.  One thing that was memorable was the end of the conversation where the professional offered his business card and his willingness to connect the student with someone he knew that could possibly help.  And all of this happened on a random commute one morning – an example of an informal networking situation that you may find yourself in when you least expect it.

So if you have the chance to engage in informal networking and have a conversation with someone outside of a formalized networking event, think of it as a opportunity.  You never know who you will meet and where the conversation may lead.