No “Gobble”digook – Hidden Career Lessons in Thanksgiving Dinner

By Claire Klieger

Many people have a strategy for approaching and (in some cases) surviving the Thanksgiving Holiday. For some this involves calculating how to best consume as much food as possible without doubling over with stomach pains later; for others, it might be trying to avoid sitting next to that uncle who belches or the pesky relative who asks inappropriate questions about bodily functions or worse.  Here are some tips for successfully making it through Turkey Day that also apply to your job/internship search:

1) Be willing to try different dishes – Taste a little of everything on your plate.

Whenever we went to someone else’s house for a meal when I was little, my mom always told me and my brother to try a little of everything because it was polite. That’s still true and a good way to avoid potential family drama (I recommend tiny portions that are more easily concealed in a napkin if necessary). However, it’s also a good way to broaden your palate (Who knows? You might even like that Lime Jello cranberry soufflé ) and your job prospects.

More traditional than Lime Jello cranberry soufflé (courtesy of LarimdaME via Flickr)
More traditional than Lime Jello cranberry soufflé, but less exciting, too. (courtesy of LarimdaME via Flickr)

Cast a wide net and apply for opportunities that reflect a variety of your interests. If you’re willing to think outside of the box and be flexible in your search, you’re more likely to have more interesting options from which to choose. And just like questionable looking holiday dishes, sometimes really fantastic opportunities come about in the most unexpected ways.

2) Accept that there is more than one way to make Turkey (or stuffing or cranberry dishes, or mashed potatoes…) and everyone thinks their way is best.

You’ve probably noticed that you encounter something very similar when you ask for advice on your resume and it can be frustrating to hear often conflicting advice. Here’s how you sort it out—when someone gives you advice on your resume or cover letter, ask for the reasoning behind that suggestion. That way you can sort out the suggestions that seem logical (“deep frying a turkey sears in the juices”) from that which is merely personal preference (“I like living and cooking dangerously—what could be better than oil that’s hot enough to burn down your house?!”).

3) Pace yourself and have a game plan.

Most of us have learned the hard way that if you don’t have a strategy for eating at thanksgiving you’ll either be full before dessert or end up suffering later. You’ll be much less overwhelmed by your job or internship search if you give yourself a set of manageable goals/tasks to accomplish each week. Whether it’s updating a resume, identifying five organizations of interest, or contacting three Penn alums whom you can ask for advice (hello, PACNET!), setting and meeting these more “bite-size” (as we know, it’s all about portion size!) goals will keep you motivated.

4) Be polite to all of your relatives (even the ones you wish you saw less of).

Funny as it may seem at the time, you may live to regret that crack you made about Cousin Larry’s hair piece at the next family gathering. In your interactions with organizations about your search, it’s crucial to be polite and professional with everyone you encounter. Just because the receptionist or administrative assistant may not be sitting with you in the interview or making the final hiring decision doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the process.  If you are rude or complain (or gossip on your cell in the waiting room), you’re pretty much putting the nail in your own coffin.

Even coaches can be good references. Keep in touch!
Even coaches can be good references. Keep in touch! (courtesy of ektogamat via Flickr)

5) Give Thanks.

In addition to all of the eating and football on Thanksgiving, it’s also a great time to reflect on what you appreciate in your life.  Hopefully, for you there are people (professors, former supervisors, etc.) who taught you a lot and gave you great advice.  Maintain and build a career network by staying in touch with people and following up on advice that you’re given.  An email update on what’s new with you that also includes a heart-felt “thank you” can do wonders for your job search.