MAYBERRY R.F.D.- Looking Back and Looking Forward

By Anne Guldin Lucas


Most of our blog readers are probably too young to remember Mayberry R.F.D. (starring Andy Griffith and Ron Howard as a boy) on TV—unless it’s popular in reruns or in DVD collections.  Although my life wasn’t quite as hokey as it was for the characters in Mayberry, the 60s were indeed simpler times.  In my neighborhood, on summer evenings we literally sat on our porches playing cards, and drinking root beer floats or lemonade.  (Personally I never did care for Cherry Coke.)

Last weekend a longtime friend and his family visited us as they were passing through our area.  So please excuse me if this Baby Boomer becomes a bit nostalgic.  I promise there’s a point that will eventually relate to careers (sort of).

My friend arrived with his wife and the youngest of his three children—a 12-year-old daughter.  When my friend and I were twelve, we were neighbors, school mates, and members of the same swim team.  So we spent a lot of time together in our youth.  Since this friend and I have never lived in the same location since our college summers, it still feels strange to see him as an adult, with a wife and family.  I remember us as the same age as his 12-year-old daughter–braces and all!  (In fact, I got my braces off on the last day of 6th grade–the12th birthday of this same friend!)

Yet here we were last weekend—adults—middle-aged ones now, with jobs and families, sitting on the terrace of my house—MY house, not my parents’ house (or porch!).  Who could have imagined that we would actually grow up into reasonably responsible adults who owned homes, held jobs, and raised families?

Aha—that’s the point!  It happens to all of us.  Whether we had a plan when we graduated from college or whether it took years and some job changes, we do eventually grow up.  Whether it’s a straight line or a crooked path, somehow, we usually find our way to a good place—to jobs we enjoy and valued relationships that are so important to a life well lived.

During the past few weeks in my office at Penn I’ve met with triumphant students who are negotiating job offers and making plans to find apartments and move to new cities.  Congratulations to those of you who fit into this category; I know you’ve worked hard.  I’ve also met with students who feel as if they are the only one without a job and a definite plan for after graduation.  I can assure you that you are not alone in this situation.  You have also worked hard, making the most of your precious time at Penn, and you deserve to celebrate Commencement just as enthusiastically as your already employed peers.

MANY Penn seniors will wait until after graduation to begin or to resume a job search.  It’s okay.  In fact, despite the presence of Career Counselor Mother (obviously not to be confused with Tiger Mother) in their lives, neither of my young adult children had jobs upon graduation or had even begun their job searches at the time they walked up on the stage for their undergraduate diplomas.  They are now both gainfully employed, living independently, and one has even earned an MBA.  Believe me—you too will visit an old friend thirty or forty years from now and realize that amazingly, you found direction in your life—and the anxiety surrounding your first post-college job search will have faded into a blurred memory.

Although I have tried repeatedly to find a magic wand and crystal ball to aid me in helping you with your career exploration and decision making, there is ultimately no magic available to make this journey easier.  There may be serendipity along the way—and I wish you a healthy dose of it.  However, I suspect it will take some work and some self-analysis for you to merge your interests, talents, and experiences into a career choice and successful job search.

Please remember that you have lots of people to support you and cheer you on as you begin or continue on the journey to YOUR adulthood and independence—to YOUR own terrace or porch.  You know how to find us in Career Services.  Please reach out and let us know how we can help you get started on the path to your porch—and if you should happen to stumble upon a magic wand or crystal ball, feel free to bring that along too.  Maybe we can use it to look to a future with a little more Mayberry in it for us all!

Good luck with exams, hearty congratulations to the Class of 2011, and Happy Summer Vacation to all!

Where Are They Now? A look at the graduates from the College 5 Years Later…

By Claire Klieger

Ever wonder what happens to a typical Penn grad several years after they graduate? How many go on to graduate school? What are the average salaries? How many people end up working overseas or on the West Coast? Well, here’s your chance to find out. I recently updated our 5-year out alumni report so that you can get a sense of Penn alumni are doing and how they are fairing a few years after graduation. I’ve included some of the big takeaways below but check out the survey for lots of additional details (including salary by industry and job function, jobs by major, graduate degrees obtained, where geographically alumni are working and more!):

Most Penn graduates from the College go on to graduate school within five years of graduation: Sixty‐seven percent of respondents had completed or were enrolled in graduate programs at the time of the survey. Penn alumni work in a variety of industries.
• In comparing first salaries and current salaries, the median and average salaries for Penn alumni almost double in that short period of time.
• Five years after graduation, Penn grads were working in a wide range of different industries, the most popular of which were law, medicine, finance/real estate/insurance, media/communications and education/higher education.
Penn grads get around. Our data showed that Penn alumni were working in 13 different countries and 31 different states.
• Penn alumni also offered many pearls of wisdom for current graduates including taking more time to explore your interests and really doing what you love, networking, gaining professional experience and to stressing less!

Early January – New Year, new semester, or maybe even new job

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

This week the new semester will begin. The wonderful thing about an academic calendar is that you can “begin again” twice in one year. This is a new chance to study harder, do better, participate in a new group or make a larger contribution to an organization you are already a part of. In January, some of these thoughts may coincide with New Year’s resolutions, or may be in addition to your determination to work out more, eat healthier food, wake up earlier, etc.

While those of us in the working world can and do have New Year’s resolutions, we don’t share the experience of starting anew. Work continues on, despite the new month and new year. This constancy in the world of work is one thing that some new graduates have difficulty adjusting to. I joke that drop/add ends at graduation, but for some new to the workplace, it is difficult to stick with assignments not just for the 14 weeks of a semester, but for a year or longer. I believe this is one reason new grads tend not to stay in jobs longer than a year or two. It’s a kind of drop/add for the workplace. When these graduates move to a second job, though, they tend to be happier. They are more clear about what is important to them in a job, or they have finally accepted that the world of work is much different from the academic world. They adjust to this new rhythm, and move ahead – at least until the siren song of graduate school beckons. Happy New Year!

Guest Blog: A Career in Conservation

Today’s guest blog is by Eddie McKenna (’04 College, Anthropology & Communication), now an employee with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Communications Division.

Penn Career Services has been a key university resource for me when I have needed it most, particularly for resume reviews and mock interviews.  It is a pleasure to be part of that resource myself for other Penn students and alumni and I hope everyone takes full advantage.

I work for Texas Parks and Wildlife, the agency responsible for the management and conservation of fish and wildlife populations in Texas as well as 93 state parks and historic sites. In PA it might be the equivalent of Pennsylvania State Parks, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission all rolled together.

Although I am not a park ranger or a biologist by training, my work does revolve around conserving natural resources and offering recreational opportunities to one and all.  My Penn anthropology and communications majors serve me well. This was not my first job out of college, but it has certainly become my favorite.

I would encourage Penn students and alumni to consider public service careers, to know what they want from a career and express it to others, and to pursue their dream employment environments based on the people and the places rather than the starting salary.

The HORROR of Not Having a Job Yet

By Claire Klieger

Remember getting caught up that build up to prom night fervor of “I must have a date!” because you’re pretty sure that your social future as you know it depends upon not looking like the loser that no one wanted to take to Prom? Perhaps (though probably not) even now you have the occasional Carrie-esque nightmares?

Left: Hooray! I'll be gainfully employed. Right: My life if I don't have a job offer by Thanksgiving.

For many seniors I’ve recently spoken with, it seems like the job search, especially during the OCR season, produces similar levels of anxiety. It may feel as though every person you know is telling you that you need to have a job and in a tough economy, pickings may be slim. You may have noticed frenzied-looking individuals resembling Penn students except for their oddly formal dress darting all over campus (sometimes the sea of stressed dark suits reminds of me zombies who instead of  mumbling “brains, brains, brains” chant “jobs , jobs, jobs”) or you might be in the midst of that tidal wave, yourself.

The on-campus recruiting process is very intense and it moves quite quickly –you go through all of these rounds at lightning speed and before you know it you (hopefully) have an offer and you think, wow, how did I get here? And, it’s wonderful (and safe) to feel like you have an offer and don’t have to worry about your future after graduation.

But I’m here to tell you NOT to play it safe. That doesn’t mean if you get a job offer through OCR that you’re thrilled with that you should say no because there might be something better that comes along. By all means, if getting that phone call causes you to literally jump for joy and the idea of seeing their business cards with your name on them makes  you salivate, accept and congratulations to you. However, if your reaction to an offer is more along the lines of well, it’s nice that somebody wants me; at least I’ll have a job (á la, at least I’ll be going to prom), think long and hard about whether or not you should say yes.

Again, let’s think back to those painful high school years. Were you so worried about having a prom date that you said yes to the first person who asked you even though you weren’t so excited about the offer? So, secretly you hoped that someone else better would come along and ask you. And, maybe someone did and you ended up having to crush the heart (and ego) of the person who had originally asked you. In the end, while not as drastic or ridiculous as in the film 1970s classic Stephen King horror film Carrie, there was probably lots of drama. In the job search, the stakes are actually higher. There are real and potentially severe consequences to reneging on a job offer later.

So, if you get an offer that you’re not sure you’re excited about, do not say yes just to have “something” for when you graduate. In the long run, you and your potential employer will be far better off waiting for the right proverbial prom date offer.