Character Strengths

By Jamie Grant, Senior Associate Director, C’98 GEd’99

I recently attended a professional development session in which we discussed the impact of positive psychology and the importance of finding opportunities in life that play to our strengths, impacting our performance and job satisfaction in addition to the way we manage life issues.  Through completing a free online – and quick – assessment of “character strengths” through the VIA Institute on Character as recommended by our instructor, (www.viacharacter.org), I learned a bit more about myself, and I have taken just about every career-related assessment out there!   It also helped me to understand why working in Career Services has always felt like a rewarding and just-about-perfect fit for me.

I work with many students as they begin the career exploration process, and some who are literally deciding on an offer that day.  Many of the same types of questions come up for both types of advising appointments – students wonder where they fit, what kind of work might be best for them, where are they going to be “happy” and how to get that job.  It’s incredibly difficult to evaluate your potential for strong performance AND satisfaction with your work by reading a job description, or even going through a rigorous interviewing process during which you get to ask all of your questions!  Hopefully, by exploring things like your “character strengths” and getting a grasp on when you are most likely to feel engaged and fulfilled professionally and personally, you may get a strong(er) sense as to what types of roles, organizations and career paths are ultimately your ideal fit.

And as always, please don’t hesitate to connect with an advisor here in Career Services to discuss this process or any other career related questions or concerns on your mind!   Warmest wishes for a restful and deservedly long winter break to all of our current students!

Investment Banking vs Consulting – A Student Perspective

by Fiona Tang, WH MBA ’17 and Wharton Graduate Assistant

Investment Banking vs. Consulting – A Student Perspective
By: Fiona Tang

Investment banking and consulting are usually popular career choices after graduation because of their great training programs, brand names and wide range of exit opportunities. Having been fortunate enough to work at both McKinsey and Goldman Sachs, I would like to share some pros and cons of each industry from my perspective.

Compensation: Banking tends to be more lucrative

Base salaries are similar in banking and consulting, but the bonus varies significantly for each industry. In banking, the bonus received may be valued as much as 12 or 24 months of your base salary while in consulting the maximum bonus is probably 6 months of salary. There is generally a 20% – 40% pay difference between banking and consulting at all position levels. Exit opportunities are also more lucrative after banking positions compared to consulting roles.  Private equity and investment management positions pay a lot more than strategy roles in big corporations. If compensation is an important role in your decision making, banking might be a better option.

Job Security: Consulting is more secure

Job security in consulting is much less cyclical than banking. Regardless of good economic times or bad economic times, consulting firms continue hiring and minimize layoffs of junior staff. Investment banks, on the other hand, layoff more workers and enact hiring freezes during financial downturns. For example, this summer after I left Goldman Sachs, the Hong Kong office laid off 20 analysts and associates because the market isn’t doing well now.

Work Lifestyle: Unpredictable hours vs. Traveling

If you are looking for a 40 hour per week job, neither consulting or banking is ideal for you. The hours are LONG, generally 70-100 hours per week depending on your project or deal.  As you become more senior and gain more work experience, the hours can be shorter. But my manager at McKinsey and VP at Goldman both still send emails to their teams at 2am on occasion – the nature of the work illustrates banking and consulting will never be nine-to-five jobs.

The big difference is that consulting is intense during the week but in general doesn’t require you to work on the weekends. The hours are more predictable as you will be working on one specific project and it’s easier to manage and plan ahead.  The downside to consulting is endless traveling from Monday to Thursday. Trust me, waking up at 5am to catch a 7am flight to the client site on Monday is not fun.

Banking requires much less travel at junior level. However, the hours are less predictable as you don’t know when a deal will intensify or a pitch suddenly becomes live. As an analyst, you will be staffed on multiple deals and it’s difficult to predict your work hours or make plans in advance. During a live deal, working on the weekends is considered pretty normal.

Daily Work: PowerPoint or Excel?

Both bankers and consultants spend the majority of their time on Excel and PowerPoint. The key difference in banking is a focus on finance specifically and financial modeling in general. Junior bankers devote their time to studying the value of a company and its capital structure; junior consultants think about the strategy of a company and its organizational structure.

The life of a consultant is interesting because of the broad range of projects managed by a range of different partners. Every project and every client is different and the learning curve is quite steep in the first couple of years. However, sometimes I do struggle with limited opportunities to put ideas into practice – like junior bankers who put together endless pitch books for M&A deals that never happen.

Junior bankers’ work in some way is more process-driven.  During the first six months, you will generally have a steep learning curve. But afterwards, IPOs, pitch books and M&A transactions will have a standard process with a different twist for each deal. If you are passionate about finance, you might like it. Otherwise, the daily work can become a little repetitive. That being said, the training and deal exposure are definitely invaluable assets for your future recruiting. 

In terms of work culture, banking tends to be more tough. Bankers are not bad people – the nature of the work can simply be grueling though. A banker is usually staffed with a couple of deals simultaneously and when things become more active, it’s difficult for him or her to be patient when a junior banker asks certain questions.  You may feel “on edge” awaiting new work assignments that may come at any time which may result in having to pull an all-nighter again. Consultants are generally only staffed on one project at a time, which makes it a lot easier to manage the workload and plan ahead of time. Hence, in consulting, managers have more time to focus on individual team members’ development, team bonding events, etc.


Future Job Prospects:

Banking and consulting do have somewhat different exit opportunities and career trajectories. Most of my consulting friends shift to startups, private equity, corporate strategy, or technology after 2 years while my banking friends go to startups, private equity, investment management, technology or corporate M&A.  There is definitely some overlap given that the skillsets from banking and consulting are somewhat similar with a different focus. Consulting provides more training on strategy and big-picture thinking, which companies with corporate strategy roles or private equity operation roles might find very attractive. On the other hand, banking provides robust financial training and most finance-related jobs such as private equity and investment management find banking analysts good hires.

When choosing between consulting and banking, I would encourage you to think about where you see yourself in 2 years. If you know that you want to be in the finance world and work for a big private equity / hedge fund, banking would generally provide a better foundation.  If you would like a role as senior management of a Fortune 500 company or managing a startup, consulting might provide more fundamental training.  However, I definitely see some consultants switch to finance and bankers switch to strategy.  You are not restricted if you choose one option or the other. What I share above is merely general guidance on the skillsets you would gain after 2 years and what companies are looking for from ex-bankers and ex-consultants.

Banking and consulting both provide excellent training and you will be working with talented and driven individuals. Whatever you choose, you can have a great career and I hope this provides general insight for the lifestyle of banking compared to consulting.

 

The Value of Job Shadowing

Tiffany Franklin, Associate Director

jobshare

The leaves are turning colors, crisp autumn nights are becoming the norm and you can find pumpkin versions of most of your favorite foods. Fall is officially upon us and that means it’s the perfect time to consider an externship as part of your internship/job search strategy. Externships are job shadowing opportunities designed to help students discern how their skills and interests align with professional positions in their career fields of interest.

By participating in a “day in a life” within a work environment, you can gain exposure to an industry, insightful conversation, invaluable advice, and an insider perspective.

Externships are typically job shadowing opportunities that are a half or full-day in duration and may involve the following activities:

  • Conducting informational interviews with professionals in a range of departments and levels
  • Participating in daily operations that provide hands-on exposure to the career field/industry
  • Completing a relevant project if the externship is long enough to accommodate it
  • Attending meetings and presentations
  • Touring the work site

Depending on your school and year, you can participate in one of the structured job shadowing programs through Career Services (for example, the Engineering Externship Program or Discovery Days) or you can create this type of opportunity on your own through networking, which is simply connecting with people. Perhaps you have a friend with a relative working in a field that interests you. You could see if that person could introduce you and begin by scheduling a brief informational interview. Once you’ve established a rapport over time, you could inquire whether any job shadowing opportunities are available. Career Services advisors are here to help you consider both the timing and content of this type of outreach.

The Engineering Externship Program connects returning students with alumni and their colleagues at their workplaces in January, just before spring semester classes begin. The program is open to SEAS sophomores, juniors, and first year master’s students with first priority going to sophomores and then juniors. Externship sites include different types of companies, in locations across the U.S. and overseas. Consult your upcoming weekly newsletters from Career Services for full application details.

Discovery Days is a program which allows College of Arts and Sciences and Wharton sophomores a chance to observe a “day in the life” of professionals in careers of interest to them. Consult your upcoming weekly newsletters from Career Services for full application details. This program takes place in January 2017 prior to spring classes.

Whether it’s through a formal program through Career Services or through your own networking, job shadowing is an excellent way to supplement your research about a career field. By meeting with professionals who do what you hope to, you will have the opportunity to ask questions, gain insights into the challenges they face, and learn from their experience.

Career exploration solutions – using your research skills

Dr. Joseph Barber, Associate Director

One of the common challenges faced by PhD students and postdocs is being able to make certain and confident career decisions that are different from those supported or promoted by their thesis advisors. Given the many career paths taken by PhDs, and the many career fields that value some of the skills, experiences, and knowledge provided by a PhD, it can be challenging to gain a clear enough perspective on which path (or paths) might be the best to pursue. The good news for PhD students and postdocs, is that your academic training gives you the ability to solve some of these issues by yourself without having to rely on your advisor. Indeed, your advisor has given you the some of the skills you need to come up with a solution – your ability to do research! All you have to do is apply these research skills to a field beyond your thesis topic. Here are some common career-related questions that a little bit of in-person and online research can help you answer:

What do people with a PhD in my field do if they are not a postdoc or faculty member?

Ask your administrative department coordinator if they maintain a list of alumni from your research group or department and review their current positions. Ask more senior PhD students or postdocs where they have seen people going after graduation or when their postdoc finishes.

Use QuakerNet to search for alums by degree, field, location, and so on.

Get a LinkedIn account (don’t worry, it is just a tool, not a lifestyle change), and under the “my network” header on every page select the “find alumni” tool. You can use this interactive table to search by “what they studied” (click on the arrow on the right hand side of the first 3 columns to get to this one), and then you can use the overall search box at the top of the table (next to the number of results) to do a broad keyword search using “PhD” or “Ph.D.”. You can use the “find alumni” tool for any university, even if you didn’t attend it. If you were going to be relocating to the West Coast from the Philadelphia area, for example, you can look at where PhDs in your field from West Coast institutions find employment, as you may come across location-specific organizations you didn’t know.

What skills are needed to be an X (where X is any position you can imagine)?

1. Use the same alumni networks described above to find people in the position that you think you might want and have an informational interview with them (i.e., ask them about their job, how they got there, what skills they find most helpful, what challenges they tend to face on a day-to-day basis, what advice they might give people considering their career field, and if they can suggest anyone they know that you might chat with).

2. Use the title of the job and any associated keywords to search online job boards (e.g., Indeed.com; USAjobs.gov; idealist.org; higheredjobs.com; LinkedIn). Keep track of which companies have the position (an Excel spreadsheet works well), and pay attention to the list of skills and requirements associated with the position. Assess which of these skills you have, and which you can develop using some of the campus resources still available to you. Since it can sometimes feel hard to self-assess your own skills, work with a career advisor to get a more objective (and you’ll find, more optimistic) perspective.

3. Look at people’s profiles on LinkedIn who are doing this job and scroll down to see the list of their endorsed skills.

What can I do with skill X (where skill X is something that you might have developed through your thesis research – e.g., ethnography, data visualization, surveys, archival research)?

1. Use the skill as a keyword as you search job boards, and see what types of jobs pop up. This won’t be helpful if you are searching for a broad skills (e.g., teaching, research), but can also be helpful if you have a particular subject/knowledge expertise.

2. Go back to the “find alumni” tool on LinkedIn and look at the “What they’re skilled at” column. Type in your skill and then look at the companies and roles in which people who say they have this skill are employed. People who say they are skilled at ethnography can be found at Google and Mattel, just as an example.

What is the job market like for job X?

In addition to asking contacts you make in any career field this question, you can also get a decent visualization of trends by using the trend function on Indeed.com. For example, throw in the word “assistant professor” into the search bar (include the “”), and you will see the cyclical nature of hiring for this position. Look for “data science”, and you will see how this position has been trending upwards in its prevalence. You can even search for specific skills that might be mentioned within the job descriptions (e.g., python, GIS) to see if these are skills you might need to gain.

jobtrends

How can I find a good contact at employer X?

No matter what career field you are interested in, chances are high that you know someone who knows someone in this career field who might be a useful contact. However, this person who happens to know a good contact is unlikely to dramatically wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and exclaim out loud to their now no longer sleeping partner, “My gosh…, I should let them know that I know a senior scientist at Merck who might be a great contact in their search for industry positions!”. One of the reasons that they don’t tend to wake up like this is probably because you haven’t actually told then you are seeking a contact in the biotech industry. Even if you have mentioned it in passing once, they are probably incredibly busy working on their own life that they might have forgotten.

Let’s call this person who doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night, and doesn’t start gibbering about biotech and pharma researchers at Merck, and doesn’t then reach out to you with a great contact, Maggie. It is very possible for Maggie to know someone at Merck without knowing that she knows someone at Merck. After all, the person she knows might not have been at Merck when she first met them. Perhaps they were at GSK, but have recently taken a new job at Merck where they are leading a new research group and looking to bring new people on board (people, as it turns out, like you!). Maggie doesn’t know any of this. However, if you are linked with Maggie on LinkedIn, then you stand a much greater chance of finding this out. If you were to search for Merck using company search bar on LinkedIn, then on the employer page you will see in the top right hand corner of the page the number of 1st  and 2nd degree contacts. Click on any of these 2nd degree connections (people you don’t know, but who know people you do know) and scroll done their profile to see who you know who knows them. When you find out that Maggie knows someone at Merck (which is news to Maggie), there are many ways she can actually help you:

1. You can ask Maggie if the person she knows might be a good person to talk to with the specific questions you have.

2. You can ask Maggie is she has an actual email or phone number she can share with you (something that LinkedIn doesn’t like to do).

3. You can ask if Maggie can introduce you to the contact.

4. You can ask Maggie if you can use her name when reaching out to the contact.

All of these approaches will increase the likelihood that Maggie’s contact will actually speak with you. Getting the conversation started is the first step towards making the most of a new connection who can help you achieve some of your career exploration goals.

In terms of career exploration, the goal is for you to use your already well-developed research skills to understand people, their career pathways, their skills, and their connections. You should develop specific career-focused questions you need answers for, and then don’t stop researching until you have found answers that are meaningful to you. This will mean taking advantage of online tools like LinkedIn to help you find and make real-life connections, because it is these people who will help you answer your questions.

Year of Discovery: Learning about Careers

Even after 25 years of working in the career services field, I’m constantly amazed at the huge array of careers that are out there. (Honestly, there IS something for everyone!) The problem can be discovering what that “something” might be for you and also learning more about what people actually do in those jobs. Happily, Career Services has many resources to help you learn more about what it is like to work in various fields and how best to prepare. Following are some my favorites.

Vault.com provides in-depth information on what it’s really like to work in an industry, company or profession—and how to position yourself to land that job. The also provide company rankings, ratings and reviews which are sourced and verified through ongoing directed surveys of active employees and enrolled students. WetFeet similarly provides information about industries, specific employers, interviewing advice, etc. Both resources are easy to read and can provide a wealth of information quickly. Access both through the Career Services on-line subscriptions link on this page. (Note that you will need your PennKey and PennKey password to log in.)

Of course, it’s also always a good idea to actually talk to people working in various career fields instead of just reading about them. Check out our Networking page to get some tips on how to conduct informational interviews to learn about careers. Then use the QuakerNet alumni directory and Penn Internship Network to connect with alums and current students who have worked in fields of interest to you. Finally, don’t forget that Employer Information Sessions are a GREAT way to learn about opportunities. Career Services typically hosts over 350 information sessions a year. Check out the calendar for them here.