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

More Than Resumes

by Fatimah Williams Castro, Ph.D., Career Counselor

I joined Career Services last year at the height of my team’s busy season – just a couple weeks before the fall semester began. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet graduate students and postdocs from many of the schools we serve during summer orientations and beginning of semester events.


My team is always sure to let master’s and doctoral students and postdocs know that we are here to assist with any of your career related or job search career questions – that’s right all of it. But students would still ask, “So you mean, I can come in with something other than just my resume?”

Any career advisors would answer, Yes and yes.


Truth is, the job search is never just about the resume. There’s all the questions that come before and after you submit a job application such as,

  • I want to use [this] skill in my future job, where can I find information on careers that use this skill?
  • How would I go about looking for a job in my favorite town on the West Coast while I’m here on the East Coast at Penn?
  • People tell me that I should network with alumni but I don’t know what to say to alumni or where to meet them.
  • How can I keep my options open for academic jobs and nonacademic jobs at the same time?
  • How do I manage multiple job offers?


These questions are wide ranging and address every stage of the job search and career development process, and they certainly extend beyond just resumes and CVs.

I’m writing this post to let you know that career advisors are here to assist you whether you are focused on positions research, teaching, industry/business, government, nonprofit or anything in between.

I’m still amazed that Career Services at Penn offers customized career support for graduate students and postdocs. Did you know that most university career offices primarily serve undergraduates? But lucky you (!), Penn is ahead of the curve with dedicated team members who understand master’s and doctoral training and how it shapes your outlook on your career options and career decision making.

So how can you get in on this customized career advice –and resume and CV help?

  • Schedule an appointment with a career advisor. These appointments are 30 minute advising sessions. Come in with your questions or even general comments like, “I’m not sure what I’d like to do, but I know I want help with figuring that out.” We are here during the summers in addition to the school year.
  • Stop by during walk ins. These are our 15 minute sessions that are most helpful when you have quick questions.
  • Attend the Job Search Series and the Academic Career Conference. We update our calendar regularly with new events and programs. Look for the ones that are specifically for graduate students and postdocs.

For an appointment and to check when we have office hours, call 215.898.7530. We look forward to seeing you at Career Services and around campus. 

Insta-Advice: Advice Videos on Instagram

Are you following us on Instagram? If not, I highly encourage you to do so because we’re not only sharing moments we capture on campus, we’re sharing some candid advice, too.


Earlier this semester, we took advantage of Instagram’s 15 second video option to share some “insta-advice”.  We went around and asked you, our students and alumni, what your thoughts were on internships, career fairs, networking, career exploration, and more!  Check out these videos on our Instagram, and stay tuned for new editions on Tuesday!

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!