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. 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.

CS Radio Episode 1: Career Discovery

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Welcome to the first episode of CS Radio, the official podcast of The University of Pennsylvania Career Services office.

Each Monday, your hosts A. Mylene Kerschner and J. Michael DeAngelis will discuss a new topic from the world of Career Services, highlight important and interesting upcoming programing and bring special guests into the studio to discuss their own career paths.

This week’s episode, “Discovery,” looks at the broad topic of career exploration.  Special guest David Fox, Director of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives, tells us about this year’s academic theme, The Year of Discovery, and about his own varied career as academic administrator, lecturer and performing arts critic.  We’re also joined by Barbara Hewitt, Senior Associate Director of Career Services to talk about self-assessments and career inventories.

One note, due to some technical difficulties, we’re a little late in posting the episode, so some of the events highlighted in this week’s episode have already passed.  We apologize for any confusion.

Enjoy the show!

Achieving Career Goals with a Personal Board of Advisors

Many of you have successfully identified either short-term or long-term career goals but can still struggle with how to “get from here to there” with your plans. If you stop to think about it, you can probably identify some of the things that have helped you achieved past goals you have set for yourself.

What helps us achieve a goal or purpose?

  • Clarity of understanding, enthusiasm or motivation for a goal
  • Information and access to resources
  • Ability to take risks and to take action
  • Accountability (holding self to course of action)
  • Ability to learn from experience, gain insight
  • Recognition of accomplishment (keeps us motivated to tackle the next thing on our list)

A mentor or advisor is someone who can add to our abilities in each of the areas above; who can accelerate the process of attaining goals, minimize both the effects and frequency of derailments, and expand our knowledge as we progress from goal to goal, and celebrate achievements.  That being said, most mentors and advisors do not have every skill or expertise you will need to develop to move ahead in your own professional development.  For example, a great researcher isn’t always a great communicator; a great writer may not be a great connector.  This is where the idea behind having a personal board of advisors for your career comes in:  rather than relying on a single advisor, you are more likely to succeed if you reach out to more people, and have their complementary skills and strengths serve your varying needs and goals.   This is a very strategic form of networking for professional development.

Does this idea intrigue you?  Here are some guidelines for creating a personal board of advisors for your career:

  • Identify people with strengths or experience you seek
  • Identify people with connections to others, or connections to resources that can help you
  • Identify people you respect but who have differing perspectives than your own
  • Identify people who will help you stay accountable

Think about a consortium of 4-5 people that would together have the expertise to meet your short term, and even some long term goals.  Who do you already know that fits one or more of the above criteria?  Personal advisory boards can be made up of individuals from any part of your life; not just school or work: family, friends, teachers, former supervisors, current advisors, coaches, leaders in certain fields of interest, alumni of your school or program.

For example, one of my current career goals is to develop my strengths related to leading a team. My board of advisors currently looks like this:

  • 2 former supervisors who have a lot of experience in my field, career counseling graduate students (strengths and connections)
  • 1 cousin, who has significant managerial experience in a totally different field, management consulting (differing perspectives)
  • 2 friends from graduate school, who provide psychological support, have seen my career grow over time (more than 15 years!), and serve as “cheerleaders” (keep me accountable, recognize accomplishments)

What do you need to do to make the most of the “wisdom” or strengths of your career advisory board?

  • Be prepared to discuss your goal(s)
  • Develop the ability to discuss both strengths and weakness; self-insight is required for this
  • Be open to feedback; and be willing to do things differently or see things differently
  • Have regular contact, including follow up after each interaction
  • Express gratitude and reciprocity (be engaged, appreciate your advisors’ efforts, and even offer to help others)

For more information on this concept, read some of the many articles online (some great ones are linked below), and share your networking and professional development goals by making an appointment with a Penn Career Services advisor:

Personal Board of Advisors articles:

Who Are You?

J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

My favorite band of all time, bar none, is The Who.  I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them live in concert nine times and I’ve already got the tenth one scheduled – the final night of their 50th anniversary tour, which concludes here in Philadelphia in November.

50 years.  That’s a long time to be a rock star.  No, let’s be honest, that’s a long time to be ANYTHING.  Can you see yourself doing the same work for fifty years?  Forty? Twenty?  I’ve worked at Penn for ten years (almost eleven), but even in that amount of time, I’ve had five different positions across two different offices.  Pete and Rodger must really love what they do.

How do you find out what you would love to do for fifty years or more? Career Services offers a few ways to begin this exploration through online self-assessments.  We offer the following services free or at a discounted rate for current students and alumni:

SIGI 3 – SIGI 3® is a comprehensive, free career exploration tool that prompts you to discover your skills, interests, and values and matches the resulting profile to career options.  SIGI3 also provides in-depth and up-to-date career information.  (Free)

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is now available through Career Services. This inventory is designed to assess the preferences linked to your personality.

The MBTI is often taken in conjunction with the Strong Interest Inventory – The Strong Interest Inventory is now available through Career Services. This inventory is designed to assess interests and preferred work styles and relate them to a variety of career fields and occupations.

($15 for one test, $30 for both for current students, $25/$50 for current post-docs and alumni)

StrengthsQuest – StrengthsQuest is an assessment that tracks your top ten five talent themes as a means toward helping you to discover your strengths. The instrument will also provide guidance on how to apply your strengths to your academics, career planning and leadership development. ($9.99)

Talentoday – Talentoday will allow you to easily assess your core soft skills and motivations, and immediately discover what job profiles fit your personality best. The resource is completely free and is now available for all students and alumni. Take a 11-minute online self-assessment and discover your unique qualities and job possibilities. (Free)

All of these resources and others can be found on our Career Inventories page

Each of these tools can help you answer “who are you?” and maybe with the knowledge you gain about yourself, in fifty years time you’ll still be rocking out like The Who.

Advice From Your Peers: PennDesign Grads “Tell It Like It Is”

Each year, PennDesign students regularly connect with Career Services as a resource in their job search efforts.  And each year, the Career Services graduate student and postdoc advising team asks recent graduates of PennDesign to share what worked best for them in finding post-graduation employment.   We conduct “Career Plans Surveys” of recent PennDesign graduates, where they report data about their current employers, positions, and plans as well as share their advice for current students.  Below are just a sample of the responses we received very recently – each with some direct and doable suggestions for making the most of your time and the resources here at Penn.  Even if you just skim through the quotes from these 2014 grads, you will get a sense of recurring themes: network, go to career fairs (especially the PennDesign Career Connection Day fair, in late March every year), know your faculty and ask them for assistance, explore online job boards and resources in your career field, and visit Career Services.  Read on:

Advice from your PennDesign Peers

Send out work samples to as many firms as possibletalk to people at career fairs and follow up with emails. (MLARC 2014)

contacted former professors, colleagues from internships, and Penn alums. I also looked for job postings through the ASLA and Land8. The job I ultimately got was through a contact with a Penn alum who I have known since before graduate school. (MLARC 2014)

I accepted a temporary position for a project that really excites me and hope to use it as a launching point for a long-term position in the same area. My typical job search strategy involves talking to as many people as possible, using and other list serves, and inviting people out for informational lunches. I have found that the best way to get an interview is through personal connections or relationships rather than applying to a listed position. I have also been hired after cold emailing – the firm was actually looking for something even though they hadn’t posted an official position yet. (MCP, 2014)

I probably spent the most effort looking at the multiple jobs boards that are likely to offer listings for Planning students. These include, and, all of which have a frequently-used jobs section. In addition, I was happy to attend the Design School career fairs – but I made sure to be selective, and make the firms make their pitch to me as much as I was pitching myself to them. You must carve out time and motivation to send out applications. Treat it as a job, one that you schedule on your calendar. Also, try to apply to some “safety” positions first – ones that might be good but not your most tantalizing ones. This helps you work out some kinks and get overall practice honing your resume, letter-writing, and even interview skills. Talk to other students! They can always give you new ideas on where to look and who to talk to. (MCP 2014)

Use Career Services as much as possible, particularly in refining your resume and cover letter and performing mock interviews. They are exceedingly helpful processes. QuakerNet is also a spectacular resource for finding alumni in relevant fields and relevant locations. (MCP 2014)

I built my online portfolio and used it as my application material to apply for product designer jobs. I had a list of potential employers and I found all job vacancies from their official website. I also got some part-time offers from because I posted my professional works and self-started works there. (MArch, 2014)

I had a spreadsheet with offices I’ve been interested in since my 500 year. I used this sheet to organize my internship applications, and I kept coming back to this spreadsheet to keep myself focused on a specific type and location of office. As I attended events and met friends of friends, I would naturally expand my network, often into some of the firms that I had listed. By the time I was ready to graduate, I feel I had a strong enough network that allowed me to cut through a lot of the process and really speed up the path from making a phone call to interviewing to receiving an offer. (MArch 2014)

Be selective about the number of firms you’re applying for and send out specific work samples and cover letters tailored to the firm.  Also, don’t be intimidated or afraid of online postings.  I wanted to work for a small firm and ended up connecting with a previous undergraduate alum with a PennDesign employee and a wife who graduated from PennDesign from an ad posting on Archinect.  Also, don’t be afraid to use professors as a resource.  From my experience, they are always willing to help. (MArch, 2014)

My advice is to stay active by interning, volunteering or freelancing until you find the right fit. Use all of your resources and apply even if you don’t think you’ll meet all of the qualifications but know it’s a job you are willing to do extra work for to make up for some skills you may be lacking. (MUSA 2014)

Networking is the key in finding a job. (MUSA 2014)

One of the pieces of advice that I found useful was to go to all possible career fairs and talk to the potential employers, it built my confidence and I also got some of the best advice from them. My advice is to have a good relationship with the faculty since a lot of opportunities come through them– having some amount of part time experience also helps during the interview. (MUSA 2014)   

See the latest data from the 2014 PennDesign Career Plans survey and be sure to follow up with Career Services – we are here to help!