Embracing Uncertainty

by Naz Ozbek, COL/WH ’14

If you’re reading this blog, it means that you know the ins and outs of the Career Services website, which means that it’s either not your first time here, or even if it is, it certainly won’t be your last. It also means that, just like a good majority of your friends, you’re scouring for a summer internship or a full time job, depending on what year you’re in.

If you’re anything like me when I was going into my third year (and most Penn students trying to find jobs are), you may be asking all sorts of questions to yourself. Why didn’t I get that interview? Why didn’t they call me back? My friend got an offer but I didn’t. What could I be doing better? Do I really want to be in finance? What should I be doing with my life? etc. etc. These questions may be of varying natures and severities, leading all the way up to a small existential crisis.

There’s only one piece of advice that I can give you, and you need to believe that it’s true, because it is—even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.

Here it is: Everything will be okay.

I’ve been in your shoes and I know exactly what it feels like. I applied to all the consulting firms my sophomore year to get a summer internship. Deloitte, BCG, Bain, Accenture. You name the company, and I’ve probably applied for an internship there. Not because I was dying to be in consulting, but because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I was going along with the famous OCR trend. Being an international student was an added challenge, as it was hard to find companies who were willing to sponsor my visa. After not getting a single invitation for an interview from any of the places I applied to, I entered a phase of self-questioning and doubt, and hours of Skype conversations with my parents to help me figure out what it was that I was missing or could be doing better.

After much discussion with my parents and days of self-pondering, I realized that I didn’t want to be in consulting or banking. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. So I decided to spend that summer with my family at home in Turkey.

The next year, the pressure was on again. Except, this time, I was a step ahead as I knew what types of jobs I was definitely not going to apply to. This was a huge step and relief as it meant that I would basically not be going through the OCR experience again. I wanted to try out an internship doing something creative in marketing, which meant that I would be applying to ad agencies or the marketing departments of some of my favorite brands like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks. This time, however, I went through a different type of challenge as I was submitting my application not through Penn, but through each company’s own careers website, or via direct emails to individuals. My dream was to work for Disney in Los Angeles, both because I’m a huge Disney fan, and because I wanted to experience living in LA to see if it would be a good fit for me in the long run. In January, I applied to about 10 roles on their website. 4 months passed, and a week after school was finished, I still hadn’t heard back from any of the places I had applied to. All of my friends had their summers lined up and had left Philly to go home before moving to New York or wherever else for the summer, and I decided to visit my best friend at home in St. Louis. Long story short, I got an invitation to interview via Skype for the Digital Marketing team over at Disney/ABC while in St. Louis, and a week later, I got a call saying I got the job.

I didn’t have a car (I didn’t even have a US driver’s license), I had never been to LA before, and I didn’t know where I would live, but I accepted the offer thinking I’d figure everything out when I got there. Which, luckily, worked out. I met some great people and had a great internship that summer.

I had a very similar story for finding a full-time job for post-graduation. One of my managers at Disney, who had moved over to Netflix, referred me to an agency in New York. They got in touch with me in May, and I landed my job a couple of weeks after graduating. By this point in time, I had learned to live with uncertainty, so the “not knowing” did not bother me as much as it used to. This doesn’t mean that I sat back and waited for the stars to align so that something would magically come my way, but rather, that I did everything I could do on my end of things, and had a little faith that something would eventually come along.

It’s hard to think of the bigger picture when you’re going through a rough patch. One thing I’ve found helpful is to stop for a second when things get overwhelming and ask myself the following questions: will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? Is it a realistic thought that I’ll be unemployed for the rest of my life? Most of the time, I laugh at myself because I realize my worries are groundless. Chances are, yours are too.

Right now, I’m working at a co-working space that caters to individuals in the creative industries. I left my job at the advertising agency because I realized I don’t want to be in marketing. Right now, I’m happy with where I am, and I have a pretty good sense of what it is that I want to do with my life. However, it’s because I didn’t get an internship in finance or consulting (which would’ve tied me to a pretty set, straightforward plan for the next couple of years), because I took some risks and tried different things, that I realized what I do not want enough times to realize what I do want to do.

So please don’t worry. You’re at a very good school and will eventually be employed. Maybe it won’t be five months before the internship is actually supposed to start, but that’s not how real life works anyway. Something will eventually come along, and if that something doesn’t work out, another something will. Don’t worry. Uncertainty can be a good thing. Teach yourself to embrace it.

Naz Ozbek graduated from Penn in 2014 with a BA in Sociology from the College of Arts & Sciences and a BS in Economics, Concentrating in Marketing, from Wharton.

Beyond Cap and Gown: The Journey of Lifelong Learning

By Sharon Fleshman

Congratulations to those who graduated earlier this week!  Commencement often comes with a somewhat bittersweet transition to a new season of life.  The good news is — whatever your future plans, the learning continues. You will have the chance to learn more about yourself as you evolve and have new experiences.  Hopefully, you will be open to gleaning from others with different perspectives.  Technology affords access to learning by way of forums such as Coursera or LinkedIn discussion groups.  You can facilitate learning by sharing your own wisdom with students following in your footsteps.  In the meantime, I leave you with these thoughts on learning as well as my best wishes for a bright future.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”  Mahatma Gandhi

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.”  Albert Einstein

“I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.”  Barbara Kingsolver

“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”  Martha Graham

“The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.”  B.B. King


By Barbara Hewitt

Commencement has always seemed like an odd word for graduation to me, because in many ways it can feel more like an ending than a beginning. The four years of hard work have paid off – you’ve finished your “final” finals, written your last papers, and have been deemed sufficiently educated to leave West Philadelphia with an official University of Pennsylvania degree. Not only are the educational elements of the past four years drawing to a close, but the late nights with friends, the hours spent involved with student groups, and the countless other activities to which you have devoted your time during the last four years will also be changing, if not outright ending. It can be a bittersweet time.hats

But I love the idea of hope and new beginnings that is expressed in the word commencement. New doors are opening for graduates, moving on to different cities (and countries!), new jobs or exciting graduate programs. Some of you may opt to spend a few months travelling or volunteering to gain a new perspective. Some of you are still trying to determine exactly what your next step will be, which is perfectly fine. We know that Penn graduates go on to amazing endeavors and accomplishments after graduation and give back to society in many ways. Truly the time spent at Penn is great preparation for an even greater post-Penn era. I wish all of our graduates a wonderful and fulfilling new beginning, and look forward to hearing about all the amazing things you will go on to do. Best wishes on your graduation and beyond…..

Travel Light and Hold on Tight

Anne Guldin Lucas

The title of this blog might suggest that I’m about to launch into a poem.  It’s tempting.  Spring and its beauty can certainly inspire songs and poetry in those talented enough to create such work.  Lucky for you I don’t possess those talents, so I’ll spare you any attempts at creativity.  So as I begin to type, I’m not sure what path I am following today.  Maybe that mystery actually speaks to the title and subject of this blog.

While your life to date may have been somewhat predictable—elementary school, middle school, high school, college, what comes next isn’t always a straight line.  For some it’s grad school—more tests, applications with mostly synchronized deadlines, acceptances, and an academic year.  For those seeking jobs or other post-graduation experiences, it’s seldom that simple.  Recently I’ve met with students who are rejoicing in job offers—and yet trying to juggle negotiations to buy time to see what other opportunities are presented to them.  Can they get a response from another employer in time to know their options for the summer or for next year?  Or will they say “yes,” withdrawing other applications, and never knowing what may have been…That happens a lot.  Ultimately you must make a decision and move on.

Speaking of moving, my daughter, who graduated from college in 2008, is currently planning her FIFTH move since graduation.  My husband and I are cleaning out the cupboards and closets of our home of over 28 years.  As you might imagine, our family is extremely focused on idea of “traveling light” right now.  Our daughter regrets buying that large and heavy bedroom furniture for her first post-college apartment, which was rather spacious.  It took the removal of windows from her bedroom to get the furniture into her current apartment, and the same technique will be required to get it out again in a few months.  The Number One requirement for her next apartment building will be an elevator—a LARGE elevator—along with strong movers–again.

She needs new living room furniture, and I’m recommending inflatable furniture in keeping with the goal of traveling light.  For those of you who are aspiring inventors, entrepreneurs, or investors, “plastics” may be returning as a buzz word.  Inflatable plastic furniture would be ideal for every young person who is entering the work world.  Between job changes and roommate changes, you will be on the move.  So travel light!  And if you need anything to get started wherever you land, please get in touch with me, and I’ll share with you some of the “treasures” that we have accumulated in the past 28 years (and perhaps even some things that my parents gathered even earlier and passed onto our attic).

As for the hanging on tight, I recommend to you that you hold on to people and relationships rather than stuff.  Nurture the friendships that you’re making at Penn.  Value your family.  There will probably be many phases of your life during which you will live far from your loved ones.  However, thanks especially to today’s technology, you can stay connected.  Be sure to talk on your cell phone or Skype, so that it’s not just texts and emails.  Even better, save your money and look for deals to travel to be together in person.  And when you’re together, get off those devices and really talk.  Sadly the art of conversation is dying, and I hope that you’ll help rescue it.

Enjoy  these lovely days of Spring.  Write a poem; sing a song.  And remember as you move away from Penn for the summer or for the rest of your life, to travel light, and hold on tight.

Congratulations, Graduates! Now what?

On behalf of everyone in Career Services, I want to extend our congratulations to everyone who is receiving a Penn diploma today. It was a pleasure and a privilege to get to know you as you pursued your degree. In fact, you are the reason we do the work we do: you are an impressive group indeed, and have much to contribute.

Now what? Well, if you have made your plans for post-graduation, please fill out our survey. The undergraduate survey is here. If you received a graduate degree, please respond when we ask you to complete the survey, or go to our web site and find the form for your program. Thank you! And please do stay in touch. Drop us an email and let us know how that new job, graduate program, or post doc is going. We value your insights.


What if you don’t have a firm plan yet? Please let us know how we can help you over the next few months. As Penn alumni you continue to have access to our services. In many fields, we know that the job market is still challenging. In others, opportunities are only now starting to be announced. We can help you figure out how best to approach your job search. If you are planning to apply to graduate or professional school for 2012, we are here to help with the application process.

We are here all summer, and available to meet with you. If you are not staying in Philadelphia, we are happy to schedule a conversation over the phone. Soon we will offer Skype appointments as well. And keep an eye on our web site and our social media. There is much there that can be helpful to you.

But for today, enjoy the chance to reflect on all you have accomplished. Once again, congratulations, and all the very best as you leave Penn to meet your future.