Buon viaggio!

by Sue Russoniello

By the time you read this blog post, I’ll be in Italy for the first time.  Usually my preparation for a vacation means rushing around at the last minute, throwing in everything I think I might need, which means I over pack and/or forget something vital.  I have vowed that this trip is going to be different.  Since we’ll be traveling by train and carrying our own luggage from place to place, I’ve checked the weather, carefully considered the activities we’ve planned, and tried to line up a minimal collection of the right clothes and accessories.

As I started making a list for my trip, I thought of other aspects of life where I (and you) should make a concerted effort to plan ahead.  For instance, maybe your search for a summer internship, full time job or graduate school applications could use some tweaking. Perhaps you approach important things in your life the same way I pack for vacation — on the day of an interview you throw on a suit, grab your resume and rush out the door thinking you’re ready.



Even now my palms begin to sweat when I remember one particular interview I had many years ago.  When I got out of bed that morning, I discovered that it was snowing, and began to panic.  I not only had to dress more carefully than usual, but also had to find my boots.   Once I got out of the house, I discovered that traffic was horrendous, parking in the city a challenge; I arrived late, rushing up to the receptionist who was waiting for me.  She had to wait even longer while I awkwardly exchanged boots for dress shoes and attempted to smooth my hair, feeling discombobulated rather than calm and prepared.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that the interview went terribly.  I was so rattled by then, that when I was asked what my then boss would say about me that would make the interviewer want to hire me, (not a terribly difficult or unusual question) I totally froze.  Instead of having the composure to carefully promote myself, the few ideas I babbled about just emphasized my lack of readiness and self confidence. I was embarrassed and just wanted it all to be over.  On the way home I beat myself up with a dozen things I should have said, and tried to incorporate them into my thank you note.  But of course it was too late.  In these situations you don’t get a do over, and needless to say, I did not get the job offer.

So what should I have done differently? Why didn’t I plan ahead — listen to the weather report, lay out my clothes (including my boots and gloves) the night before and set an earlier alarm?  I should have anticipated the slow traffic and arrived with enough spare time to be able to organize my thoughts as well as my appearance.  Setting aside some time to review the job description, my resume and sample interview questions would have helped my chances of landing the job.   If only I had scheduled an appointment with a Career Counselor which would have armed me with the self confidence I needed to put my best self forward.

I encourage you to learn from my mistakes.  Career Services is open all year, even during the summer, so please call us for assistance with your job or internship search, or graduate school admissions process.

I realize that advance preparation for events, whether it’s a vacation or a job interview, is well worth the time and effort invested.  It usually leads to a better outcome, better feelings about yourself, and a much more relaxed and enjoyable journey.


Tweet Your Way to a Job

by Shannon C. Kelly

Are you on Twitter?  If you are, you may have an advantage over your fellow job seekers, or at least the UK’s Lancaster University Management School said so in a recent article.  The 140 character limit that distinguishes Twitter from other social networks has tapped into individuals’ talent for being succinct in their writing.  How does this factor into your job search? The bullet points on your resume, introductions at networking events, or answering questions quickly and concisely in an interview are a few examples of moments where you need to be brief.

Social media platforms like Twitter are great tools to utilize if traditional avenues are falling a bit short in your job search.  They can also be useful in not only building your professional skills, but showcasing them.

If you’re on Twitter, follow us for career advice – @PennCareerServ.

The articles that inspired this blog post can be found at:



Pronoun Abuse: An Interview Diagnosis

By Anne Guldin Lucas

Stuart Student was in the midst of a terrific interview.  He was in the zone, responding to even the most difficult questions with thoughtful, succinct responses.  Irma Interviewer was smiling and making comments that convinced Stuart he was about to clinch the job offer.  Then he was asked the question for which he had been hoping:  “What was your greatest accomplishment as a Penn student?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Stuart responded, “During our first term at Penn, me and my friend started a program in local homeless shelters to increase the rate of high school graduations and college matriculations among homeless students.  This year, our fourth year of the program, we achieved a 95% success rate.  The Mayor presented she and I with a Philadelphia Citizenship Award.”

A shadow fell across Irma Interviewer’s face, and she muttered something about remembering that they had filled this job opening last week.  As she was showing Stuart to the door, he wondered where he had gone wrong.  Could Ms. Interviewer possibly object to educating children or did his response lack the proper humility?  He didn’t even mention that their picture was on the front page of the DP!

What do you think, reader?  Can you diagnose Stuart Student’s fatal interviewing error?

Yes, it was pronoun abuse!  Whereas Stuart’s opening sentence required that he use a first person pronoun in the subjective (“my friend and I” vs. “me and my friend,”), his last sentence called for objective pronouns (“her and me” vs. “she and I”).  If those grammatical terms are too hard to remember, simply omit Stuart’s friend from the equation, and your ear should guide you to the proper pronouns.  Surely no one would say, “During my first term at Penn, me started a program….The Mayor presented I with…”

Contrast Stuart’s interview experience with that of Stella Student.  Ricky Recruiter asked challenging questions, and Stella was prepared with all the right responses—and proper pronouns.  When asked that fateful question, “What was your greatest accomplishment as a Penn student?” Stella quickly and expertly responded, “During our first year at Penn, my friend and I launched an initiative against Pronoun Abuse.  Having cleared the Penn campus of errant pronouns, the English Department awarded him and me with Distinguished Student Awards.”

Needless to say, Ricky Recruiter’s next words were, “You’re hired!”

P.S. If you are inspired to become Sammy Syntax after reading this blog, you can learn more about pronoun usage by consulting:


Don’t Try this At Home

As a career counselor I often hear the frustrations of job seekers who send out applications, who interview, who network…. and despite all these efforts, get little response from certain employers for their invested time. Particularly heartbreaking are stories from people who get through the interview process only to feel themselves in a “black hole” as employers delay (or avoid) letting them know their status in the search for candidates. Typically in this situation, no news isn’t good news, but there are some constructive tips for handling the ambiguity that is inherent in the job search process. I will share those ideas below, but first, a humor-filled moment (if you think shows like MTV’s Jackass are funny).

I recently read a fun article from the New York Times about a man who got his revenge for all the agonizing silence we job seekers have collectively experienced. Read his story here: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/complaint-box-the-e-snub/

Now, that was action packed! But… I don’t recommend it for job seekers who are more interested in landing a job than pulling off a crazy stunt. Here are some effective, and reasonable actions you could try on your own:

1) Think ahead – if you are interviewed, find time at the end to ask the question “what is your timeline for making a decision?” and to state something like “I’ll get back in contact with you if I haven’t heard anything by this time, are you the best person to call?”. It is critical to have this information before leaving an in-person interview or putting the phone down for phone interviews. Asking about “next steps” means you are indicating your genuine interest in the job and puts a bit more control into your hands regarding the communications you have with the employer.

2) Exercise patience – remind yourself that ambiguity really is part of the job seeking process. Keep putting yourself out there, get feedback from a career advisor regarding your job search strategies if that would be helpful.

3) Be proactive in a polite way – whether or not you interview, it generally is fine to follow up your application either by phone or email, to see how the employer’s search for a candidate is going, and/or to let them know you remain interested in the opportunity. (A caveat: if a job application says “no phone calls please” then you ought to follow the expressed preference of the organization.) Ultimately, if an employer is unresponsive to your effort to check in, then stay open to hearing from them, but move your job search energies into other endeavors.

4) Remember, it isn’t all about you – sometimes employers don’t get back to you because they are busy, because they have been inundated with applications, because they have many people who are involved in the decision making process, because there are formalities that prevent them from responding to your inquiries. You might be their first choice, but they haven’t had a chance to get back to you in a timely way. You might be the second choice – which means you still have a chance at the job if their initial offer is turned down. You may not be selected at this time. The point is, you do not know what is happening on the employers’ side. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don’t take it personally.

5) Remember, it isn’t all about this one opportunity – as hard as it is to put effort out in the form of applications and interviews, the measure of success is not all-or-nothing: getting an offer of employment is not the only way to measure a successful job search. Each time you write an application, go through an interview, and meet people in the field, you are strengthening the skill sets that will serve you well in your future. Don’t forget, many people change jobs every 3-5 years. You will be using those job seeking skills again and again.

Return the Call

by Barbara Hewitt


During the last month I’ve received calls from three different employers complaining that they have not been able to get Penn students to return their phone calls. One wanted to invite a student for a second round interview. One only learned that two students no longer planned to actually attend their previously scheduled second round interviews when the employer took the time to reach out to reconfirm the date and time.  The last complaint came for an employer who had extended an offer to a student, but could not get the student to return follow-up phone calls from either recruiters or a relatively high level senior executive who had taken time out of his busy day to call the candidate.

Students often think they are simply “cogs in the machine” of the recruiting process – one of many individuals traipsing through the halls of organizations across America to interview in an attempt to land an offer.  They may not think that returning a phone call or answering an email promptly matters much in the big scheme of things.  Let me assure you it does.  Employers spend a tremendous amount of energy, time and money on college recruiting.  They work hard to find individuals who will be the right fit for their organizations.  They want to know that the students to whom they extend offers will be passionate about working for them and committed to the organization once they come on board.

If a candidate doesn’t have the common courtesy to return a phone call, it sends the message that he or she either does not know how to be professional, or really doesn’t care about the kind of impression s/he is making on the firm.  Employers in this situation may very well begin to think that they made the wrong decision in extending an offer. Real concerns about the candidate’s ability to work with colleagues and clients may arise.  I have seen employers withdraw offers after such negative experiences with candidates.

I understand why students sometimes hesitate to return employers’ calls.  Often they are very busy.  Perhaps they are worried that they will receive undue pressure to accept an offer before they are ready to do so.  They may feel they have had all their questions answered and won’t know what to say when the inevitable “What questions can I answer for you?” comes up. Never-the-less, in order to be perceived as professional and courteous, it is important to respond and respond quickly to employers when they reach out.  You don’t want to come across as disinterested in a position when in fact you might be.

On the other hand, if you have decided an opportunity is not the right fit for you, or if you have accepted another offer, let any employers with whom you have outstanding applications or offers know as soon as possible. They will appreciate your honesty and it will help them move forward to find alternate candidates for the position.  You never know – a few years down the road you might again be considering opportunities with the same employer, and you certainly want to leave a positive lingering impression.