Why Reneging on an Offer is Bad for Your Career Mojo

By Claire Klieger

This is the time of year when people start to feel desperate about jobs or internships and may be tempted to accept something, anything, just because it’s a job and a job right before graduation equals peace of mind. So you’re thrilled to get any offer and you say yes so your parents and friends will stop hounding you about what you’re doing after the semester is over and you breathe a big sigh of relief. I mean, ok, so it’s not your dream job but the places you were really excited about never called you back. Except…sometimes they do.

Occasionally, you’ll later hear from an employer that you’re a lot more excited about that you’re invited for an interview or even that you have been offered the position. And here’s where things get difficult. You may hear from family members and friends things like, “Awesome!  Just back out of that other job offer. What does it matter now that you have what you want? Plus, if you’ve just said yes on the phone and haven’t actually signed anything, it’s not like it’s legally binding anyway.” However tempting, this is seriously bad counsel.

Despite what you may hear, employers consider a verbal acceptance as good as signing a contract. While you’re not legally obligated, you’ve made a verbal commitment and there are definite consequences to reneging on an offer:

1)       First and foremost, you can be pretty sure that you are ruining your chances of chances of ever working for that organization. Employers’ memories are long and you will forever have that figurative little black mark on your file.

2)      In addition, you may be affecting your chances of working at similar organizations. Keep in mind that most industries are relatively small and that the people you angered by saying no may tell (warn) others in the industry about you. As you can imagine, this is particularly damaging in instances where the offer came through on-campus recruiting where recruiters from competing organizations all know each other, making it much less likely that such an individual would have interviewing options with any of those organizations in the future.  In fact, we’ve even seen cases where the thwarted recruiter has called the employer with which the student is defecting to explain the situation and the new employer has pulled their offer (leaving the student with no offers).

3)      Reneging on an offer damages the Penn reputation, and as such, future recruiting opportunities for Penn students. When you renege on an offer the employer doesn’t just think negatively about you, they also think negatively about Penn. In fact, we’ve often had to do serious “damage control” with employers who had one or multiple reneges from Penn students. It may only take one instance for them to conclude that “this is just the way Penn students are” and be less inclined to consider applicants from Penn in the future.

The way to avoid being in that situation is to not accept an offer without carefully thinking it through. You should never tell an employer yes if your plan is to continue to look until you find something better. It’s not fair to them and it’s untrue to you. There are always jobs out there and it is far better to wait for the right thing to come along than to damage your own career reputation by going back on your word.

How Study Abroad Can Be Career Gold

By Claire Klieger

Increasingly, the world is becoming a smaller place and being able to easily navigate in unfamiliar circumstances and different cultures certainly has its advantages. As someone who spent 11 years abroad as a child and teenager, I can’t tout the benefits of studying abroad enough. I think it’s an experience everyone should have if they can. Living some place unfamiliar will give you a perspective and skills that you can use for a lifetime. It has certainly been true for my career. My international living experience is something that has come up in every interview I’ve had as an adult. And I honestly still believe the skills I gained from that experience I use on a daily basis.

Here are the first two installments of our “Study Abroad Advice” series: “Benefits of Studying Abroad” and “Making the Most of Your Time Abroad.” Additionally, if you didn’t catch it the first time, you can read more on Career Strategizing from a Land Far Far Away.

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News you can use: Summer Survey report

by Helen Cheung

During the Fall, many of you answered our pleas and completed the Summer Survey which asks undergraduates what they did last summer.  Thank you so much!  I’ve read each and every one of your responses (those from CAS students) and enjoyed living vicariously through your experiences.  In doing so, I also have learned a lot about summer opportunities.  Just as we like to base our career advice on real information, I hope that you will use this data to guide your summer job search. Those of you who have met me might know that I’m a fan of “fact checking.” Here are some facts:

1. Exploration: First, if you are ever curious about what other students in your major and class do, what opportunities are out there in a particular field, how much money on average an intern makes, or where students live over the summer, the Summer Survey Report has the answers.  One thing I learned is that nearly half of the students do more than one thing in the summer – they work full-time and intern part-time, or they take classes and volunteer, etc.   You can also search for upperclassmen to ask internship-related questions on the Penn Internship Network, the database of Penn students who have volunteered to speak with other students about their internships.

2. Industries: The industries that hired the most CAS students are: education, financial services, nonprofit, communication, and government.  So, while CAS students have no trouble finding work in business, far more students are in creative and service industries. Don’t limit yourself to the types of employers who recruit on campus or post jobs on PennLink if your interests lie elsewhere.

3. Jobs: CAS students held summer positions in more than 90 different job categories and is the most diverse of the undergraduate schools at Penn.  Your arts and sciences education gives you many career options.  Therefore, explore and research your options.  For example, students who did a legal internship worked not only in law firms, but also higher education, nonprofit, manufacturing, and government industries.  The “What Can I do With My Major” link is a good resource that lays out for each type of work, what sort of organization you would look in to find it.

4. Application timing: Last summer, 65% of CAS students found their summer jobs in March, April and May last year, with most offers coming in April.  That means *now* is a good time to apply for jobs and follow up on leads and applications.

5. Search methods: 30% of CAS students found their jobs through personal contacts and 18% through applying directly to the organization. The lesson here? Talk to people, meet new ones, take the initiative to research organizations, inquire and follow up. Too many students believe that their applications go to a “black hole” and don’t bother applying at all.  In addition to applying directly, diversify your approach, including using PACNet or LinkedIn to seek advice and leads from Penn alumni.

I hope these observations and advice will be helpful as you continue your summer job search. As always, you’ll find a great deal of helpful information on the Career Services website, and I encourage all of you to connect with one of the career counselors if you have questions about your search.  Good luck!

Say it Ain’t Snow

By Claire Klieger

Remember how excited you were when we had our first major snow storm of the season—all those beautiful flakes falling and covering campus in a blanket of peaceful white? And now, 70-plus inches later, just hearing the words “chance of snow showers” incites groans, hair pulling and the desire to throw things (or, at least it does when you are responsible for shoveling and driving in the stuff).

Even when it's stormy, you've got to keep trudging along in the job search.

Your job/internship search can often be a similar emotional roller coaster.  You may start out excited by the prospect of new opportunities and the many interesting postings at the click of your fingertips. However, in this stormy economy, it’s really hard to stay motivated if multiple applications yield few results.  If you have gone far enough along in the interview process to start imagining your name on the business cards, it can be especially demoralizing. Like this year’s winter weather, it may feel like your torment will never be over.

Whether OCR did not pan out for you or you just aren’t having much luck in your search, it is important to keep looking. Rather than giving into that urge to just throw yourself under a blanket and live in your PJs, now is the time to reconsider your strategy. Are you looking in the right places? Is your resume effectively highlighting your relevant skills or experiences?  Are you networking? Do your interview skills need work? Come talk to us in Career Services to see if there are tools to help you better weather your search.

Even though they are calling for snow (again) on Wednesday, eventually warm weather will be here (sooner than later for those of you going to sunny destinations for spring break).  There are lots of great jobs and internships still out there. In fact, for internships, peak season for postings is actually March. To be successful you just need to continue to put yourself out there. So, keep those wellies or uggs and that rain coat handy (as well as a retooled resume and networking or interview techniques) and when you hear that fateful weather forecast, take a deep breath (after possibly a few choice and colorful words) and say “bring it.”

A Day in the Life of a Penn Entrepreneur

Read Rich Cisek’s archived tweet feed here: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/RichCisek_Feed.pdf

Energy Efficiency Entrepreneur and SEAS ’93 Alum, Rich Cisek is our first alumnus featured on our newest initiative @PennCareerDay (http://twitter.com/PennCareerDay).

Rich Cisek is the Founder and CEO of Green Home Energy Management, a company that specializes in solutions for utilities to help consumers better manage energy costs.  The Green Home solution consists of proprietary monitoring hardware and specialized data analysis software.  This product helps individual consumers reduce their energy use and in addition it aggregates data so that utilities can help all consumers learn how to better manage energy costs.   Green Homes is currently conducting field trials and raising venture financing.

Rich has a deep background in product development and operations.  Rich graduated from Penn with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1993 and he also has an MBA from the Wharton School.  Early in his career he designed air traffic control solutions for Lockheed Martin, followed by various operations and business development roles for America Online where Rich played a significant role in launching AOL’s broadband service.  Prior to founding Green Home Energy Management, Rich served in various senior leaderships roles at Comcast including the general manager for Comcast.com where he had responsibility for the overall site user experience and online sales.

This is your chance to find out what a typical, or not so typical, day is in the world of an entrepreneur focused on energy.  If you have questions for Rich, @reply to @PennCareerDay and check back here for his answers at a later date.