Your Career: It’s a Family Affair

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family” (Anthony Brandt)

One of the most interesting classes I took in graduate school included a project where students created a “family tree” of relatives’ professions, going as far back as possible in their family history.  The goal behind the exercise was to learn about family impact on individuals’ career choices.  Sometimes family influence, especially parental expectations, has an obvious impact: ie “I am paying for your Penn education to get you the best pre-med training possible” – other times, it is much more subtle – ie “We just want you to be fulfilled and productive.”

When I have a career counseling session with a student, I am aware that in some way their family is in the room with us.   Families influence what we value (money, prestige, productivity, intellectual achievement, helping others).  Families influence the geographic regions we think are open to us in our work.  Families influence what occupations we are exposed to: know any Resort and Panoramic Illustrators?  How might you know to pursue a career like that unless your parents were skiers or you were raised at 5,000ft?

This is part of my family tree:

What are the themes here?  Is it surprising I might be a career counselor at an institution like Penn?  Even though no one in my family has held my kind of job before, most of my family’s career paths involved teaching and “helping” positions working with people.  Skills required: strong communication, assessment and problem solving, empathy.   Most of my family worked for themselves in private practices or worked in educational institutions.  No one (in all three generations) chose to spend time in corporate environments. Another theme is the level of education in my family.  My family let me know that they expected educational achievement and success but beyond that I got no direct instruction on what I “should be” professionally.  Despite this apparent freedom to choose, it’s easy to see in my case, that “the apple falls not far from the tree.”

Have you thought about the ways in which you have skills, interests, and other experiences in common with your family?  What have you considered to be an option, but don’t know anyone who has done it before?  What choices have already been made for you?  How important is your family to your career plans?  These topics are great for you to explore on your own, or with a career advisor.

Here is a link for parents about career planning for Penn students.  If this really interests you, you may have a career in genealogy to consider….

Tweet Your Way to a Job

by Shannon C. Kelly

Are you on Twitter?  If you are, you may have an advantage over your fellow job seekers, or at least the UK’s Lancaster University Management School said so in a recent article.  The 140 character limit that distinguishes Twitter from other social networks has tapped into individuals’ talent for being succinct in their writing.  How does this factor into your job search? The bullet points on your resume, introductions at networking events, or answering questions quickly and concisely in an interview are a few examples of moments where you need to be brief.

Social media platforms like Twitter are great tools to utilize if traditional avenues are falling a bit short in your job search.  They can also be useful in not only building your professional skills, but showcasing them.

If you’re on Twitter, follow us for career advice – @PennCareerServ.

The articles that inspired this blog post can be found at:

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?”

Sophomore Career Exploration

My name is Pat Cawiezell and I am the Graduate Assistant in Career Services working on the Wharton team.  I am making my first blog entry today so thought it would be appropriate to introduce myself to the regular readers of the blog as a new voice.

One aspect of my responsibilities in Career Services has been to accompany a group of Wharton Sophomores on business exploration trips along with a fellow graduate assistant from the office in Huntsman G95, Chase Palmer.  In the first semester Chase and I took a group to New York and visited the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and a separate group to Washington to visit the State Department.  One of the primary objectives of the trip is to expose students to careers outside the traditional Banking and Consulting paths that so many Wharton students choose and to showcase that there are in fact other options available.

At the end of January Chase and I took a small group of sophomores to the headquarters of Ashoka ( in Arlington, VA.  For nearly 30 years, Ashoka has been funding social entreprenuers all over the world that are making a real difference.  The hiring process for Ashoka is extensive, applicants will have six interviews before being hired, including one interview with one of the top three people in the organization.  In fact, walking through their offices Bill Drayton, the CEO and founder of Ashoka, was sitting in his office talking on the phone.  Being part of a small non-profit such as Ashoka can provide access to the organizational leadership that isn’t possible at the multi-national corporation level.

The following week (right before a big snowfall, we have had so much snow I don’t remember which big snowfall, I just remember that as the bus pulled up to 38th and Walnut flurries were just starting to fill the air), Chase and I led a larger group to New York for two company visits.  In the morning we went to PricewaterhouseCoopers to learn more about their consulting division.  It was a pretty traditional presentation, we met four Wharton alums that work for PwC, all in different stages in their career.  In the afternoon the group went to Bad Boy (unfortunately Puff Daddy was in Miami for the Super Bowl) and met with many different people from the Bad Boy empire.  The CFO is a Wharton alum, Derek Ferguson,, and gave some solid advice about entering into the entertainment industry.

The striking difference between a corporate job at PwC and the environment at Bad Boy was evident to me, and I hope evident to the sophomores that attended the event.  At Bad Boy, every person we met, from Derek Ferguson on down to the interns that were there for the spring semester, had some level of relationship with Sean Combs.  You could usually tell what that level was from those that called him Puffy and those that called him Mr. Combs, but there is no question that Mr. Combs is involved in every level of Bad Boy and that if you go to work for him, you will have access to him.

I am sure that my vantage point as a 28 year old graduate student is different than the 19 and 20 year old sophomores that were the target audience of the presentations but I hope that as you consider your career path, you think about the things that are important to you and both the benefits and drawbacks of each possible job.  At Penn, there are lots of companies competing for students to hire but I hope you take some time to think about the organizations that don’t have the resources to wine and dine but could be a perfect fit for your unique interests and talents.