My Career Path, from Accountant to Consultant to Professional Organizer

by Barbara Reich

My senior year at Penn was the first time ever that I didn’t have a plan. All I knew was what I didn’t want to do after graduation. I had explored career options within my major of psychology, eliminating one after another. I had considered law school, but concluded that a mountain of debt was too high a price for a degree that I didn’t really want. I thought about publishing, teaching, and advertising, but nothing felt quite right. Then, I heard about an Executive MBA program jointly sponsored by Price Waterhouse (now PriceWaterhouse Coopers) and New York University Stern School of Business. Depending on the semester, I would work or attend classes full or part time, and at the end of the program, I would have an MBA, no loans, and three years of work experience. I had never considered being an accountant, but I mailed a resume, secured an interview, took a train to New York City, and came back to Penn with a job offer. I was a little shell shocked, but it was a plan.

Unfortunately, the plan soon unraveled. I didn’t enjoy the business courses and had no passion for accounting. The months that I worked full time and went to school at night were brutal. I was staffed on a bank merger, working 12 hour days and weekends, leaving work to go to class, and returning to work afterward. I was exhausted and unhappy. And, since I had no time to even think about another job, I simply soldiered on, focusing on getting my MBA. At that time, I figured I could look to move internally to another area within PriceWaterhouse (an advantage of working at a large firm) while I came up with my next plan.

Before that happened though, fate intervened. In one of my MBA classes, I worked on a group project with a woman who was a human resources management consultant. Her job sounded compelling to me, and by the time the class met again, I had updated my resume for her. A few months later, I had a job offer from her firm, the Hay Group. I found the work interesting, and the culture at the Hay Group to be congenial and inspiring. Yet, after five years, I decided to move to a smaller firm where I would have a larger role. That, it turns out, was one of those mistakes that work out for the best. I soon determined that there was no reason to bring my clients to another firm when I could run my own. So, Resourceful Consultants, LLC was born and just four months later, my twin daughter and son were born.

During the next two years, I worked part time, picking and choosing clients that fit my lifestyle. Then, one day, I got a call from a former Hay Group colleague. She had a client who wanted to hire someone to organize a home office. Her words were, “Don’t kill me, but I gave him your number. You should do this.” And, so I did, and I LOVED it. I started calling myself a professional organizer, told everyone I knew, and soon had my second client. That person referred a friend, and each of those friends referred friends, and my business began to grow. Soon, I was meeting with two clients a day, five days a week, helping them organize their homes, offices and lives. In 2011, the NY Times wrote a two-page story about me and my business, and that’s when things really took off. Today, I’m the author of a book (Secrets of an Organized Mom), and have appeared on The Today Show, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, Fox News, and New York 1. In addition to the NY Times, I’ve also been in the New York Post, Real Simple, InStyle, People StyleWatch, Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, AARP Magazine, and O Magazine among other publications.

When I entered my senior year of college, I had never taken an accounting course or heard of a professional organizer, so every job I ultimately held was unimaginable to me at the start of my search. I hope sharing my path will help others realize that it’s completely normal not to know exactly what you aspire to be. I’ve heard it said that if you do what you love, the money follows. I’ve also heard it said that if you love what you do, it’s not work. Both of those sentiments apply to my career, and I hope one day to yours.

More information about Barbara and her organization can be found at or

The 7 Most Important Lessons I Learned at Penn (and How They Apply to the Job Search)

by Monika Haebich, COL ’15

There is a lot that an undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania will teach you. Want to talk about Pataphysics or Premodern female authors, the nerd in me would be happy to talk. But while you’ll find the classroom lessons at Penn invaluable, it’s the lessons that extend past the chalkboard that you may find the most helpful in your job search. As I exit my undergrad experience at Penn and enter the perils of the “real world,” here are the lessons I’ve come to value the most:

1. There is no script.

Regardless of the career paths that others may choose, you define your own success. Reflect on and recognize your strengths, and use them to your advantage. Moving to Atlanta to pursue a career at a startup may not have been the typical Penn trajectory, but at a university where every student is truly extraordinary, it would be reductive to define a single “Penn path” as the one for every student. Write your own script, and don’t be ashamed of the path you choose.

2. Don’t expect anything to be easy.

There will be times when it feels as if nothing is certain, but if there is one thing that is sure, it’s that your senior year, you will be faced with uncertainty. Not everyone will have a job or school lined up by the beginning of senior year, the beginning of the spring semester, or even by graduation, but really think about what you want to do post-graduation, and be confident in your strides towards that. It’s okay to feel lost; it’s okay to be scared, but know that everything will be okay. Nothing remarkable will ever happen within the confines of your own comfort zone, so push yourself, and know that you are not alone.

3. Ask for help; it’s easier than doing it alone.

Always use your resources, and ask for guidance, advice, feedback, and help when you need it. While there may be times when you feel behind, remember that you are all going through this together. I made my first mistake when I, like many others, attempted to go through the job search and OCR alone. Without consulting Career Services, my friends, my family, or my professors first, I became overwhelmed with possible career trajectories and devoid of a sound understanding of what I really wanted to do. Reach out to your friends, your family, your loved ones, your professors, and listen.  Requesting the guidance or assistance of others is not a sign of weakness; it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Seek constructive criticism, lift each other up, and be of and ask for help when you can.  Really, not everything is a competition.

4. Don’t take “no” for an answer.

In whatever you choose to do, there will be people who tell you “no.” Don’t let insecurity or a fear of confrontation prevent you from getting what you deserve. Proceed with confidence, and the world is yours.

5. Surround yourself with the people who motivate and inspire you.

Inspire yourself everyday. Whether it’s with the people on your team, in your sorority, or in your office, surround yourself with those who will encourage, nurture, and inspire your growth. Faced with different job offers, I knew I would end up at my current startup, rented., after realizing that I had surely found a supportive and incredibly inspiring team. Even before accepting the offer, I had more guidance from the team than I could have expected. Taking the time to address my concerns, speaking with me on multiple occasions, and referring me to all the resources I could possibly want, rented.’s CEO,COO, and Vice President of Marketing all proved early on that I had found my new team.

Look for the workplace that will transform you for the better, and never underestimate the importance of a supportive team.

6. You’re here for a reason.

Sure, a title and degree will afford you many opportunities, but it’s your drive and passions and desire to achieve that brought you here in the first place. Remind yourself of the bigger picture, and remember all of the things that brought you to where you are now.

7. There’s always more to learn.

As inspiring as a Penn education is, it is also humbling. Each class is a reminder of just how much of the world is left for you to explore, and that learning certainly shouldn’t stop after college. Even in my first, short five months here at rented., the lessons I’ve learned about new industries, my work, and myself have proved to be invaluable.

Learn from every obstacle, challenge yourself to broaden your understanding of the world, and know that Penn will always be home.

Monika graduated from Penn in 2015 with a B.A. in English concentrating on Literary Theory and Cultural Studies and minors in Consumer Psychology and Fine Arts. Originally from New York, Monika now lives in Atlanta and enjoys photography, polo, and traveling in her free time. She is a Marketing and Sales Associate at  You can read about a typical day in her life at our @PennCareerDay Storify page.

Embracing Uncertainty

by Naz Ozbek, COL/WH ’14

If you’re reading this blog, it means that you know the ins and outs of the Career Services website, which means that it’s either not your first time here, or even if it is, it certainly won’t be your last. It also means that, just like a good majority of your friends, you’re scouring for a summer internship or a full time job, depending on what year you’re in.

If you’re anything like me when I was going into my third year (and most Penn students trying to find jobs are), you may be asking all sorts of questions to yourself. Why didn’t I get that interview? Why didn’t they call me back? My friend got an offer but I didn’t. What could I be doing better? Do I really want to be in finance? What should I be doing with my life? etc. etc. These questions may be of varying natures and severities, leading all the way up to a small existential crisis.

There’s only one piece of advice that I can give you, and you need to believe that it’s true, because it is—even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

Here it is: Everything will be okay.

I’ve been in your shoes and I know exactly what it feels like. I applied to all the consulting firms my sophomore year to get a summer internship. Deloitte, BCG, Bain, Accenture. You name the company, and I’ve probably applied for an internship there. Not because I was dying to be in consulting, but because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I was going along with the famous OCR trend. Being an international student was an added challenge, as it was hard to find companies who were willing to sponsor my visa. After not getting a single invitation for an interview from any of the places I applied to, I entered a phase of self-questioning and doubt, and hours of Skype conversations with my parents to help me figure out what it was that I was missing or could be doing better.

After much discussion with my parents and days of self-pondering, I realized that I didn’t want to be in consulting or banking. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. So I decided to spend that summer with my family at home in Turkey.

The next year, the pressure was on again. Except, this time, I was a step ahead as I knew what types of jobs I was definitely not going to apply to. This was a huge step and relief as it meant that I would basically not be going through the OCR experience again. I wanted to try out an internship doing something creative in marketing, which meant that I would be applying to ad agencies or the marketing departments of some of my favorite brands like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. This time, however, I went through a different type of challenge as I was submitting my application not through Penn, but through each company’s own careers website, or via direct emails to individuals. My dream was to work for Disney in Los Angeles, both because I’m a huge Disney fan, and because I wanted to experience living in LA to see if it would be a good fit for me in the long run. In January, I applied to about 10 roles on their website. 4 months passed, and a week after school was finished, I still hadn’t heard back from any of the places I had applied to. All of my friends had their summers lined up and had left Philly to go home before moving to New York or wherever else for the summer, and I decided to visit my best friend at home in St. Louis. Long story short, I got an invitation to interview via Skype for the Digital Marketing team over at Disney/ABC while in St. Louis, and a week later, I got a call saying I got the job.

I didn’t have a car (I didn’t even have a US driver’s license), I had never been to LA before, and I didn’t know where I would live, but I accepted the offer thinking I’d figure everything out when I got there. Which, luckily, worked out. I met some great people and had a great internship that summer.

I had a very similar story for finding a full-time job for post-graduation. One of my managers at Disney, who had moved over to Netflix, referred me to an agency in New York. They got in touch with me in May, and I landed my job a couple of weeks after graduating. By this point in time, I had learned to live with uncertainty, so the “not knowing” did not bother me as much as it used to. This doesn’t mean that I sat back and waited for the stars to align so that something would magically come my way, but rather, that I did everything I could do on my end of things, and had a little faith that something would eventually come along.

It’s hard to think of the bigger picture when you’re going through a rough patch. One thing I’ve found helpful is to stop for a second when things get overwhelming and ask myself the following questions: will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? Is it a realistic thought that I’ll be unemployed for the rest of my life? Most of the time, I laugh at myself because I realize my worries are groundless. Chances are, yours are too.

Right now, I’m working at a co-working space that caters to individuals in the creative industries. I left my job at the advertising agency because I realized I don’t want to be in marketing. Right now, I’m happy with where I am, and I have a pretty good sense of what it is that I want to do with my life. However, it’s because I didn’t get an internship in finance or consulting (which would’ve tied me to a pretty set, straightforward plan for the next couple of years), because I took some risks and tried different things, that I realized what I do not want enough times to realize what I do want to do.

So please don’t worry. You’re at a very good school and will eventually be employed. Maybe it won’t be five months before the internship is actually supposed to start, but that’s not how real life works anyway. Something will eventually come along, and if that something doesn’t work out, another something will. Don’t worry. Uncertainty can be a good thing. Teach yourself to embrace it.

Naz Ozbek graduated from Penn in 2014 with a BA in Sociology from the College of Arts & Sciences and a BS in Economics, Concentrating in Marketing, from Wharton.

Working with the end (of the year) in mind

Dr. Joseph Barber

In thinking about what careers you might explore when you graduate with your PhD, or once you finish your postdoc, it would certainly be helpful to know where others have gone before you. Those people who have made it through your programs before share a lot in common with you.

  • They had passion around a similar subject area.
  • They experience the same types of faculty support
  • They had access to similar networks of contacts and career resources
  • They faced much the same type of job market
  • They also wanted to find a role that would engage them intellectually, challenge them mentally, and support their continued professional development and personal lifestyle.

The career options they have pursued might be those that you would also find interesting. The skills they use in their careers might be similar to the skills you current use in your research. Traveling down well-beaten paths is not the only way to reach a successful career destination, but it can certainly be an effective one. This is especially true when people in these different career fields are willing to share their experiences and insights with you to help you come to a more informed decision about your career path, or to prepare yourself for a specific path more effectively.

Let’s review the different levels at which you can seek information about career options, and find contacts through networking to help you find some of the answers that you are seeking.

The Penn connection

Penn has a rich history of engaged alumni, and current students can continue to make marvelous connections with a wide range of professionals in different careers by making use of the Penn alumni searchable database – QuakerNet. This is not a resource for asking people whether they have a job for you, but can be a great place to make connections to help you learn more about what it is like to work in a certain role, in a particular company, within a broad industry, and so on. Simply by asking people what they do, and what skills they use to do it, you can absorb some of the language you might be able to use to describe your past experiences in terms that your future employer might better understand – to use their language to make your skills relevant. If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, then make sure that you put “set-up more informational interviews” at the very top of your list.

By now, you have hopefully been exposed to the potential that LinkedIn can offer you in terms of making connections with people like you doing interesting and wonderful things in many career fields. I know some people are a little resistant to this resource for many different reasons, but if you just see it as a powerful career exploration tool, then it can help you overcome some of these concerns.

Continue reading “Working with the end (of the year) in mind”

Start (Up) Your Career!

startup-signYou have amazing energy and ideas. The students I meet with every day as a career counselor here at Penn are all interested in startups—setting something in motion. The project I have the privilege to see them starting is the enterprise of themselves and their own careers.

For those interested in managing their own careers and willing to take some risk, working for a startup can be an exciting plunge into a growing enterprise. The tasks may vary greatly, and one’s efforts may greatly influence the future of the organization. Startups can be found in every type of industry (tech, nonprofit, the arts, business, consumer goods, healthcare, and on and on), and they hire people for many roles (leadership, programming, marketing, business development, sales, design, HR, and more).

I asked some fabulous speakers (who have volunteered to speak at Penn) about their careers with startups. In order to offer you their advice, I asked them each: “If you could reach back in time, what advice would you give yourself as a college student regarding startup/career opportunities?”

So (drumroll please), take some advice from what might be your future:

“While I’m pretty fresh out of school, and I think I did a generally good job at this, I’d encourage myself, and any college student, to take even more risks, push the edge, challenge assumptions, break rules, and explore. It’s general advice I’d give to a student, but it applies specifically to pursuing a career in technology as an entrepreneur, because what we essentially do is explore, find opportunities, and fill them.”
Joe Cohen (Wharton)—Lore (formerly Coursekit)

“Often, people have told me they think startups are ‘too risky.’ For someone in school or just graduating from college, however, I really don’t think there is any risk in working for a startup. The upside is enormous—you’ll learn more broadly and get much more responsibility than you might at a big company—and if things don’t work out, as long as you’re talented and work hard, you’ll always be able to find something new to do. The job offer from Google will be there in three years or in five years, but your needs and desire for work / life balance may change as you grow older, so you might as well work at a startup while you’re young, hungry, and driven.”
Andrew Kortina—Venmo

“If you want to join a startup, the best time is when you are graduating. This is for a few reasons
•     You have the least to lose.
•     You’ll learn in dog years. A good year at a good startup is equivalent to seven at a BigCo from a learning experience.
•     You won’t lose your edge as one inevitably does by working at larger, slow-moving organizations.
And worst case, if things don’t work out at the startup, you can always get a job at BigCo as they are always looking for smart people—especially Penn grads.”
Anand Sanwal—CB Insights

“Optimize for ‘learning’ over every other consideration! The first few years after college are essentially a real world continuation of your education. They are formative years that lay the foundation for the next 30 years of your career. Your learnings should be focused on two things: 1) building a reasonably broad set of complimentary capacities that you will leverage over the long haul; and 2) exploring different types of roles and environments to help you discover your true passion.”
Ben Siscovick (College)—IA Ventures

“Don’t think that you have to do finance or consulting just because that’s the ‘natural’ path for Penn students. There are tons of opportunities in tech and startups, tons of companies that can use smart graduates like you, and I promise you that if you don’t do the ‘standard’ finance path, your work and life will be much more fulfilling than the alternative.”
Lee Yanco—AppNexus

Thank you to these speakers and their fellow panelists at some of our recent and future panels:
“NYC Tech Talent Draft”—September 19, 2012
“Navigating the Startup Career”—January 29, 2013
“NYC Tech Talent Draft”—February 21, 2013
and to those companies planning to attend our upcoming Start-Up Career Fair on February 21!