Summer Hours at Career Services

Happy summer!

Well, just about anyway!  As everyone wraps up with finals and graduating students prepare to make their way down Locust Walk for the commencement procession, we wanted to remind you that Career Services is open throughout the summer!

Summer hours for both the main office and the Career Services library are Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm.  Extended library hours will resume with the start of classes in September.

Stop in or call us to make an appointment with an appropriate counselor!

If you’re a graduating senior or you’ve just complete a Masters or PhD, be sure you visit the undergraduate or graduate home pages and fill out our Career Plans Survey!  You can take a look at the results from previous surveys here – a great resource if you’re still on the job market!

Additionally, this blog will continue to post fresh content all summer long every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Keep us bookmarked or subscribe to our RSS feed so you never miss an entry!

We wish you the best of luck during finals and hope that you have a wonderful summer!  Just remember that we’re here if you need us!

Life Is Like That….

Careers can be winding, like this road

By Barbara Hewitt

I just started reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and quickly stumbled upon  a sentence that intrigued me…..

“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward but understand it backwards.”

It struck me that careers are also like that for many people. As career counselors, we tend to be very forward thinking. We encourage people to think about and plan for their careers. What interests does one have? What skills could be valuable in a given industry? What educational background is necessary to enter a particular field? Researching and planning for careers does (at least I believe!) increase the likelihood of achieving career satisfaction. That being said, equally important to planning is the ability to remain open to new opportunities and to realize that for most people, careers take a winding as opposed to linear path. We learn from each experience about what we enjoy, what motivates us, and what we absolutely can’t tolerate in a work setting. Life circumstances also change on a regular basis and what might work for us in one stage of our lives doesn’t work in another. For example, a new college graduate might be 100% devoted to her career and be willing to work 70 hours a week or travel frequently for work. Individuals caring for small children or aging parents may need to re-prioritize and find work that is less all-encompassing.

Sometimes we spend a lot of time planning for a scenario which doesn’t pan out the way we had hoped (i.e.: the pre-med student who planned on becoming a doctor but isn’t accepted into medical school or the person who wants to be a pilot but whose eyesight is poor). Sure – their career aspirations may need to change, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful in another field by opening themselves up to different opportunities. They may go down an unexpected path, but one which could bring great rewards.

As we enter the final days of college for the Class of 2011, I’m sure many seniors have landed jobs or graduate school offers that align closely with their dreams. Other seniors are still working out their post-graduate plans. I urge those of you who are still seeking opportunities (or those of you who feel you didn’t get your “first choice” option) to look at the future optimistically and see what it can hold. When I was a senior in college my dream was to attend an APA (American Psychological Association) approved PhD program in counseling psychology with the goal of becoming a licensed psychologist. I was sure I wanted to spend my work days counseling people on personal issues. Even though I had strong grades, I knew acceptance into one of the APA programs was a long shot since I didn’t have a lot of research experience. As a back-up, I also applied to several Masters in Counseling programs as they were easier to get into and less research intensive. I was terribly disappointed when I was not accepted into any of the PhD programs to which I applied. However, I decided to enroll in one of the masters programs and very quickly realized that it was a better choice for me. As I started my practicum which involved providing personal counseling for individuals, I realized that I didn’t enjoy personal counseling as much as I had thought I would, but indeed loved the work that I was doing in my assistantship in the university’s career center. I was able to easily switch my focus in the counseling program from community counseling to student affairs, a much better choice for me in the long-run. Eventually I did go on to receive my doctorate from Penn – but in Higher Education Management as opposed to Counseling Psychology. This is a prime example of a situation which appears very different when viewed “backwards” as opposed to “forward” – my perspective totally changed. We can learn a lot from the experiences in our lives – the successes and failures, the “planned” events and the “unplanned” ones – if only we remain open to possibilities.

To the Class of 2011 – my hope for each of you is happiness and success in your careers, no matter how winding your path may be. Although for now you are likely focused on looking forward, as is fitting at this time of year, remember in the days and years ahead to take time to look backwards at your experiences. You are likely to learn just as much from that perspective.

Storytelling & The Job Search, Or Why English Majors Make Successful Job Applicants

By Kelly Cleary

“Perhaps the only job I’m qualified to do at this point is to write cover letters,” was a response I recently received from an English major to whom I had given a glowing critique for a very well written application letter.

While it’s true that there is a long tradition of English majors who fell into the world of career counseling (including me), of course, as an English major that student is qualified for a great deal more than writing cover letters (see First Jobs & Graduate School for Penn grads and What Can I Do With This Major (general). That said, she raises a good point—English majors, and other students who are required to do a great deal of reflective analysis and writing through the study narrative forms are also building skills that will help them write the most effective and persuasive resume and cover letters, and to really shine as a memorable candidate during interviews.

Despite Garrison Keillor’s frequent references to the (un)employability of English majors during his comical segments sponsored by the fictitious Professional Organization of English Majors, incorporating the elements of good storytelling into the job application process is a great way for candidates to clearly demonstrate their qualifications, professionalism, and enthusiasm for a position in a memorable, personable, and unique way so their application rises to the top, even during this highly competitive job market.

Here are a few lessons from English class that should be applied to your job search:

  • Think before you write. Any good writer will tell you they spend a great deal of time thinking about a story before they actually put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. The same goes for the resume and cover letter. Job seekers must reflect on their skills, values, and interests and how they fit into a particular career path or organization’s culture before actually creating or updating their documents.
  • Carefully consider your intended audience. While some creative writers are indeed writing for themselves, writers who achieve some commercial success, and students who do well in English courses, tend to have a solid understanding of their intended audience(s) (i.e. their professor or fellow students) and the message they hope to relay to them. A resume should always be tailored to best match the applicant’s skills and experiences to the job opening, and a cover letter should always be written with the goal of impressing the hiring manager.
  • An interesting and relevant plot with memorable characters will keep the reader coming back to see how the story ends. Of course resumes and cover letters should always be professional, and in general it’s better to err on the conservative side, but approaching resumes and interviews as ways to “tell your professional story” and to use cover letters to create narratives that clearly explain how your past experiences have prepared you for job openings is a very effective way to persuade an employer that you may be a good fit.  Support your thesis (“I’d make a great —insert job title here—”) by including relevant and impressive details, and quantifying results and the impact you made on an organization.
  • Personal style and tone are how you make your mark. Thousands of resume and cover letter templates and samples are available online and in bookstores. Samples can be a helpful starting point, but following them too closely makes it hard to differentiate you from other candidates. Submitting a personalized, original letter with an appropriately professional tone is one of the best ways to set your application apart in a large stack of resumes.
  • Grammar counts. Strunk & White may not have been thinking about the job search process when they wrote The Elements of Style, but using correct grammar in error free documents is essential to a successful job search.

Career Services resume and cover letter guides are available here:

For more advice on applying your inner muse to the job search, read Quintessential Career write Kathy Hansen’s Career Storytelling Tools for Job Seekers.

Take Time to Reflect

By: Erica Marks

As my time at Penn comes to a close, I find that I am still moving at full speed. In my short, one-year Masters program I am constantly consumed by courses, work and creating a plan for life after Penn. How is it that there are only two short months until graduation? Where has the time gone?

After a week (and weekend) of an exhausting amount of paper writing, I realized what I needed – reflection. Like so many overbooked Penn students, I was operating at an unsustainably fast pace. So I decided I would try it out. How had I not thought of this before? I looked up the definition, Webster’s claims that reflection is, “ a thought, idea or opinion formed; or a remark made as a result of meditation.” It sounded so simple, like something I could accomplish at yoga class. Kill two birds with one stone, you know.

And then it hit me like a brick. Reflection isn’t something that I can multi-task. It can’t be checked off my to-do list. If I couldn’t schedule it, how was I going to do it? Taking time to sleep is difficult enough. The thought of taking time to reflect (when its not conveniently coupled with another task) seems absurd. There is so much pressure to know what you are doing next, there is no time to stop and live in the present.

Taking time to reflect means slowing down enough to stop, enjoy the adventure and figure out what is really important to YOU. Learn what you like and dislike. Do something for fun… for you. All of this reflection may actually help you plan for the future, weird.

I learned something this weekend, in my reflections. You can have ideas about what you want, but you cannot plan your life to a tee. Some of the most important decisions and opportunities will come to you in ways in which you cannot predict. So take some time reflect. And I don’t mean during yoga class.

Visions of sugarplums… For December grads and alumni

To the tune of White Christmas…

I’m dreaming of a job market,
Just like the ones I used to know.

Where the postings glisten,
Employers listen,
To hear – all I have to show.

I’m dreaming of a job market,
With every letter that I write –
May you find me merry, and bright,
And may you, please, hire me tonight.

All of us in Career Services send our sincerest congratulations on your graduation!  We know that these are anxious times, but we want to reassure you that Career Services is available to you.  Did you know that as an alum, virtually all of our services are available to you?  Here’s a list of services that you can use whenever you need them – right now, or in the future.  You are welcome to:

1 – Make an appointment with a counselor (in person, or on the phone) to talk over  career issues;

2 – Talk with a graduate study advisor whenever you are thinking about getting an additional degree;

3 – Send in a resume, cover letter, personal statement or other graduate school essay for critique;

4 – Obtain a lifetime University of Pennsylvania e-mail address go to and click on “Quakernet” for complete information.

5 – Attend most Career Fairs, Graduate School presentations, and any other workshops, seminars or presentations offered through Career Services – our Spring Career Fair is coming up in Feb!;

6Join the Career Services “LinkedIn” group and follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

7 – Access PennLink where we post individual job announcements we receive from employers;

8 – Sign up for one of our many alumni e-mail job posting lists (yeah – more e-mail from Career Services!).  For complete information, check our Web site for your school;

9 – Access our extensive on-line job subscriptions through the Career Services library – and click on “on-line subscriptions”; (note:  these are different from PennLink listings)

10Connect with Penn alums through the Penn Alumni Career Network (PACNet).

11 – Continue your personal career exploration through the “Career Exploration” section of our Web site.  For a modest fee, a Career Counselor will critique career inventories (Myers-Briggs and Strong) for you;

12 – Use On-Campus Recruiting for one semester/year after your graduation.  NOTE THAT YOU MUST BE IN PHILADLEPHIA AND AVAILABLE TO COME TO INTERVIEW.

ONE FINAL WORD:  remember your Pennkey and Password – since you’ll need them to get into our protected job sites!

From all of us in Career Services:  congratulations, have a very happy holiday and wonderful 2011!  And let us know if you need our assistance – we’re here to help.