“The Best Things in Life Are Free” or Staying Connected is Good for Your Health

by Julie Vick

Thirty years ago this fall the Phillies were winning in postseason playoffs and I was pregnant with my first child.  My husband and I owned our little house in Center City and I was working at Penn (although in a different department than my current one), and though we didn’t have much money we both had careers with promising futures.  The Phillies won the World Series, the city went crazy and a few weeks later I had a baby girl.  Fast forward to today, my three children are in their twenties with one still in college and the older two working in their own careers.

When I reflect on my career and look at theirs as well as those of their peers, I know that the times are really different and I don’t just mean that there were only three TV channels plus PBS and a UHF station.  The necessities of housing, food and transportation took up a smaller portion of the paycheck then than they do today.  It takes much longer for most people a few years out of college or out of graduate school to establish financial security.  However, financial security is only one factor of happiness.

As I’ve gotten older I have realized that although you can have more than one career (I’m in my second one) you have only one life.  Now this may seem obvious but for many people in their twenties the future seemed huge — almost infinite — and with the opportunity for several possibilities.  In the current economy fewer people feel that way.  Most people who will receive their degree this year feel some anxiety about what they’re future holds.  So I will offer that in any economy, but especially a bad one, one of the most important things you can do is build and maintain relationships.  There have been so many times when people told me that someone they met by chance gave them an unexpected job lead or career advice that resulted in a job or some other career change.  But I’m not simply talking about networking on behalf of your career or a job search, although that is important, but about life in general.

So I urge you to not miss events in the lives of your circle of people.  In a couple of years don’t RSVP “no” to the wedding or commitment ceremony of your freshman year roommate because you would have to leave work five hours early to get there.  You can make up those hours of work but events that take place only once can’t be repeated.  For the very same reason, don’t pass up the opportunity to drive across country with your cousins.  In spite of all the life and career planning you are encouraged to do, in so many cases it’s the unexpected opportunities that can shape your life; hence don’t pass up those opportunities.

Much of the best work that is done in this country is done by happy people.  Happy people have friends, family, associates, acquaintances, relatives, neighbors and book group [or other groups] members in their lives.  They may be happy for a variety of reasons but one of them – one important one – is surely because they are connected to people.  Their people provide friendship, fun, love, new interests as well as support and advice in difficult times.  As the Girl Scout song said, “Make new friends, but keep the old.”  Nurture those old relationships and cultivate new ones.  You will be enriched and will enrich the lives of those around you.

Go, Phillies!

DO Quit Your Day Job!

A few months ago, I posed a blog called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job…”, in which I spoke about the importance of finding a steady “day job” that allowed you to still pursue the carer of your dreams.

While browsing around my favorite sites this morning, I came across this great video about a man, Paulie Gee, who walked away from thirty years working in I.T. to open his dream business – a pizzeria.

Second Acts by Yahoo! via Slice

What I like about this video is that is shows that it is never too late to go after a dream. Mr. Giannone obviously worked very hard for a long time before deciding to strike it out on his own. I’m inspired by the risk he took in opening his own business and by the obvious joy he has in the decision he made.

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….

Do what you like, or like what you do?

by Patrica Rose, Director of Career Services

Jeffrey Coon in "Sunday in the Park with George." Photo by Mark Garvin, courtesy of The Arden Theater.

Which is better, to do what you like or to like what you do?  I started thinking about this last week while attending the theatre, when the question was posed by a character in Sunday in the Park with George, now playing here in Philadelphia.  So many students and recent graduates, having been told to follow their passion, are intent on doing what they like, either in a particular field   (you like art: find a job in a gallery) or a particular function (you like to write: find a job as a journalist or a speechwriter).

Too often, though, the result is a poor match.  Although they are working in a field or function they love, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a perfect job.  In fact, there is no job where you can do what you like all the time.  All jobs have their drudgery.   In fact, I think it is very hard to find a job where you can do what you like for the majority of the time, particularly at the entry level, when dues unfortunately have to be paid.

Some of the happiest people I know are successful in jobs or careers they happened into.  They took a job because it was a) available, b) in a convenient  location or c) because someone they knew helped them get the offer.  They assumed they would do it for a while, and then move on, to something closer to their passion.  But surprisingly, they discovered they liked the work, the people, the challenges.  It turned out to be a great fit.  They prospered.  And almost every day when they go to work, they like what they do.

Therefore, my conclusion is that it is far better to like what you do.  Do you agree with me?

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?”