78.32% of Statistics are Made-up

Dr. Joseph Barber

Well…, that statistic is 100% accurate, as you have probably noticed during this election season. Here are a couple more common, career-related statistics we can take a closer look at.

1) Recruiters spend on average only 6.5 seconds reviewing each resume. I have seen various different versions of this statement…, and some are generous enough to give you up to 30 seconds of a recruiter’s time. Is this accurate? Yes, no…, maybe. Who knows…, but if you put yourself in the shoes of whomever it is that has to read resumes, then you realize that their time is quite precious. Whoever is reading your resume probably has a busy day ahead of them, because if they are reading yours, then chances are they are reading many, many more. In a competitive job market, it is not uncommon to have 200 or more submissions for a job. I have heard this from people in both the academic and non-academic job market. With the best intentions, people reading resumes want to give each one a fair shot…, but toward the end of the process they are probably job hoping and praying that whoever wrote the resume has actually read even just part of the job description.

Depending on the industry, you can actually be quite discerning in 6.5 seconds. If the job you are applying for is a project management position, and the word “manage” and “project” does not appear on the first page, then this might result in your application heading towards the wrong pile (the “no” pile). Chances are that you have “managed” many “projects”…, but do you try to use the language the employer uses in their job description to describe your experiences in your resume? If not, then eliminating this simple disconnect between your experiences and what an employer is looking for will mean that within 6.5 seconds the person skimming your resume will know that yours is worthy of a more thorough read.

If the job you are applying for requires attention to detail or the ability to communicate effectively, and the person reading your resume spots an obvious typo or can’t even see the typos (or your relevant experiences) because the way you have formatted your resume makes it impossible to read (e.g., tiny text, no margins)…, then 6.5 seconds could be all someone needs. If you are not sure what might give someone the ability to make a decision about you in 6.5 seconds, then come chat with an advisor at Career Services. We’ll tell you that recruiters and other people looking at resumes really do want to spend a much longer time looking at people’s resumes…, if only they would make it easy for them to do so.

2) You can be almost 100% certain that if you don’t apply for a job you won’t get it. I say “almost” here because I worked with someone at Disney’s Animal Kingdom who was in their 40’s, and who had never actually formally applied or interviewed for any of the jobs/internships she had had. While somewhat of an outlier in terms of what her job was (everything from an intern working with Temple Grandin, dolphin trainer, behavioural consultant, to animal care/behavioural husbandry manager), the way she managed this is absolutely right on the mark – she is a fantastic networker. It is not necessarily who she knows, but rather who knows her. Reputations matter, words travel…, and if someone with a very large and active network of contacts knows you, then this can mean that you can become well-known, and even world-renown, even if your own network is still quite small.

You probably won’t end up with a job you don’t apply for, but you really shouldn’t apply for every job out there. It takes a lot of time to put together an effective job application – come and see us, and we’ll tell you why, and how you can use your time efficiently. You’ll likely be better off sending out a much smaller number of nicely tailored applications, rather than 100 applications thrown together at the last minute.

3) Four out of five dentists prefer Colgate…, or was it Crest…., or perhaps Aquafresh? Well, it was probably a made-up statistic anyway, and since I can’t even remember which brand they did prefer (and perhaps it was gum, not toothpaste), I’m not going to worry about this one.

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Light your fire

It’s that time of year. Many of you may be in the final months of your degree program. We’ve all been there – you’re sitting in class when you hear someone nearby sharing details about their latest interview or the number of job offers they’ve received. As classmates chime in with their own experiences, you begin to think about that list of job search “to dos” you haven’t quite tackled yet. While you could spend the semester changing seats to stay out of earshot of these conversations, the better option is to focus your attention on your own plans. If this is the first time you are pursuing employment, the task can seem daunting. Where do you begin? How about starting with that resume and cover letter?

When I first sat down to write a cover letter as an undergrad, I stared at the computer screen a few minutes before determining that the apartment must be cleaned! Needless to say, while my apartment was spotless the cursor stood on a blank page on the computer screen for weeks. I would never have thought that cleaning would be preferable to writing a cover letter! It wasn’t until I found a position of interest and scrambled to put together a so-so document that I realized that I couldn’t keep procrastinating. What a relief it was when I actually sat down and got to work!

Developing your written materials may seem like an arduous task, but you can do it! Why not get these easy check-off items done so you can focus your attention on more important aspects of the job search – exploring your interests, researching organizations and companies, building relationships/connecting with others, and applying to positions!

To jump start the job search process, here are a few easy tips for getting the resume and cover letters done!

1)     Attend an upcoming Career Services workshop on resume and cover letter writing.  You will leave well-informed and armed with resources and knowledge to develop those necessary documents.

2)     Review resume and cover letter writing tips as well as sample documents on the Career Services website. These documents serve as helpful guides as you prepare your own.

3)     Set a deadline for yourself.  In fact, why not schedule an appointment with a career counselor to have your resume and cover letter reviewed? You’ll have a date set when you know you must have these drafts written! Please please please be sure you’ve put forth a valiant effort before coming to the appointment. It will be well worth your time.

Best of luck this semester. Just think, the more efficient you are in developing your job search materials, the more time you’ll have for enjoying life at Penn. You may even find the time to clean your apartment…if you feel like it.


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Summer: It’s a Wrap!

by Anne Marie Gercke

As the summer winds down, many of you are probably wrapping up summer internships or jobs to come back to Penn. You may also be feeling that familiar ache deep in your stomach that always seems to come around this time of year – this season, so often packed with fun and sun, is coming to a close. Hopefully you’ve had great experiences at your respective jobs and now have helpful skills to add to your professional history. However, as you are getting ready to say farewell to the old 9 to 5 to head back to school, maximize the benefits of your experience by using these simple tips:

1. Send a thank-you note. Take some time to write a note to your boss/mentor thanking him or her for all the help provided throughout the internship. Make sure to also point out some of the projects you enjoyed working on at the company. Was there anything you did that you thought was really cool? Include it! This is a great way to express your ambitions and interests, as well as add some closure to your job while keeping a window open for any future opportunities. Plus, you are more likely to get a good recommendation if you make a good impression.
2. Update your resume. While it’s still fresh on your mind, add your recent experience to your resume making sure to highlight your accomplishments. If your title was “intern” while working at the company, talk to your supervisor about possibly using a more descriptive title when detailing your internship. For instance, if your job duties involved managing the social networking sites and helping plan company meetings (in addition to grabbing coffee and a muffin for your boss each morning) something like “Social Media and Events Coordinator” may have a nicer ring to it. Don’t embellish, obviously, but it’s okay to be a little creative if it brings useful information to the table.
3. Network, network, network. LinkedIn is the perfect, professional online networking tool to connect with colleagues from your internship. Knowing and staying connected with people in the industry is key to breaking into the business, whatever it may be. A broad network of professional contacts makes any job search easier. Check out our LinkedIn alumni group here!
4. Plan your next steps. Did you like working at your internship? Can you see yourself working in that field in five, or even ten, years from now? What didn’t you like? What types of internships would you like in the future? Does Penn offer any classes that may help you expand on these interests? Are there any professional organizations you can join to stay connected? Determining your future goals now while you are still in “work mode” is a good way to get on the straightest path to achieving them.
5. Recharge and replenish! You’ve been working hard. With the school year quickly approaching, you need to take some time to get yourself ready and together. Catch up on sleep. Read a book…for fun. Exercise to clear your head. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Take a daily vitamin. Spend time with family and friends. These are all ways to ensure that you will come back to Penn with the energy you’ll need to have a stellar year, perhaps your best yet.

While the first day of classes isn’t too far off, you still have plenty of time to check off all these items from your list. As always, we are here in Career Services to help with any of your career needs, so remember to stop in to see us once you get settled back at Penn… and most important, enjoy the rest of your summer!

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“What I did on my summer vacation….”

by Jamie Grant, C ’98, GEd ’99

If your grade- and high-school teachers were anything like mine, you might have had to give a little “report” at the start of the school year with the title, “What I did on my summer vacation.”  This was always a nice way to learn about classmates’ adventures, but I’m sure forced many of us to struggle and think back over the loooong months of summer, trying to remember all that we had done and experienced.

I encourage you, should you be a returning undergraduate or graduate student, to go through the same exercise today - for the benefit of your resume.  Think back over the last three months, on all you have done, learned, achieved, or experienced.  Think of your outcomes and learning at your internship, or the adventures (and foreign language practice!) you had while traveling.  Consider the progress of your research project(s), or what you learned in the courses that you added to your transcript (or took for fun!)  If you volunteered, try to articulate the value you were able to bring to your organization and the positive connections you were able to develop with the people with whom you spent your time. 

Perhaps your summer months held a different kind of experience than I’ve mentioned, but regardless, do your best to consider how that might resonate with your career plans, and include it on your resume!  I know I personally am looking forward to reviewing many resumes in the coming weeks and learning about all the wonderful ways Penn students spent their summers!

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Connecting the Dots: The Impact of a Resume Profile

By Sharon Fleshman

Have you ever applied for a position and wondered how to help the employer see the relevance of your experiences?  Perhaps you are seeking a career change and your recent experience seems unrelated.  Maybe you have an eclectic background with no obvious career focus.    A resume profile, sometimes called a summary of qualifications or highlights section, can allow you to note themes in your career path or key skills that a recruiter might not otherwise notice.   An effective profile is one that is not generic but tailored to a given career or position.  Consider the following examples:

“Over 10 years of progressive and diversified analytical and education-related experience in the public and private sector. Strong background in law, government and policy, including quantitative data management skills and advocacy experience. Skilled in SAS and SPSS.”

With this profile, a student sought to make a switch from law to education policy.  Note how the student emphasized a track record in analytical work (law and policy research) and experience relevant to the field of education (education law and volunteer work with high school students). The student also made note of skills in statistical software, which are vital in the field of policy research.

 “International experience with students from diverse cultures, through teaching, living, and traveling abroad.  Familiar with college admissions practices through work as an undergraduate liaison. Strong counseling skills with adolescents.”

This profile was for a student who wanted to move into an advising position in international programs and services at a university.  In addition to performing administrative tasks at an international programs office and interning as a counselor while in graduate school, the student had a variety of previous work experiences including teaching overseas, working in an admissions office and helping with education research.

To see how profiles typically look on resumes, take a look at the following samples:


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