Employers, Employers Everywhere…Tips For Making the Most of Employer Information Sessions

Barbara Hewitt

As part of the on-campus recruiting process, many employers hold information sessions on Penn’s campus. These sessions provide a great opportunity for students to learn more about the industry, the specific employer, and the specific positions available with the firm. Information sessions also provide the chance to meet some of the organization’s employees, often Penn alums. Whether you are a sophomore wondering what an investment banker really does or a senior fully focused on landing a specific job with a particular employer, information sessions can be of great benefit to you.

However, given the huge number of sessions available to attend, you may be wondering where you should even begin. The Career Services office schedules hundreds of information sessions each year. The first sessions this year start tomorrow, Wednesday, September 7th. There are eight different information sessions scheduled tomorrow night and another eight on Thursday. This is not uncommon – on some evenings there are even more. Employers can schedule “open” sessions which all students are welcome to attend. Some of these may be focused on full-time, postgraduate positions and others may be focused on internship positions. Employer also frequently schedule “night before interview” sessions. These events are mainly for students who will be interviewing with the employer the next day and should be considered mandatory for all interviewees. If you absolutely cannot make a “night before” due to another commitment such as an exam, be sure to let the employer know in advance. You can check the Events tab in PennLink for a complete list of employer presentations. (Be sure to click on the date hyperlink in PennLink for the exact location.) Sessions are also listed on the main Penn calendar.

As we begin “info session season,” here are some tips to help you navigate the process:

1. Prioritize. You simply won’t be able to attend all of the employer information sessions, even if you want to. On many days the sessions start at 4:00 pm and can run until 10:00 pm, often with multiple sessions running concurrently. Decide how much time you can devote each night (or week) to the sessions and plan accordingly. As a student, you should also be sure to save adequate time for your classes and other commitments.

2. Clarify Your Goals. Think about what you hope to get out of the information sessions you attend. You may want to simply learn more about a particular industry and so may decide to just sit quietly in the back and hear what is said. You might want to find out more about the specific employer or job to see if it would interest you and if the organization would provide a good cultural fit for you. Many students use the sessions to network and get to know employees of the firm. If you make a good impression, this can be very helpful in the recruiting process as the individuals who attend the information sessions are frequently also the same individuals who review resumes from Penn students during the on-campus recruiting process.

3. Be Professional. Information sessions often start with a senior speaker who will make formal remarks or a brief presentation about the firm. This is often followed by a more informal networking reception where you will have the opportunity to mingle and chat with additional employees, often relatively recent Penn alums. Even though these individuals may be close in age to you (you might even know some of them!) remember that this is a professional interaction and act accordingly. We recommend business casual dress for open sessions and more formal attire for night before sessions. Think of some good questions to ask the representatives. Often open-ended questions are ideal because they can encourage a longer conversation than a simple yes/no question would require. It is a good idea to bring a well-crafted resume to the session in case someone asks for it, but don’t feel obligated to distribute it if it feels inappropriate. Many employers prefer to simply collect resumes via PennLink or their internal job boards.

4. Follow-up. If you determine that you are indeed interested in the organization and the position(s) they offer, follow-up with one or more of the individuals you met at the session. (Make sure to ask for business cards for people you spoke with at the session so you will have their contact information.) You can thank the individual for his or her time or advice and ask any follow-up questions that you may not have had the opportunity to ask at the session itself. While following-up is helpful in developing the relationship, keep in mind that the representatives are often busy professionals with limited time. Don’t become a nuisance by contacting them too frequently or expecting too much from them.

5. Be Open-Minded. You will quickly notice that the large, well-known firms can attract hundreds of Penn students to their information sessions. If you are interested in their opportunities, by all means attend. Realize, however, that smaller firms which are less well known often attract many fewer students, even though they may have terrific opportunities. By attending these sessions you can really stand out and have the chance to engage in more in-depth conversations with the firm’s employees.

Most of all, try to enjoy the sessions and learn from them. They may be the first step to landing a wonderful full-time or internship position!

Back to School Shopping for Professional Attire – Dress for Success But Don’t Break the Bank

By Kelly Cleary

We all know we should dress to impress when it comes to professional networking and interviewing, but what does that mean, exactly? We know it doesn’t mean jeans, t-shirts, or anything you’re likely to wear to an 8am class or a party on Friday night.  But what should you wear to employer information sessions (which begin the night before classes for full-time OCR positions), alumni panels that include networking receptions, career fairs, or first or second round interviews?  (The info session and employer links above provide some tips on what to wear to these events.)

If you’re planning  to interview for post-grad jobs or internships in the upcoming year, you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe, but it’s a good idea to have a few key pieces of professional attire in your closet, or at least at your disposal (your roommate’s closet?) If have clean and pressed articles of these types of clothes that fall into the same color scheme (black, gray, dark grey, some neutral tones),  you should be in good shape for recruiting season.

What to wear? The Basics

  • A dark suit, ladies can opt for pant or skirt suits
  • Dress pants, again dark shades are preferable
  • Dress shirt(s) in conservative colors (white, blue, other neutrals)
  • You can also add a professional looking sweater, ladies can go with a blouse
  • A blazer, if you can find one that works with one or two pairs of your dress pants
  • Dress/professional shoes that work with your color scheme (black shoes make a black/grey color base easy) with dark socks
  • For Men: a tie or a few
  • For Women: conservative (just above or below the knee) skirts or dresses can also work well.
  • This About.com article offers more detailed advice on what to wear.

Where to look for your new professional attire? Yes, you can easily spend a chunk of your hard earned summer cash on new clothes, but you don’t need to do so. Here are some suggestions for finding professional clothes while staying within your budget.

Hand-me-downs – check big sis, big brother or maybe even mom and dad’s closets. I’ve always been really fortunate to have a mother who dresses well and is about my size. I’ve also scored some great clothes from my sisters once they were gainfully employed and happy to pass on last season’s suit or shoes.

Discount stores – you can find great deals on suits, slacks, shirts, ties, blouses, and shoes at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Kohl’s.

Sales at department stores and specialty stores – If you hit the sales right or remember to bring in those 20% coupons (which can sometimes be found online), you can purchase some of these wardrobe staples at great prices at stores like Macy’s, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and Banana Republic.

Your friend’s closet – Most of us have friends who seem to have endless closets of really great clothes, and some of those friends are also willing to share. When I was in college one of my suitemates worked at Ann Taylor so she had a closet full of stylish professional clothes. Several friends treated her closet like a library for interview clothes. Unfortunately for me she was 5’8 and I was 5’2. She was also finance major and I was an English major, so at the time I was more than a little intimidated by her career path focus and interview confidence… but that’s another blog story.

For more tips on business etiquette and professional dress read the article on p. 89 of our career guide Pathways. (Note, this link takes you to the 09-10 guide, but hardcopies of the 10-11 guide are available in Career Services and it will posted online soon.)