Lessons you can learn from Rudolph (and friends) about your Career Path

By Anne Reedstrom & Claire Klieger

‘Tis the season for many holiday specials, including one of our favorites, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which has a surprising number of career parallels–okay, maybe only if you’re someone who works in Career Services which, after a time, causes you to see career parallels in everything.

  1. “What’s the matter with misfits?” Don’t let others define who you are or what to do. Like Hermey’s desire to be a dentist (if you share that desire, go talk to Anne & friends) despite his  family history of toy making, you should give yourself permission to look at a wide variety of options. Even though it may feel like most students at Penn go into banking, consulting, and other “business” careers, in reality there are lots of students who choose a seemingly less traveled path (and they don’t even have to run away from home to make it happen).
  2. Don’t hide on the island of misfit toys. These self-banished  toys felt like no one would want them because they were different but, ultimately, they realized their value. In other words, there is a home (or job) for everyone, whether you are a pink spotted elephant, an ostrich riding cowboy or a visual studies major. It’s okay if you don’t yet know where you fit best. And, instead of relying on the King of the Misfits, you can use career services (and our exploration page) to help you discover options that will be right for you.
  3. Embrace your red shiny nose.Some of you may feel similar pressure from parents or peers to adopt a particular career path, just as Rudolph’s father wants him to wear a false nose to better conform to traditional reindeer norms. What he discovers, however, is that accepting what makes you special allows you to identify your own strengths and the path which will let you best capitalize on them.

    courtesy of Rankin/Bass
  4. Remember that “Bumbles bounce!” While you might not be able to survive a fall off a cliff like this famous abominable snowman, you can recover more easily than you might think from setbacks such as a bad academic semester, switching career tracks, or a challenging job search.  You may aspire to different goals than professional Christmas tree topper, but you all have many skills which, regardless of where or how you have learned them, are transferable to many different working environments.

From our island of misfits to yours, enjoy your holidays, watch many cheesy holiday specials (Anne recommends Year Without a Santa Claus), and come back to campus refreshed and ready for 2012.


Tattoos: Think Before You Ink

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

The good news is that the job market for new college graduates is not as bad as the press is reporting, or rather, it’s not as bad for Penn grads. Quite the contrary, the 2011 grads did well in the job market, and while some sectors have reduced their interviews, others are ramping up.

But the less good news is that the market is still very competitive. Employers have their pick of good candidates. That means you have to make a strong first impression, and to present yourself as professionally as possible.

Last week I received an email from a student at another university, who was writing a paper on tattoos in the workforce. She asked me questions I couldn’t answer, such as, have tattoos become more acceptable in the last ten years. I suspect the answer to that is yes, but a very qualified yes. A Vault.com survey from 10 years ago found that almost 60% of employers said they were less likely to hire a candidate with tattoos or piercings. Maybe fewer feel that way now. A quick search didn’t turn up more recent studies. But even if that percentage has been reduced by half, about one in three interviewers will still reject you if you have tattoos.

What that means for job hunters is this: as far as employment is concerned, think twice before getting a tattoo in any place that is visible when you are dressed for a summer’s day. While certain fields, such as the arts, may be more accepting, I would not take the risk.

If you already have a tattoo, my advice is to cover it up during the interview process and, at least initially, in the workplace. This assumes your tattoo is not offensive. If anyone could be offended, keep it covered up at all times. (And if you have multiple piercings, remove some of your rings too, but that’s a subject for another blog.)

Employers are looking for new hires who will fit in with existing staff, and who will represent the organization well with clients or others in external organizations. They may personally not object to tattoos, but don’t want to risk offending clients. So before you do something you may later regret, think before you ink.

Tis the Season: flu and interview. What to do?

What should you do if you are sick on the day of an interview?
Recently I chatted with representatives at a career fair on what happens if candidates are sick the day of a scheduled interview.  I don’t mean “on your deathbed,” but generally feeling unwell due to the average flu or cold.   Canceling a Career Services appointment is one thing – I appreciate when students get in touch when they are really sick and stay home, rest, and reschedule for a later date or call-in for their appointment instead (yup, we do phone appointments).   However, an interview with a potential employer is much more “high stakes” – you are trying to show professionalism, and there are a limited number of opportunities to do so in a job search.

Overall, given the conversations I had with employers, my advice is that it is best if you show up for the scheduled interview, but it might depend where you are in the interviewing process.  If you have made headway and have already had an interview round by phone or in person, it might be okay to ask if you can reschedule an upcoming in-person appointment. However, the overall message I heard from your potential interviewers is go through with the interview, even if you don’t feel well, rather than cancel, reschedule or otherwise not show up.   One recruiter said that when she hears from people who call to say they are sick and wanting to cancel or change the date, she might not entirely believe them.  Conversely, she suggested if you show up, even if you are sick, people will be “more understanding.”
Other recruiters also suggested doing a phone interview might be a good alternative (especially for a first round interview). That mode of interviewing has its limitations compared to being face-to-face with your interviewers, but we have some tips for managing phone interviews here and in another blog post.

My colleagues (other Penn career advisors) had a few more points to add in the way of advice. You will note there is not complete consensus on the issue of handling a mild illness when you are interviewing, except for the last suggestion – prevention:

  • “Cancellation, except in the most dire of circumstances, is seldom a good option… do everything possible to prevent excessive nose running or coughing by taking appropriate (but not sleep-producing) meds, maybe drinking hot, herbal tea.  Certainly, the candidate should be prepared with tissues, hand sanitizer, and be sensitive to how s/he manages his/her tissue disposal, coughing, etc.    For example, one should make sure that s/he has VERY clean hands before the handshake and then offer hand sanitizer to the employer.”
  • “I would suggest that students might even mention to the recruiter if they are feeling under the weather just so employers will realize they are not at their best on that particular day, but still took the time to show up.”
  • “While it’s fine to disclose that you’re ‘under the weather,’ it should just be stated matter-of-factly, without the expectation of excessive sympathy or a ‘free pass;’ also, there are limits to how much information you should actually disclose about your illness” (in other words there is such a thing as TMI)
  • “I believe if you are really sick, you need to see a doctor then cancel by phone/email if necessary.  Otherwise, students should show up and do their best.”
  • “I am not an advocate for disclosing that you are not well.  If your symptoms (coughing/sneezing) are obvious, you can mention that you have been under-the-weather.   When you start a job and you go into work, you wouldn’t be announcing to your boss that you are sick, unless they ask, or if your symptoms are obvious.  I believe the candidate needs to follow through with the interview to show they are truly interested in the job and will do what needs to be done to complete the process.  Just like at work.”
  • “This is one of those ‘professional’ and adult life lessons – sometimes you don’t feel like doing something, certainly, but when the stakes are high, you must do your best and focus on the positives!”

Finally, and most importantly!

  • Prevention is key~  Try “practicing good health habits like getting plenty of sleep, washing hands frequently, getting fresh air, eating well, and all the stuff our mothers told us in order to avoid getting sick in the first place.”

A Day in the Life: Public Relations

If you value communication, creativity, and working with the media and public to get the word out, then public relations may be for you.  On Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 we welcome alum Meagan Sloan to @PennCareerDay on Twitter.  Public relations is a field where social media has grown in popularity thanks to the variety of tools it offers to this industry. We’re excited to have Meagan post to give you an inside look at what her day is like in the current communications climate. To learn more about Meagan, read her bio below and follow her on the 26th!

As an Account Executive for Brownstein Group’s PR team, Meagan is responsible for day-to-day account activity for clients such as TireVan, Harcum College, and Craiger Drake Designs. In addition to executing public relations tactics for these clients, she also provides support across other PR account, gaining experience in a variety of industries, including real estate, education, non-profit, and consumer products. During her time at Brownstein Group, Meagan has assisted in social media and media relations campaigns, securing placements in a number of local outlets, such as The Inquirer, Philadelphia Business Journal, Philadelphia magazine, Metro and local broadcast affiliates.

A Philadelphia native, Meagan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Communication and a minor in Consumer Psychology. While in college, she interned at Brownstein Group in the fall of 2009, supporting the Harcum College, Bancroft, and Asian World of Martial Arts accounts. In addition, Meagan held public relations and advertising internships at other Philadelphia agencies, including Red Tettemer, The Star Group, and The Karma Agency.

If you would like to learn more about a career in public relations, visit our resource page for this field here.


A Day in the Life: Postdoctoral Scholar

Starting the week of September 26th, the Grad & Postdoc team kicked off their annual event, the Academic Career Conference, for the graduate students and postdocs here at Penn.  The whole week, we have been highlighting resources through our social media channels on the academic job market.  To shed additional light on life in academia, we’re excited to have alum Stephen Schueller, Ph.D, contribute to @PennCareerDay on Twitter on Thursday, October 6th.   To learn more about Stephen, please read his bio below, and remember to follow him on the 6th!

Stephen Schueller (Ph.D. in Psychology, Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences ’11) is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco in the Department of Psychiatry.  He started his graduate work at Penn in 2005 after receiving his bachelor’s in psychology from the University of California, Riverside. During his undergraduate, he worked as a research assistant studying happiness from a psychological perspective. At Penn, he trained as a researcher and clinician while working towards a doctorate in clinical psychology.

Through his research and clinical experiences, he became convinced that psychological treatments reach far too few and that expanding the reach of psychology would involve not just training more psychologists but creating innovative interventions. These interests brought him to UCSF Medical School. As a clinical researcher at UCSF, he has the opportunity to conduct research in an applied setting. He provides individual and group therapy in the public sector at San Francisco General Hospital. His current research studies the use of the Internet and health information technology to provide interventions that promote psychological health and behavior change.