Have you missed these posts from the Carpe Careers blog?

Dr. Joseph Barber, Associate Director

The Carpe Careers blog on the Inside Higher Ed website is written by PhD career advisors for PhD students and postdocs, and covers all of the key information you need to know about as you are considering your career options and professional development strategies. Here are just a few of the posts from the last few months that you’ll want to read:

Professional identity and skills development

Your attitude is an important part of how you are evaluated by colleagues and employers. Keep a clear focus on being optimistic by having strategies to combat pessimism, and follow the advice of the author who states, “Don’t be a Professional Downer”. Professionalism is also key, and the process of “Ensuring Professional Success” is closely link to the steps you can take to develop a professional reputation.

If you find your own research a little isolating sometimes, then finding opportunities to work in a team-based environment that is big on collaboration will be essential. Collaboration is “An Imperative for Graduate Students”.

The post “Exploring Your Skills” highlights approaches that PhD students have taken to discover and apply skills they may not be used to talking about or using by getting involved in experiences beyond their thesis research.

Several posts talk about the benefits of effective relationships with people who can support your research and your own professional developing. “Managing You Advisor” is obviously very important, but your advisor isn’t the only person who can or should support you.  You may also find it helpful to set up a “Job-Search Buddy System” with a group of your peers, or reach out to an even wider range of allies – after all, “It Takes a Village”.

One of the most sought after skills that employers are interested in across industries is critical thinking – including the idea of effective decision making. Practice your decision-making skills when it comes to your own career paths by reading about “How to Decide What to Do Next”.

If you are trying to make career decisions, then it helps if you are also “Cultivating a Career Calling” to understand the types of career paths that will resonate with the way you see yourself. You’ll find great steps you can take to do this within this post.

Applying and Interviewing

In your rush to apply for jobs that interest you, one author cautions that you should “Stay Inside the Lines” when it comes to actually submitting your application materials – and explains why this is important. It will also be important to understand the “Anatomy of a Job Ad” by closely scrutinizing what an employer has written, as this will be the best way to tailor your information to meet their needs.

Don’t forget to be an active listener as well as a great speaker during interviews, as both are involved in effective communication. Read “Interview Success Through Better Listening” to find out more.

If you are looking to ace your next interview, then make sure that you are comfortable with yourself. Preparing answers to questions you know will be asked will always be helpful, but for some questions there are “No Correct Answers”. The more comfortable you are with yourself, the better your performance during the interview will be, and you may find it helpful to think of “Interviewing as Performance Art”.

At the end of the application and interviewing process the goal is to get an offer on the table. Once an offer has been made, the process of negotiation can begin – and this should be done positively and confidently. Avoid some of the pitfalls of this process by understanding the different between your “Worth vs. Value in Job Negotiations”.


Dianne Hull, Associate Director

The conclusion of an academic year is a perfect time to reflect on the past year and to make plans and goals for the future. Students at Penn have so many successes to celebrate, but sometimes students focus more on what didn’t work out for them than what DID.  The reality is that even the most successful people have failures and setbacks – countless of successful people weren’t admitted into their top choice graduate program, lost out on a summer internship that they really wanted, or were told their work just wasn’t good enough to be in a show.

There has been much talk on college campuses about what employers are looking for in job candidates. One of the top “competencies” employers are focused on is professionalism, of which a big part “is able to learn from his/her mistakes.”  And the key to this?  Resilience!  Resilience can take shape in so many forms, but primarily in the ability to build skills to endure challenges and hardships.  Challenge is inevitable in everyone’s personal and professional life, but truly successful people take these setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow.

This spring, Penn’s Weigle Information Commons allowed students to highlight these challenges through their “Wall of Rejection,” where students were able to share the challenges they have experienced during this past academic year.

Something that may resonate with many students – a Princeton psychology professor who posted his “CV of failure” online.  He outlines degree programs which rejected him, grants and fellowships he did not receive, as well as his “meta-failure” – that his list of failures has received more attention than any of his academic work!

Since the challenges that students face at Penn may not disappear but simply shift as time goes on, take the time as a student to work on your skills of resiliency which will serve you well as a student and beyond.

The Scientific Approach to Succeeding with a PhD

There is always great value in learning the insights of those who have gone through graduation and the job search.  Every year Career Services gathers advice from recent graduates about job searching and making the most of their time at Penn.  Below are some of the suggestions of 2015 alumni with doctoral degrees in STEM fields.  

 On The Value of Networking:

“If in the sciences, my best advice is to take every opportunity to network at conferences, amongst professors and amongst your peers. Networking is a very intimidating term, but honestly all it means is taking opportunities to have casual conversations, to shake someone’s hand or to make an informal introduction. People will remember you months if not years later. It does help.”

On Identifying Postdoc Opportunities:

“Initially, I researched labs within my field of interest, and contact the PIs to enquire if post-doctoral positions were available. This is usually a good method, especially when applied well in advance of your planned graduation date.”

“I started looking for a job two years before I thought I would graduate, which was helpful in forcing me to figure out what I actually wanted to do.  I went to conferences and used poster sessions to talk to people about their labs and start thinking about which labs I might be interested in, as well as talking to PIs.  I essentially got my job at a conference.”

On Making Use of Career Services:

“The thing that helped me the most in my job search was going to all the seminars and events that were organized by Career Services. Each event contained valuable nuggets of information on how to successfully network, prepare cover letters and resumes, use LinkedIn, prep for interviews, etc., that were extremely helpful in making me a ‘complete package’ for employers.  I also took full advantage of the job fairs offered by Career Services. Though I wasn’t necessarily interested in most of the companies, forcing myself to research companies and get comfortable with speaking to people at booths was extremely helpful in furthering my networking skills. Lastly, I went to Career Services for help on my cover letter and CV.  Very convenient, very quick yet comprehensive and illuminating.  Despite not having extremely good publications (the de facto ‘currency’ of scientists, unfortunately), I was still able to land 3 job offers: two post-doc positions in academia and one very competitive post-doctoral fellowship at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.  Thank you Career Services!”

(You’re Welcome.  We are Glad To Help!)

The Graduate Student/Postdoctoral Fellow advising team at Career Services coordinates services including individualized advising, programs and workshops, and online resources especially for STEM PhDs.  If you are a scientist looking for advice during your time at Penn, please check in with us – we are eager to support you in your career and professional development.

Career Services Welcomes Dianne Hull

Dianne Hull recently joined Penn’s Career Services as an Associate Director working with graduate students, postdocs and alumni of graduate programs.  Dianne has worked in career advising for more than 15 years, first as a human resources specialist with a consulting firm and later with students at Saint Joseph’s University and in the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program at Bryn Mawr College.  Dianne earned a B.A. in Sociology from Lehigh University and a M.S.ED. from the University of Pennsylvania.

What interests you most about working with graduate students?

I love working with students who have a passion for what they are studying and it is exciting to be able to help them turn that passion into a career.  I learn something new each and every day about varying fields. 

In what ways has your background prepared you for this work?

In my most recent role, I worked with postbaccalaureate premedical students who were looking to change careers and go into medicine.  I worked with them as prospective students throughout the application and interview process to our program, and then assisted them as students while they applied to medical school and glide year jobs.  I have interviewed many candidates – some overconfident, some who were nervous, and many who had amazing experience but were challenged in translating their experiences in an interviewing setting.  I love working with students to help them create a narrative of their past experiences for job interviews.


What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

My colleagues in Career Services are interesting people who are energized by helping students find their passion and putting it to workMy group which works with graduate students and postdocs work with such a diverse and interesting group of students who come from almost every academic discipline.  I’m excited to work with such a wide range of students and helping them to take the next steps in their career.


More Than Resumes

by Fatimah Williams Castro, Ph.D., Career Counselor

I joined Career Services last year at the height of my team’s busy season – just a couple weeks before the fall semester began. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet graduate students and postdocs from many of the schools we serve during summer orientations and beginning of semester events.


My team is always sure to let master’s and doctoral students and postdocs know that we are here to assist with any of your career related or job search career questions – that’s right all of it. But students would still ask, “So you mean, I can come in with something other than just my resume?”

Any career advisors would answer, Yes and yes.


Truth is, the job search is never just about the resume. There’s all the questions that come before and after you submit a job application such as,

  • I want to use [this] skill in my future job, where can I find information on careers that use this skill?
  • How would I go about looking for a job in my favorite town on the West Coast while I’m here on the East Coast at Penn?
  • People tell me that I should network with alumni but I don’t know what to say to alumni or where to meet them.
  • How can I keep my options open for academic jobs and nonacademic jobs at the same time?
  • How do I manage multiple job offers?


These questions are wide ranging and address every stage of the job search and career development process, and they certainly extend beyond just resumes and CVs.

I’m writing this post to let you know that career advisors are here to assist you whether you are focused on positions research, teaching, industry/business, government, nonprofit or anything in between.

I’m still amazed that Career Services at Penn offers customized career support for graduate students and postdocs. Did you know that most university career offices primarily serve undergraduates? But lucky you (!), Penn is ahead of the curve with dedicated team members who understand master’s and doctoral training and how it shapes your outlook on your career options and career decision making.

So how can you get in on this customized career advice –and resume and CV help?

  • Schedule an appointment with a career advisor. These appointments are 30 minute advising sessions. Come in with your questions or even general comments like, “I’m not sure what I’d like to do, but I know I want help with figuring that out.” We are here during the summers in addition to the school year.
  • Stop by during walk ins. These are our 15 minute sessions that are most helpful when you have quick questions.
  • Attend the Job Search Series and the Academic Career Conference. We update our calendar regularly with new events and programs. Look for the ones that are specifically for graduate students and postdocs.

For an appointment and to check when we have office hours, call 215.898.7530. We look forward to seeing you at Career Services and around campus.