Deadline Drama

by Beckie Stokes

So here we are, back from Thanksgiving break.  Your food coma may not have even broken yet, but you’re already dangerously close to staring finals in the face.  You’ve got just over a week until exams begin, and you may be wondering how you’re going to accomplish everything that needs to get done – especially when all you’re looking for is the light at the end of the semester.  It’s time to start breaking down how you’re going to meet all these deadlines.  What a good time to develop this skill!  You’ll use it in your daily life in your career as well – unlike all those algebra/history/Greek mythology classes in high school that you swore you’d never use in the real world.*  Here are some tips and tricks that have always helped me deal with my own deadlines.

  • List out everything that has to be done and categorize by priority.  I like to make an “active” to-do list and a “backlog” to-do list.  Limit the active list to 3 very important items.  Once an “active” item is complete, move the next most important task from “backlog” to “active.”
  • Give yourself several smaller deadlines.  Here’s where the lists come in handy.  Assign a deadline to each item on the list.  And be reasonable!  Sure, you’d like to have all 300 pages of assigned reading done by tomorrow, but that’s probably not realistic.  And then you’ll just feel more stressed out that you missed your deadline.  Figure out how much time each task reasonably takes.
  • Make sure you’re clear on the requirements of the assignment.  Nothing is worse than wrapping up a project and re-reading the syllabus only to find out that you have twice as much due than you’ve already done.
  • Avoid the roadblock of being overwhelmed.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I feel like a looming deadline is insurmountable, I shut down.  It’s really hard to get moving again after you’ve had the “it’ll never get done, why even try” freak-out.  So don’t let yourself get to that point.  Practice stress-relief exercises – yoga, snack break with friends, you get the idea.  Just don’t let your brief respites turn into procrastination (I’m looking at you, drawings of pterodactyls).
procrastination

Image: hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

It’s such a good idea to develop effective project management skills now.  You’re always going to have deadlines, you’re always going to have to collaborate on assignments (sometimes with people you don’t like very much), and you’re always going to need to figure out how to balance all these things without going completely crazy.  It’s possible that your future boss will appreciate your dinosaur pictures, but just in case she doesn’t, learn now how to juggle deadlines like a professional.

*You totally use them in the real world.  Greek mythology included.

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Summertime and the Living is Easy

Sue Russoniello

Today, July 25, falls right in the middle of summer.  I’m sure we all have fond memories of summers past….running freely around the neighborhood, spending time at the swim club or beach, attending camp, taking family vacations, visiting with grandparents.  As a child, the hot days didn’t bother us.  We were happy to be outside playing.  We’d rush through dinner so we could spend another hour or two playing outside before the street lights went on, living the carefree life of a child, enjoying our “summer friends”.

Alas, as we grow up, we spend more time working than playing.  Most of you are probably working this summer, either at a summer job to earn money for school expenses, or at an internship to help you choose your career path.  However, even for those of us who have full time jobs, summer seems to be less demanding, and just plain fun.

I hope whatever you’re doing, it’s enjoyable, and you also finding time to relax and play outside of work.  There is great value to changing your routine.  It helps your clear your head and regroup.  It lets you try something new, see different people, read books you don’t have time for during the school year, look at life from a different perspective.

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Can I Take My Dog To Work?

Editor’s Note: A version of this blog originally ran in June of 2012.

June 21st is Take Your Dog to Work Day! Employees across the nation will collectively bedazzle their furry best friends with tours of their cubicle, the water cooler and perhaps even the view from the corner office. If your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi-friendly company culture, how would you know where to look for work?    To find a good fit with your next position and organization (no matter what your priorities happen to be, pet-friendly is just one example), take advantage of Career Services’ resources to help current students and alumni learn more about the places that they might work.

Researching employers with Career Services’ online resources

Researching potential employers is a critical element of every job search.  It is extremely important at the beginning when you need to identify your options, and necessary during the application and interview stage, to help you communicate the match between a prospective employer’s needs and your relevant skills, values and accomplishments.  Before you are called to interview, do your best to find out the following about the organization:

  • Mission; product/service (i.e., what is the purpose of this company/organization?)
  • Sector: non-profit, private (for-profit), public (government agency)
  • Structure and management
  • Financial health
  • “Clients” and competitors  (i.e., who receives the services of this company, and who else is targeting this group with their services
  • Company/organization culture
  • The hiring process

Career Services offers several online resources through our library subscriptions pages to help you research potential employers.  You must log in with your PennKey and password to access the subscriptions, which are listed alphabetically.  For those interested in exploring industries such as consulting, healthcare, and investment banking, Wetfeet.com and Vault.com are particularly useful.  These reference resources allow you to read overviews of various major industries, discover the “major players” (i.e., biggest, influential companies), and learn more about typical position types within each industry.

We also subscribe to ReferenceUSA, which provides contact information as well as specific company data for United States businesses in particular (as well as some Canadian and other international businesses).  If you use the advanced search option, you can get information on credit ratings, company histories, executives’ names, and even the company’s local “competitors”.

For international students, GoinGlobal and H1VisaJobs offer databases which can help you identify the companies who have applied to the federal government in 2010 for H1Visas (this gives you a head start if you know a company is willing to hire international candidates, or is familiar with H1 Visa hiring procedures.)

Use networking as a tool to find out employer or industry information you can’t get through your online research.  If you are a current Penn student or alumnus/a, be sure to use PACNet (our online networking database) to identify alumni who can give you the “inside scoop” on a particular organization or field.

Once you use these resources to research an employer, you will be better able to:

  • Connect your accomplishments to the performance criteria that the organization is looking for.
  • Identify the most important skills, qualifications and experiences that are in demand in a given industry.
  • Assess an organization’s potential workplace needs and how you can contribute given your work style.
  • Show how your goals match those of the company (given its mission, size, structure, and market specialization).
  • Understand how your values match those of the organization; and how the environment will help you be productive.

Employer research makes for a more effective job search, and in fact for a better fit once you land an offer and start your new position.   You (and possibly your pet) will be glad you put the effort in.

Post Script:  How would you know where to look for work, if your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi friendly company culture?  While there are plenty of  websites focused on pet-friendly employers -  unfortunately it seems the number of corporate pet friendly employers is pretty limited, with Amazon.com rating as one of the top.

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Timely Advice on Job Offers

Right about now, some of you may be actively interviewing for jobs and internships, or in the process of receiving and deciding on job offers.  A big mystery is knowing “what you are worth” and evaluating the offers to make sure you are getting fair compensation, and the work conditions that will make you happy to accept the offer.  You can read tips on our website, “Deciding on Job Offers,” or gather data from Career Plans Surveys (including salary information for recent graduates) or learn about negotiation strategies.  Below is a short collection of blog entries written by career services advisors that provide great advice to anyone at this stage of the job search:

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The Nights & Weekends Plan

onion_bg-766346Regular readers of my columns will know that one of my favorite topics to discuss here is work/life balance or “doing what you love vs. loving what you do.”  As someone who has an entirely separate “night time” career outside of Penn, I’m always interested to see what people have to say on the subject.

That’s why I was particularly intrigued to see The Onion, the bedrock of all satirical websites, running an Op/Ed piece that would feel at home here on Penn & Beyond just as easily as it would aside a spoof news article about how much Vladamir Putin loves his kitty cat.  The article, by David Ferguson, speaks for itself – I encourage you to read it here. (Go ahead and read it now.  I’ll wait here.)

If I could add one thing to Ferguson’s otherwise fine message – it’s that you never know what your nights and weekends might lead to.  I spent my nights and weekends writing – and now I’ve been published multiple times by a respected imprint.  Albert Einstein worked in a patent office and look where his nights and weekends led him!  If you are truly passionate about something and take the time to pursue it at any opportunity, then that passion will show in your work – and maybe one day, it will become your full time job and those nights and weekends will be free again…

…of course that gets boring fast.  Maybe you’ll find a second passion.

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