Career Exploration Parallels to Downton Abbey


Like millions of Americans, I’ve been completely seduced by the intrigue, romance, verbal sparring and fashion of Downton Abbey and am so excited that season three is finally here. And when you work in career services, you can’t help but see parallels between just about any show you watch and the job hunt. And apparently, this time I’m not alone since PBS has just launched a “Which Downton  Abbey Job is Right for You?” quiz, which is actually quite well done.  This quiz obviously plays off of one of show’s strongest themes: Finding one’s appropriate role in an ever changing society. downton3Since I lack Lady Grantham’s gift for barbed wit, I’ll refrain from attempting any cute one-liners in this post but this is a struggle that most of us share with the characters of Downtown Abbey.

Most Penn students and alumni I see want to find careers that are rewarding but many don’t know where to start. A great first step is thinking about your values–what’s important to you in a workplace or job as well as your own personality traits and strengths. Do you favor an environment which depends upon you to be entrepreneurial and have creative spirit or are you happier in a more structured and traditional environment? Today we are very fortunate to live in a world where you have many more options and choices than the characters of Downton but that can also be overwhelming. Here are some other lessons learned from Downton Abbey that also will help you find a career path that is right for you.

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A Penn Road Less Travelled By: A Career in International Development

By Hannah Peterson (C ’12)

“Wow, that’s so amazing. I wish I could do something like that!”

“I’m so jealous of you. You’re actually going to be helping people, while I’m sitting stuck at my desk all day”.

“That’s such a great decision, I wish I had decided to travel while I was young.”

These were the responses I heard over and over again by my friends, classmates and family when telling them my decision to move to Nicaragua to work for a community development non-profit after graduation.  There were feelings of jealousy, regret and paralysis, and I couldn’t understand it, because there was absolutely nothing stopping them from making my same decision.

As I was starting my final year at Penn I was stuck in the age-old dilemma of coming to terms with my future. I put on that pants suit I had spent treacherous hours searching for in the mall the summer before.  I bought myself one of those fancy leather Penn folders and I pasted a smile on my face.  I walked around the OCR career fairs pretending like I was enjoying what I was seeing.  I went through all the motions as I thought I needed to, yet I kept having the feeling that I was choosing the best of the worst option.  Their pen design is better, so I must fit in there.  That recruiter gave me a ping pong ball with the company’s logo on it, they must have a fun work environment.  When trying to write my cover letters it was painful to find reasons I wanted to work at each firm.  In fact, what I found myself searching for on each of their websites was their charity work they in order to convey any genuine interest in my statement.

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Timing is Everything

By Claire Klieger

Now is the perfect time to begin your job search.

I just bought a clock for my three year old to help her know when it’s time to get up in the morning, or rather, when it’s not time to get up, such as the ungodly hour of half past four. The face of the clock glows blue when it’s bedtime and stays that color until her designated wake time, of the only slightly more reasonable 6 am, when it changes color. In our first night of its use, it worked like a charm—no more middle of the night awakenings to the pitter patter of little feet, and subsequent elbows, to our bed.   Instead she walks in cheerfully, in the way no one but small children can at that hour, and announces “It’s time to get up, guys! My clock turned yellow.”

Sometimes I wish such a device existed for students in their job search. With some searches (OCR) starting so early in the year and other jobs needing people to start right away, it can be hard to know at what point in the senior year to apply for jobs.  Well, consider this your official wake-up call (though, sadly, yours does not come with a yellow light and happy song). Now is the perfect time to begin your job search. That’s right, you heard me. You are not too late and contrary to the seemingly popular belief among many Penn seniors, there is no ticking time bomb that will make your life and all job prospects implode upon graduation.  Employers do not have a certain window of time in which they will consider hiring college students after graduation. They hire for openings all year round but the right time for you to apply for jobs is not until you’re actually available to start work, which is why now is the ideal time to be on the job hunt.

If you started applying for jobs earlier in the semester but have not had any success it may not be you. Because employers who post jobs usually need someone who can start immediately you would likely would not have been considered for jobs that were posted in January, February or even early March; it was probably just too early. So, don’t get discouraged. As Penn grads, you have many great qualities to offer employers.

So, grab a cup of coffee and, once you are done with finals, start your job search anew. Come see us in Career Services so that we help you revitalize your job search. And even though you may feel like “The Final Countdown” is the theme of your life at the moment, try to ignore the “tick tock” of any proverbial countdown on the career front. There is no deadline to find a job. If you still don’t believe me, here are some actual quotes from our career plan surveys from the class of 2011 and 2010:

 Words of Wisdom from Alumni

 “I would say the keys to finding a great and fitting post-grad opportunity are patience, reflection and initiative. I made many bold moves over the past year. Not rushing into programs simply because I didn’t know what to do; not succumbing to the pressures to just “take whatever’s available”; and having the audacity to apply for a highly competitive program that was my fit…you have to know what you want and be willing to reach for it. Be patient. Reflect. And go for it.”

 “My job search started in February/March of my senior spring and ended shortly after graduation… I was interviewing for the job I ultimately accepted (a rotation analyst position with Nielsen, in their leadership development program) for around 2 months (an intensive process). Was almost convinced I wouldn’t get it after interviewing for so long but was persistent, prepared extensively for my in-person interviews…Was offered the job a month after graduation and accepted gladly.”

 Searching during the Spring semester was pretty difficult; I really had no idea what direction I wanted to follow after graduation. The opportunity I ended up taking was one that I initially passed up because I wasn’t really interested…In the first week in September I came upon an old flyer for the same opportunity and after many months of summer rest/rejuvenation/reflection I realized that this was the perfect position for moving toward my goal. “

 “Took an unpaid PR internship in NYC for the summer, and began applying for jobs in early July. I received 2 interviews within 4 days, and got offered a job the day after one of the interviews.”

 “I started in January, and it took me until April to get the job. You have to be very persistent, but rest assured you will find something.”

 “I accepted a paid internship in August in a field that I wanted to be in, which had the potential to turn into a full-time job in 3-4 months, given my performance and the financial status of the company. However, a previous internship employer contacted me about a full-time opportunity [where I am currently working] during my paid internship.”

Day in the Life: Pounding the Pavement – Real Estate in NYC

What do I need to know if I’m moving to New York City?  What is it like to work in Real Estate in one of the largest cities in the world?  Alum John Contrubis posted to @PennCareerDay on Twitter, Tuesday April 10th to answer these questions.  During the week of April 9th we focused on resources to help you prepare for moving to a new city, whether it’s just for a summer internship or relocating for your career.   John has experience in the law and real estate industry, so brings a unique perspective to this subject.  To learn more about John, read his bio below and read his posts from April 10th on our Storify account!

John graduated from Penn in 1988 with a BA in International Relations then, like so many others, attended law school.  His career began as an attorney for Congress, but later took several turns as he pursued other interests.  John’s work went from representing Members of Congress to negotiating contracts on behalf of TV, film and news writers to creating an online market place for filmmakers.  He continued in the entertainment business by producing an educational TV series for NYC.  Later, he became involved in business development in the legal services industry and a start up business.  His lifelong interest in real estate took him on a different path where he is now pursuing a passion in an industry that flows through his blood going as far back as his great grandfather in Sparta, Greece.

As an Associate Real Estate Broker, John works on both commercial and residential real estate transactions.  He primarily works on the sales side, but continues to handle rentals through personal referrals.  His work day varies, but often includes networking, searching for property, finding leads, learning current inventory and incorporating real estate into all aspects of his life.



Off with your head! The skinny on headhunters

By Claire Klieger

If the term “headhunter” doesn’t conjure up Hunger Games-esque imagery, or,  as one dictionary website put it, “a member of society who collects the heads of dead enemies as trophies,” you probably think of some mythical creature who magically finds jobs for others. In reality, the term is much less glamorous, mysterious, and hopefully, a lot less bloody.  Here are some things to know about headhunters to help you not lose your own head when thinking about job hunt strategies:

“Headhunter” usually refers to someone who does executive searches, looking for very experienced people to fill high level openings, so this can be an especially good option for more experienced Penn Alumni. If you’re just getting started in your career or are only a few years out, you are looking for something called a “Contingency Firm.” And, as it happens, we have a wonderful directory of staffing firms (including contingency firms) in the Career Services Library. The Directory of Executive & Professional Recruiters (2012 edition just came in yesterday!) offers directory listings by location, industry or job function.

One big misconception about staffing agencies or head hunters is that the job seeker pays them. This is not true. It’s FREE. These agencies are paid by the employers who have vacancies to fill. As such, you really have nothing to lose by signing up with one (or more than one). It means your resume will probably be circulated more widely than not. I think it can be particularly helpful in cases where you are targeting a particular location. That said, since these agencies are not specifically looking to find you a job you shouldn’t rely solely on their services when seeking employment.