You Don’t Have to be a Brain Surgeon for this One…

A colleague sent this video clip to me, it’s pretty funny, though you can see the punch line coming a mile away.

The kernel of truth in the silly scenario is that despite the fact “it’s not brain surgery” – or rocket science – people really do have problems connecting with others, especially in networking environments.  You might be brilliant in your studies or your field (or perhaps just a little arrogant), but it really does take practice for some people to know how to talk about themselves in a way that is engaging or even accessible to acquaintances.  Even more importantly, being able show an interest in others, and to ask good questions, will get you as far as any impressive accomplishment you have under your belt.  Networking is a skill that you will need to find a job and to stay up in your profession.  And, I will dare to say… networking can also be really helpful, fun and interesting.

Continue reading “You Don’t Have to be a Brain Surgeon for this One…”

Online Dating: Jobs Edition

LinkedIn website traffic volume is booming –  employers and job seekers are proactively using the site as an effective tool to connect.   There are also many articles on current recruiting practices and social media.  As the LinkedIn community becomes more central to hiring for many companies, I have become interested in the fact that most people now are including a photo, a component of what LinkedIn considers to be “completing” your online profile.

In the USA, the convention of attaching your photo with your resume faded away in the late1970s with the civil rights movement and the establishment of ideas of equal opportunity in hiring.  Are we taking a step back as we embrace the future with social media job searches?

Few people want a potential employer to pursue them – or disregard them – because of the way they look.  Yet, unconscious or even overt inclinations can influence hiring practices. To be very objective in finding the best candidates, hiring managers likely will be combating well documented proclivites towards hiring people who look like them, preconceptions about ethnicity and gender, biases about people who they find attractive or ugly, as well as stereotypes related to age or visible disabilities.   You can read more about hiring biases and discrimination online – in essence, studies indicate that people are prone to making quick judgments, having nothing to do with a candidate’s skills and accomplishments.

The question is, how would you feel knowing that someone might not look further into your LinkedIn profile if you don’t have an appealing picture?  Do you think that your picture reflects well on you and improves your chance of getting hired?  Obviously, even in the past when photos were not readily available, as soon as a candidate showed up for the interview, a hiring manager’s biases regarding the person’s appearance could come into play.  But at this point in the hiring process, the job seeker has already impressed the employer with their resume of accomplishments, or their well written cover letter.  They have the chance to verbally counter some of the biases based on their looks.

I will continue to look for more information or articles on how hiring practices and biases may be affected now that it is so easy to find a picture of someone online. While I think this newish trend (or retrotrend?) of incorporating photos in professional profiles is not going to change, I do believe that employers can be vigilant in training recruiters to address their biases, and to acknowledge the benefits of diversity in hiring.  Here is an example of guidelines developed in the Human Resources industry, which addresses this issue: .

For you the candidate?  In addition to being thoughtful of the image you put forward via social media, there are also suggestions for breaking through biases during your interviews:

Timing is Everything

By Claire Klieger

Now is the perfect time to begin your job search.

I just bought a clock for my three year old to help her know when it’s time to get up in the morning, or rather, when it’s not time to get up, such as the ungodly hour of half past four. The face of the clock glows blue when it’s bedtime and stays that color until her designated wake time, of the only slightly more reasonable 6 am, when it changes color. In our first night of its use, it worked like a charm—no more middle of the night awakenings to the pitter patter of little feet, and subsequent elbows, to our bed.   Instead she walks in cheerfully, in the way no one but small children can at that hour, and announces “It’s time to get up, guys! My clock turned yellow.”

Sometimes I wish such a device existed for students in their job search. With some searches (OCR) starting so early in the year and other jobs needing people to start right away, it can be hard to know at what point in the senior year to apply for jobs.  Well, consider this your official wake-up call (though, sadly, yours does not come with a yellow light and happy song). Now is the perfect time to begin your job search. That’s right, you heard me. You are not too late and contrary to the seemingly popular belief among many Penn seniors, there is no ticking time bomb that will make your life and all job prospects implode upon graduation.  Employers do not have a certain window of time in which they will consider hiring college students after graduation. They hire for openings all year round but the right time for you to apply for jobs is not until you’re actually available to start work, which is why now is the ideal time to be on the job hunt.

If you started applying for jobs earlier in the semester but have not had any success it may not be you. Because employers who post jobs usually need someone who can start immediately you would likely would not have been considered for jobs that were posted in January, February or even early March; it was probably just too early. So, don’t get discouraged. As Penn grads, you have many great qualities to offer employers.

So, grab a cup of coffee and, once you are done with finals, start your job search anew. Come see us in Career Services so that we help you revitalize your job search. And even though you may feel like “The Final Countdown” is the theme of your life at the moment, try to ignore the “tick tock” of any proverbial countdown on the career front. There is no deadline to find a job. If you still don’t believe me, here are some actual quotes from our career plan surveys from the class of 2011 and 2010:

 Words of Wisdom from Alumni

 “I would say the keys to finding a great and fitting post-grad opportunity are patience, reflection and initiative. I made many bold moves over the past year. Not rushing into programs simply because I didn’t know what to do; not succumbing to the pressures to just “take whatever’s available”; and having the audacity to apply for a highly competitive program that was my fit…you have to know what you want and be willing to reach for it. Be patient. Reflect. And go for it.”

 “My job search started in February/March of my senior spring and ended shortly after graduation… I was interviewing for the job I ultimately accepted (a rotation analyst position with Nielsen, in their leadership development program) for around 2 months (an intensive process). Was almost convinced I wouldn’t get it after interviewing for so long but was persistent, prepared extensively for my in-person interviews…Was offered the job a month after graduation and accepted gladly.”

 Searching during the Spring semester was pretty difficult; I really had no idea what direction I wanted to follow after graduation. The opportunity I ended up taking was one that I initially passed up because I wasn’t really interested…In the first week in September I came upon an old flyer for the same opportunity and after many months of summer rest/rejuvenation/reflection I realized that this was the perfect position for moving toward my goal. “

 “Took an unpaid PR internship in NYC for the summer, and began applying for jobs in early July. I received 2 interviews within 4 days, and got offered a job the day after one of the interviews.”

 “I started in January, and it took me until April to get the job. You have to be very persistent, but rest assured you will find something.”

 “I accepted a paid internship in August in a field that I wanted to be in, which had the potential to turn into a full-time job in 3-4 months, given my performance and the financial status of the company. However, a previous internship employer contacted me about a full-time opportunity [where I am currently working] during my paid internship.”

Off with your head! The skinny on headhunters

By Claire Klieger

If the term “headhunter” doesn’t conjure up Hunger Games-esque imagery, or,  as one dictionary website put it, “a member of society who collects the heads of dead enemies as trophies,” you probably think of some mythical creature who magically finds jobs for others. In reality, the term is much less glamorous, mysterious, and hopefully, a lot less bloody.  Here are some things to know about headhunters to help you not lose your own head when thinking about job hunt strategies:

“Headhunter” usually refers to someone who does executive searches, looking for very experienced people to fill high level openings, so this can be an especially good option for more experienced Penn Alumni. If you’re just getting started in your career or are only a few years out, you are looking for something called a “Contingency Firm.” And, as it happens, we have a wonderful directory of staffing firms (including contingency firms) in the Career Services Library. The Directory of Executive & Professional Recruiters (2012 edition just came in yesterday!) offers directory listings by location, industry or job function.

One big misconception about staffing agencies or head hunters is that the job seeker pays them. This is not true. It’s FREE. These agencies are paid by the employers who have vacancies to fill. As such, you really have nothing to lose by signing up with one (or more than one). It means your resume will probably be circulated more widely than not. I think it can be particularly helpful in cases where you are targeting a particular location. That said, since these agencies are not specifically looking to find you a job you shouldn’t rely solely on their services when seeking employment.

“I’ll never get a job!” – Cognitive Distortions, A Career Short List

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a theory and practice of psychology that focuses on how we think and perceive our world, and how these perceptions can change our experiences.  This field has identified common mistakes people make (more information from Wikipedia here.) These types of thinking errors are called cognitive distortions.

I want to write about cognitive distortions as they relate to your career.  You would not guess how many times I have heard a student say “there are no jobs in my field” or “it is impossible to find an internship now” – something along those lines. Of course, the student and I both know that the statement is generalizing, may even be hyperbolic.  Yes it is hard to find work, but are there NO job openings whatsoever, even since the economic downturn in 2008?  I haven’t met a single person who would take their own emphatic statement as the full truth.

So what’s wrong about making an exaggerated exclamation?  Well… the problem is that we often start to believe our own distortions, or use the feeling associated with them to guide our behavior.  Even if you know there are SOME jobs out there for you, if you go with the feeling such a statement might generate or enforce (frustration, helplessness) you are bound to stop trying when in fact, persevering in your networking or other job search efforts might be the name of the game.   My suggestion is to be aware of the messages you convey to yourself – think about if they are helping you, or may be making things worse.

Below are a few statements that may seem familiar, the cognitive distortion involved (From: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.), and an alternative that might be more helpful:

“I am so frustrated – there are no jobs in my field.” Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” Possible alternative: “I feel frustrated right now.  I am going to focus on sticking to my strategy and getting some support from Career Services.”

I can’t believe I messed up that one question at the interview, I am sure that ruined my chances of getting to the second round.Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.  Possible alternative: “My answer to that one question kind of stank, but the rest of the interview went pretty well.  I need to practice in case I get that question again.”

“If I can’t become a professor I am going to have to wait tables – what else is there for PhDs?” All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Possible alternative: “I don’t know what I am qualified for besides being an academic; maybe I should explore my options.”

“Nothing came of my contacts at that career fair, I don’t know how I am ever going to get a job.” Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Possible alternative: “That career fair was a disappointment, so I am going to look into other strategies for my job search.”

“I still haven’t heard back regarding the job application. I must have done something wrong.”  Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible. Possible alternative:  “There are many factors that affect a hiring decision, I wonder if they need more time to decide or more information from me.”

When you are job searching, as in other parts of your life, your attitude can affect your outcomes.  Make sure you are serving yourself well when you reflect on your own thoughts and behaviors.  If you are interested in learning more about cognitive therapy and working on cognitive distortions, I suggest you read books by Dr. David Burns, Dr. Aaron Beck, and learn about the work at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy .