For the Record: 3 Ways You Should Be Tracking Your Accomplishments

Nadine Goldberg, Graduate Assistant

I’m constantly blown away by how active Penn students are. You’re involved in work-study jobs, student orgs, athletic teams, and more. But are you tracking your accomplishments? Set yourself up for success in your next job or internship search by documenting your successes along the way. Here’s how:


1) Tell Me About a Time When…

Whether you’re writing a cover letter or preparing for behavioral interview questions, your job or internship search will challenge you to recall specific success stories from your previous professional and extracurricular experiences – and it really can be a challenge! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve racked my brain before an interview trying to recall a compelling anecdote from an experience that happened a few years back.

Save yourself the trouble by recording your success stories in the moment, while they’re freshest in your memory. When it’s time to write that cover letter or prepare for that interview, you’ll have a handy dandy cheat sheet all ready to go!

2) The Numbers Don’t Lie

Nearly every time I review a resume, I find myself suggesting that the student add quantifying detail to demonstrate the size of their impact. If you were managing a budget for an organization, how large was it? If you coordinated an event, how many people participated? If you were running a social media account, by what percentage did you grow its following?

The trouble is, it can be nearly impossible to remember these numbers if you haven’t been tracking them. How many students attended the lecture I organized two years ago? No clue! Make your life easier by recording quantifying detail about your professional and extracurricular experiences as they happen.

Also be sure to record baseline numbers when you start in a new role so that you can quantify any growth you initiate – How many people were following your organization’s Facebook page when you took the reins? How many people attended the event you’ll be planning in previous years?

3) The Proof is in the Pudding

When it comes to tracking your accomplishments, it’s alright to be a pack-rat. Hang on to any tangible outputs or records of your accomplishments. Did your event get written up in the DP, or did something you wrote get published? Save the links to the articles. Did you design a flyer that you’re proud of or develop great materials for a workshop? Hold on to the files. When it’s time to update your Linkedin profile, these materials will make great content! Just be sure to confirm that your organization will allow you to share them publically.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mayor McCheese

by J. Michael DeAngelis

Have you ever stopped by my desk at Career Services? If you have, I bet you’ve said to yourself: “Man, that guy has it made. He’s got a nice desk with lots of little toys on it, a zillion electronic gizmos plugged into his computer and nice comfy chair with more adjustable levers than I can identify. Yes, that Michael DeAngelis must have the greatest job in the world.” It’s true – I have a really great job, one I enjoy coming to every day. Yet, unlike many of my colleagues I consider Career Services to merely be my “day job.”

Yes, much like Bruce Wayne/Batman, I lead a double life. By day, I’m your friendly neighborhood Career Services staff member, but by night, I’m an actor and a playwright. My degree and my training is in the theater arts, and I consider that to be my true career path. As many students in the arts know, it’s not an easy field to break in to, let alone support yourself in. Like many theater grads, I knew I would do whatever it took to stay afloat, even if that meant taking a non-theater day job.

But just because you’ve decided to take a day job, it doesn’t mean you have to end up working for this guy:

"Do you want fries with that?"

Here are a few tips that might help you, if you are considering taking a part time or full time job outside of your ultimate career path that doesn’t involve anthropomorphised hamburgers:

1. Try and find a job where your skills and training can be applied in a different way. For example, though I don’t typically write plays as part of my career services job, I do get to have a lot of fun writing these blog entries! This is what we refer to as a transferable skill. Your liberal arts education has given you lots of them – think about what you can bring to the table in a unique way.

2. Look for a job that will allow you to pursue your ultimate career goals. For me, Career Services is a steady 9-5 job on weekdays, which gives me my evenings and weekends to take theater jobs. Leaving work and heading right to a rehearsal or performance can lead to very long days, but also very exciting ones.

3. Be honest and up front about your goals. I don’t mean you should walk around looking like you’re going to quit the minute Hollywood calls, but let people you work with know about your “other life.” First and foremost, it’s the polite thing to do. Second, you never know what opportunities it will open up to you. Perhaps you’re in the fine arts. When it comes time to design a new company logo, you could be the first person they call! My colleagues have become not only supporters of my goals, but also my fan base!

4. Remember that your day job is still your JOB. If you are lucky enough to work someplace where you can pursue other goals on the side, it is your responsibility to be a productive and valued employee. It can sometimes be tricky, but I never allow my theater work to interfere with my day job. If you have a job with flex time and vacation days, use them to your advantage when juggling your second career. If it becomes too difficult managing a day job and a “night” job, it might be time to reevaluate. This is something we can help you with in Career Services.

There is a vast array of opportunities out there waiting for someone like you. Don’t rule out job possibilities just because they don’t fit squarely into your planned career. Stick to your goals, but don’t be afraid to explore jobs that are outside your set career plans. One day, as you’re accepting your Oscar, Grammy or Pulitzer, your colleagues will shout “We knew you when” and your blog posts will become instant collectibles! (The Collected Career Services Blogs of J. Michael DeAngelis out this fall in bookshops!)

And you’ll never have to say “Do you want fries with that?”

After the Pomp and Circumstance…. Are You in the Mood for a Job Search?

image via Flickr and CarbonNYC

On Monday, I watched the great procession of graduates on Locust walk, and enjoyed the pervasive sense of pride at Penn. Graduation is a very special celebration – when we actually take the time to acknowledge the huge accomplishment it is to complete several years of academic training. Today is quiet on campus, a very dramatic difference from the pomp and circumstance of just two days ago.

And so I began to think…what will the coming weeks be like for the graduates who don’t yet know the next step in their career plans? This blog is for those newly minted alumni who might be feeling a little like procrastinating: don’t let graduation fade into a distant memory – you need this reminder that you can accomplish a great deal, and that you can learn new skills (like how to successfully job search) in the same way you learned the skills required to complete your academic programs. It is really important to stay motivated when you job search, and especially to focus on the things that help you maintain your self esteem.

Unfortunately, when job searching, a person’s “self worth” can take a hit – people often report to me their feeling demoralized or disappointed, especially when the process takes longer than expected or when the search includes rejections from desirable employers. For some graduates, the new release from school obligations actually adds another layer of challenge – a lack of structure in the day. Job seekers may begin to doubt their own productivity, or find there are fewer activities in the day to provide a sense of accomplishment. This quote from the Earl of Chesterfield just about sums up how I think procrastination works: “It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.”

In a tough economy, finding the job search to be a discouraging experience is understandable, and at the same time, you will genuinely benefit if you prioritize maintaining your self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy (knowing that you have the ability to make changes in your situation). As a job seeker, you are far better off if you are motivated to learn about new opportunities, face unknowns with confidence, and market yourself because you know that your skills and accomplishments are hard earned, and your ability to get things done will be valued by employers. This attitude is essential for persevering; and persevering is essential for a successful job search.

While you are in the process of looking for work, there are many things you can do to build or maintain self worth. Here are some ideas to get you started on writing your own list:

• Think about a time in school when you faced a new assignment or had to learn a new skill. What did you do to take steps to get it done? When you successfully faced a challenge, what did you learn about yourself?
• Do self assessment, so you understand not only what you are good at, but what you like to do. Some helpful worksheets are listed here.
• Make sure each day has some structure to it – keep busy and reward yourself when you do activities that contribute to your job search.
• Set small and/or measurable goals (I.E. contact 2 new people in my networking, apply to 2 jobs today)
• Continue doing hobbies that you enjoy.
• Exercise regularly – develop and/or maintain healthy habits.
• Review your accomplishments and successes from previous academic projects, internships and work experiences. Talk with former classmates, supervisors or coworkers and friends if you are having a hard time thinking of examples.
• Continue learning and gaining skills – take a noncredit class or workshop or read a book on your own. If you are in Philadelphia, check out the resources of the Philadelphia Free library, or the Career Services library.
• Keep networking and making connections with others. Here is a quick online presentation on networking, and more information and tips from the Career Services web site are here.
• Volunteer – helping others is a great way to know how valuable your efforts are. To find an organization that needs your help, start here.
• Avoid procrastinating, which paradoxically increases anxiety while you avoid the real work of job searching – here are some tips (replace the word “Academic” with “Job Seeker” for the full effect)
• Seek support. Meet with a career advisor (you knew I would say that, right?) – we are here to help, and will be around all summer.

By engaging in constructive activities and thinking about good experiences, you are fostering a positive attitude and strengthening self- esteem. Valuing your accomplishments – believing that you can succeed – can help you take more of the risks that are part of job searching and career planning. You be more open to opportunities that may come your way, at the same time you will be more prepared to take advantage of them. This may lead to an offer-in-hand sooner than you’d expect, and yet another reason to for a newly minted graduate to celebrate.