The (Adaptable, Resourceful, Multitalented) Versatile PhD

Graduate students and postdocs may be aware of Career Services’ many resources on academic careers and the academic job search.  But are you also familiar with the resources we have for PhDs/ABDs who are considering a career beyond academia? The Versatile PhD is one of the valuable tools Career Services provides to help you in your decision making and your job hunting.

The Versatile PhD is a web-based resource that you can use anytime, from any computer.  It includes:

  • A thriving, supportive web-based community where you can participate in discussions, network with real “Versatile PhDs” (humanists, social scientists and STEM trained individuals working outside the academy) or, if you prefer, just read and learn.
  • An online collection of compelling first-person narratives written by Versatile PhDs who describe how they established their post-academic careers and give their best advice for you.
  • An associated LinkedIn group where you can begin to build an online presence and network with Versatile PhDs in a wide variety of fields.
  • Free online “Career Panel” discussions where Versatile PhDs working in a given field share their specific professional experiences in that field and answer questions from members. Online panels in 2012 included Careers in Market Research, Careers in Corporate and Institutional Research and Careers in Program Evaluation.  Panels from prior years are archived on the site.

Coming up on November 12-16, 2012:  Entrepreneurship for STEM PhDs featuring STEM PhDs currently running businesses they started from the ground up, or working in small start-ups.  The panel is presented in an asynchronous format; participate anytime during the week.

University of Pennsylvania graduate students and postdocs have access to all the content areas on the website, including the upcoming panel  – go to the Career Services Reference Library (on the left side of Career Services homepage) and click on Online Subscriptions.  You will be asked to provide your PennKey and password to access The Versatile PhD.

A Penn Road Less Travelled By: A Career in International Development

By Hannah Peterson (C ’12)

“Wow, that’s so amazing. I wish I could do something like that!”

“I’m so jealous of you. You’re actually going to be helping people, while I’m sitting stuck at my desk all day”.

“That’s such a great decision, I wish I had decided to travel while I was young.”

These were the responses I heard over and over again by my friends, classmates and family when telling them my decision to move to Nicaragua to work for a community development non-profit after graduation.  There were feelings of jealousy, regret and paralysis, and I couldn’t understand it, because there was absolutely nothing stopping them from making my same decision.

As I was starting my final year at Penn I was stuck in the age-old dilemma of coming to terms with my future. I put on that pants suit I had spent treacherous hours searching for in the mall the summer before.  I bought myself one of those fancy leather Penn folders and I pasted a smile on my face.  I walked around the OCR career fairs pretending like I was enjoying what I was seeing.  I went through all the motions as I thought I needed to, yet I kept having the feeling that I was choosing the best of the worst option.  Their pen design is better, so I must fit in there.  That recruiter gave me a ping pong ball with the company’s logo on it, they must have a fun work environment.  When trying to write my cover letters it was painful to find reasons I wanted to work at each firm.  In fact, what I found myself searching for on each of their websites was their charity work they in order to convey any genuine interest in my statement.

Continue reading “A Penn Road Less Travelled By: A Career in International Development”

Considering Compensation: It’s not just about salary

Whether you already have an offer, are hoping soon to receive one, or are just exploring different career fields, chances are good that one of the things you’re seriously evaluating is salary. In my years in this office, candidates have asked me everything from “what am I worth?” to “what is a good salary?” to “what do Penn students typically make?” – questions usually focused on pay rather than compensation. With the high cost of Penn’s education potentially financed with student loans, you (and your parents) often want to make sure that you have a good return on your investment. This is certainly understandable and should be a factor in any offer you consider but I urge you to think bigger. Salary is usually only one part of your compensation package and the value of some of those other benefits can be quite high. Some, like healthcare, retirement contributions or stock options, you may be able to quantify but many are harder to put a price tag on.

A colleague of mine recently shared a story from a student with whom she had met who was evaluating an offer. My colleague asked her, “Did you get options?” “Yes,” she replied excitedly. “I have the option of working from home one day a week!” Even though our staff member had been referring to stock options, this student’s response speaks volumes about what else you should consider when you get a job offer. Many of these intangibles like flex time, the ability to work remotely, professional development opportunities or other perks can make a huge difference in the quality of your work life.  At some places it might be free food. I was at a start-up a few weeks ago that in addition to offering free beverages (including a beer fridge) and fresh organic fruit daily brings in a masseuse to offer free chair massages to employees once a month. One online retailer keeps life coaches on staff to help employees meet either personal or professional goals. Another employer offers free shuttle service for employees living in several counties surrounding their headquarters. At Penn, I can take one class per semester for free as an employee.

Some of the greatest perks, however, are likely to be ingrained in the office culture. Even though I am in a field where I know that I will never make a lot of money, I wouldn’t want to work in another industry because I love the climate in higher ed and, in my office in particular, because it is supportive and flexible. It means the world to me that I am trusted to get my job done even if that doesn’t always happen on traditional schedule. Whether I need to work from home for a day when my child is home sick or leave work a little early to go see a house with my realtor, I feel so lucky to know that I work in an environment where I can arrange to do those things and not fear professional repercussions. That said, these are benefits that you usually only earn as a reward for doing a good job and proving your worth over a course of time. Needless to say I would not have asked for either of those two things in my first year on the job.

So as you evaluate any professional offer I urge you to consider more than just your monthly or annual wage. What are those other benefits worth both to your pocketbook as well as your emotional health? I can tell you that, for me, quality of life at work is priceless.

Can you pivot?

Unless you have been sleeping the spring away, you know that Facebook recently bought Instagram, the photo sharing company, for $1 Billion. But Instagram didn’t start as a cool photo sharing app. The founders originally started a company called Burbn, which allowed users to share their locations as well as notes and pictures. Burbn did not take off, so the founders did what many successful start-up guys do: they pivoted in a slightly different direction. They stripped out the location and note sharing, and focused on photo sharing with filters and effects, thus setting Instagram apart from other apps. Its popularity soared. The rest is history.

I was reminded of pivoting founders this week when I attended a talk by former dean of Columbia College Austin Quigley, who discussed his own career, which developed in non-linear fashion, as do the careers of most of us. He stressed the need to learn how to change, or pivot. Today’s professionals will likely change careers multiple times. Even those who don’t must quickly adapt to rapid changes in their fields. Those who don’t stay ahead of the curve, Quigley said, will be left behind.

This was just the beginning of Quigley’s talk, which was fascinating and covered a lot of ground. I focus here on his emphasis on educating people for change. He feels institutions like Penn and Columbia are particularly able to provide this education through a thorough grounding in the liberal arts. This resonated with me, as I meet more and more Penn alumni who have successfully adapted to the challenges they face in their careers. They learned to pivot. And that is one of the most important things a Penn education can provide.

Can you recognize when it’s time to pivot? Are you ready to do so, again and again? To stay ahead of the proverbial curve, you must, regardless of where your career takes you. Success is not measured in billions, after all, but in the ability throughout one’s career to work and contribute in meaningful ways. Good luck with your pivots – and enjoy the summer.

By the Book: Online and In Print

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

Here are a few new (or newly updated) resources now available from the Career Services Library!

Current Jobs for Graduates bulletins provide fresh, entry-level job vacancies in the often-overlooked fields of liberal arts and the arts & humanities.  Each bulletin contains hundreds of current vacancies, all with direct links to the original posting for further information and application instructions.  This extremely popular resource was upgraded this month to also include internship listings!  Areas covered include: Liberal Arts, Writing/Communications/Publishing, Fine Arts, Performing Arts, Management & Business, Education, and International Jobs. Penn students can take advantage of our subscription to this site by logging on via our Electronic Subscriptions page.

Ten Steps to a Federal Job by Kathryn Troutman.  Ten Steps to a Federal Job is a total campaign approach for the first-time federal job seeker determined to land a high-quality federal position. The book includes updates from the 2010 Hiring Reform, samples of federal resumes, and step-by-step instructions on how to apply for federal positions.

An accompanying CD-ROM can be borrowed through Career Services on a limited basis.  Please speak with the Information Resources Manager during his regular office hours if you are interested in borrowing the software.



Career Opportunities in the Sports Industry
by Shelly Field. Seventy-three careers are discussed in a clear and easy-to-understand style. Boxed highlights of the facts in brief and a two-to-three page summary describe the position, the salary, employment prospects, educational requirements, and tips for entry. Lists of colleges, workshops, professional associations, and the media are appended.  Featuring jobs in Professional Athletics and Sports Teams, Business and Administration, Coaching and Education, Officiating, Sports Journalism, Recreation and Fitness, Racing, Wholesaling and Retailing, Sports Medicine and more.

Culinary Careers by Rick Smilow, President & CEO of  the Institute of Culinary Eduation, and Anne E. McBride.  With information on educational programs and a bird’s-eye view of the industry, Culinary Careers is a must-have resource for anyone looking to break into the food world, whether you’re a first-time job seeker or a career changer looking for your next step.

Looking far beyond line cooks and pastry chefs, Culinary Careers takes a look at the industry as a whole, with opportunities available to those with business, design and liberal arts backgrounds.  Careers covered include: Restaurant publicist, consulting in the industry, kitchen designer, food trucks owner/entrepreneur, restaurant management, restaurant investing, nutritionists and more!



Come by the Career Services Library today and check out these and other resources!  When classes are in session, we are open Monday-Wednesday 9am-6pm and Thursday-Friday 9am-5pm.  When classes end, we are open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.