How is this year different?

Another start of another school year. What is different this time? Aside from the fact that we are starting a week earlier, the obvious answer is that you (in fact all of us) are a year older. We should be wiser, we should be more mature. Second, you are that much closer to graduation, and your future. If you will be finishing up in 2014, you should be thinking about career matters. You may be focused on finding a job, getting into a good graduate or professional school program, getting a prestigious fellowship, or if you are a doctoral student, perhaps finding a post-doc. Even those who will be graduating at a later time may be starting to think about internships for next summer.

This is all well and good. Things here get off to a quick start. Our employer presentations begin tonight. Our workshops have already started. You can’t say, as you may have in years past, that Career Services is for another time. Now is the time for many of you. Take advantage of all we have to offer, now and throughout the year.

So get going, but at the same time, relax. If you are like your Penn predecessors, you will do well, regardless of your path. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, you are not competing with your classmates. You are competing with young people throughout our country, and others well beyond our borders. You may also be competing with new technologies that are changing the nature of many jobs. Cheaper labor abroad can do many jobs more cheaply, even professional level jobs requiring graduate training. Sophisticated computer programs, using enormous data sets, have reduced the need for people in some positions or fields. Think about where you can make a contribution in this global economy. Don’t be afraid to dream. And don’t worry too much about where you start: a first job is a first job, the first of many you will hold.

Second, don’t go about your career preparation with sharp elbows. I am reminded of last spring’s commencement address at Syracuse University, where the author George Saunders urged the graduates to be kind. It’s worth saying even before graduation: be nice to each other. (The text of the speech is available on the New York Times site, but it’s been hacked. Take a minute to find it if you can; it’s a great speech.) As Einstein is reported to have said, “everything that counts cannot be counted.” Being kind really counts. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s important.

On behalf of everyone in Career Services, all the best for a great semester.

Timely Advice on Job Offers

Right about now, some of you may be actively interviewing for jobs and internships, or in the process of receiving and deciding on job offers.  A big mystery is knowing “what you are worth” and evaluating the offers to make sure you are getting fair compensation, and the work conditions that will make you happy to accept the offer.  You can read tips on our website, “Deciding on Job Offers,” or gather data from Career Plans Surveys (including salary information for recent graduates) or learn about negotiation strategies.  Below is a short collection of blog entries written by career services advisors that provide great advice to anyone at this stage of the job search:

The (Adaptable, Resourceful, Multitalented) Versatile PhD

Graduate students and postdocs may be aware of Career Services’ many resources on academic careers and the academic job search.  But are you also familiar with the resources we have for PhDs/ABDs who are considering a career beyond academia? The Versatile PhD is one of the valuable tools Career Services provides to help you in your decision making and your job hunting.

The Versatile PhD is a web-based resource that you can use anytime, from any computer.  It includes:

  • A thriving, supportive web-based community where you can participate in discussions, network with real “Versatile PhDs” (humanists, social scientists and STEM trained individuals working outside the academy) or, if you prefer, just read and learn.
  • An online collection of compelling first-person narratives written by Versatile PhDs who describe how they established their post-academic careers and give their best advice for you.
  • An associated LinkedIn group where you can begin to build an online presence and network with Versatile PhDs in a wide variety of fields.
  • Free online “Career Panel” discussions where Versatile PhDs working in a given field share their specific professional experiences in that field and answer questions from members. Online panels in 2012 included Careers in Market Research, Careers in Corporate and Institutional Research and Careers in Program Evaluation.  Panels from prior years are archived on the site.

Coming up on November 12-16, 2012:  Entrepreneurship for STEM PhDs featuring STEM PhDs currently running businesses they started from the ground up, or working in small start-ups.  The panel is presented in an asynchronous format; participate anytime during the week.

University of Pennsylvania graduate students and postdocs have access to all the content areas on the website, including the upcoming panel  – go to the Career Services Reference Library (on the left side of Career Services homepage) and click on Online Subscriptions.  You will be asked to provide your PennKey and password to access The Versatile PhD.

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.”