What’s going on in this year’s job market? Are you ready?

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

A new semester, a new year, a new job market. Are you ready for 2012?

I have been getting reporters’ questions, from the DP to The New York Times, on what fall recruiting will look like. Here is my take: it may be a bumpy ride, but because you are at Penn, you are well-positioned to succeed. But you must be ready; hold on tight.

Most employers don’t like uncertainty, and we are living in uncertain times. Will our recovery continue at its painfully slow pace, or will we fall back into recession? Will consumer confidence falter, making consumers reluctant to resume spending? Will our federal government manage to solve our debt crisis? Will President Obama be re-elected? Will the current Congress? Having sat in this seat a long time, I have found that the spring before a presidential election, employers are more likely to sit on their hands and wait and see what November will bring. Will 2012 be any different?

As you face the fall hiring season, or the later internship recruiting cycle, it’s important that you not give in to gloom and doom. The fact is, employers are coming to recruit. Next week, about 140 employers will attend CareerLink over two days, September 13 and 14. The following day, September 15, almost 90 will attend Engineering Career Day. Additional career days will follow in the months ahead. On-Campus Recruiting will begin on September 27, and we are all booked up until early November. Another burst of activity will be in February, marked by the start of internship recruiting on February 1, and the huge Spring Career Fair on February 17, where a broad range of employers will be recruiting both interns and 2012 graduates. Many employers don’t visit campus, but post their open positions throughout the year on PennLink.

Employers always need entry-level staff. The question is, how many will they need? We already know that the federal government, as well as state and local governments, besieged by budget cuts, will not be doing a lot of hiring. Some of our traditional employers, such as the largest investment banks, are doing more and more of their full-time hiring from their intern classes. Those who would like to interview for bank jobs may see more opportunities at boutiques and regional firms, or on the buy side (for example, at investment management firms) than on the sell side.

If hiring is flat (a good thing for us at Penn, since last year was a very good year) or down a little, the best advice I have is to be ready (our workshops have already started, and employer information sessions begin today), be prepared, be flexible, and be smart: use Career Services. We really can help you put your best foot forward, regardless of your ultimate goal. We’re here – come and see us. Good luck. And don’t let this volatility scare you: opportunities are out there.

Keywords are Key

by Shannon C. Kelly                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Raise your hand if you’re looking for a job, to build your network, to make the right connections, to get noticed in your field, to enhance your reputation, etc.  If you did raise your hand and you are on LinkedIn, remember this: keywords are key.  This is not shocking, but if you are not incorporating the right terms in your profile, you may not be getting pulled up in a search.  

FastCompany published an article, titled “LinkedIn’s Algorithm Taps Talent Graph, But Still Needs Human Touch” last week.  One of the important trends discussed was LinkedIn’s algorithm to help recruiters find the talent they want in the most efficient way: typing in a few key words or phrase and, bam, candidates.   Just hitting enter can be pretty time efficient, and recruiters agree.  The moral? Be sure you are including key words in your skills section.  Look at the jobs you are interested in, the descriptions, your connections on LinkedIn – what keywords are listed?  Incorporate those terms in your own profile.

Now, as the article mentions, and DePaul Career Center’s Douglas L. Miller explains further, the human touch is still important.  Remember that.  Social media is not a replacement for in-person interaction. It is here to help get you to that point – the conference, the networking event, the interview.  When you are having the fact-to-face interaction, use those keywords to impress people and demonstrate your knowledge of the field or position. 

Strategic Self-Assessment

By Sharon Fleshman

Whether you are exploring careers, conducting a job search, or contemplating a career change, self-assessment can energize the process.  Begin by reflecting on your previous jobs, projects and activities. Don’t limit yourself to the experiences which seem most related to your immediate career goals.  Try to move beyond occupations and job titles. Take a look at your resume or CV and go line by line. Identify where you made the most impact and what gave you the greatest sense of fulfillment.

Next, you’ll want to pinpoint skills that emerge from these experiences. Chances are that these skills can transfer to a variety of career options.  For example, research skills could be applied to meaningful work in any number of areas such as academia, program evaluation for a non-profit, or marketing research for a corporation.

In addition to skills, think about what you valued in past experiences in which you found meaning and success. Identifying your work values will help you to consider the work environment which is the best fit for you.  In other words, you could perform the same job in two different settings but find that you thrive much more in one setting than the other.  What about your interests? Perhaps they would provide clues as to what’s next on your career path.  It may be that you decide to try out some career options by way of internships, volunteer work, or short-term projects to tease out all of this information. There’s nothing quite like hands-on experience to provide a fresh perspective.

Finally, you will need to consider the current priorities in your life and how they relate to your job search.  Are you willing to relocate or do personal commitments limit your geographical options? How do your immediate financial needs affect your choices?

You will find that self-assessment not only helps you identify potential career paths, but prepares you for next steps in the job search.  Your networking meetings will be more focused and fruitful because you have done your homework.  Your resumes, cover letters, and interviews will be more compelling because you have taken a thorough inventory of what energizes you, what matters to you, and what you have to offer.

In addition to our Career Discovery webpages, there are a number of tools and inventories that can help you facilitate the self-assessment process.  As always, Career Services advisors are available to provide guidance as well. Enjoy your summer!

5 Job Hunting Tips You Can Get From Dr. Who

Dr. Joseph Barber

1)      Your resume is actually bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. What? Well…, ok, all I mean is that the way you describe your experiences and knowledge by using specific illustrations of your skills in action achieving tangible outcomes will make even a 1-page resume feel like it is chock-full of relevant information. Your resume won’t contain any swimming pools, though.

2)      You can’t actually regenerate – and so don’t try, but you can and should talk about your experiences in a different way when applying to different positions. There is no one-size-fits-all resume that will work for two different jobs, even if they are in the same industry (e.g., pharmaceutical industry jobs, consulting). The more time you can take tailoring your resume and cover letter (and even your academic CV to a certain extent), the better you will be able to convince an employer that your experiences are a good fit for their requirements.

3)      If you spend too much time by yourself, you will end up talking to yourself. If you spend too much time looking at your own resume, your brain will begin to tune out, and you will start to miss those small errors that can creep in. Additionally, sometimes we can find it hard to think about the range of different skills we have used in different experiences – we get so used to talking about ourselves in one way that we can forget that we do actually have a bunch of transferable skills that are applicable to many jobs. Come to Career Services to get a critique of your resume, and you’ll find this fresh perspective to be helpful.

4)      Time travel is actually quite hard, and rarely goes exactly according to plan. This means that you can’t go back and change your past – that really never works out well in the future anyway. For example, back in the past you may have started a PhD thinking you wanted to be a professor, but in the present you may have decided not to take the academic career path. Make use of your time at Penn to gain a wide range of different experiences to explore your options, take some courses outside of your subject, join and actively participate in some student/postdoc groups. Make sure you also have a convincing narrative as to why you are seeking the jobs you are applying to. Note: no employer wants to hear: “I realized I didn’t want to be a professor, and so I decided to apply for this job”. This isn’t a convincing reason why someone should hire you. Talk about what you gained from your academic and non-academic experiences, and how you can use your skills and abilities in a way that would make you an ideal candidate for the jobs you are interested in.

5)      For someone with an identity problem, the Doctor has a rather extensive network of contacts. True, it is easier to make contacts when you own a small blue box that is bigger on the inside than the outside, and travels across time and space…, and when you are 900 or so years old/young. However, with a bit of courageous outreach to your own list contacts, and good use of social networking platforms like LinkedIn and Academia.edu, you’ll find that you can soon generate a comparable network – relatively speaking (which when talking about relativity can get very confusing). Don’t leave it up to chance, though. Set aside some time each week or month to connect with new people who might be doing jobs you are interested in, or to get back in contact with former colleagues, supervisors, and advisors. Networking is about building and maintaining meaningful connections with people over time…, wherever or whenever that time is!

MAYBERRY R.F.D.- Looking Back and Looking Forward

By Anne Guldin Lucas

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXw0RpWRZC4&w=480&h=390]

Most of our blog readers are probably too young to remember Mayberry R.F.D. (starring Andy Griffith and Ron Howard as a boy) on TV—unless it’s popular in reruns or in DVD collections.  Although my life wasn’t quite as hokey as it was for the characters in Mayberry, the 60s were indeed simpler times.  In my neighborhood, on summer evenings we literally sat on our porches playing cards, and drinking root beer floats or lemonade.  (Personally I never did care for Cherry Coke.)

Last weekend a longtime friend and his family visited us as they were passing through our area.  So please excuse me if this Baby Boomer becomes a bit nostalgic.  I promise there’s a point that will eventually relate to careers (sort of).

My friend arrived with his wife and the youngest of his three children—a 12-year-old daughter.  When my friend and I were twelve, we were neighbors, school mates, and members of the same swim team.  So we spent a lot of time together in our youth.  Since this friend and I have never lived in the same location since our college summers, it still feels strange to see him as an adult, with a wife and family.  I remember us as the same age as his 12-year-old daughter–braces and all!  (In fact, I got my braces off on the last day of 6th grade–the12th birthday of this same friend!)

Yet here we were last weekend—adults—middle-aged ones now, with jobs and families, sitting on the terrace of my house—MY house, not my parents’ house (or porch!).  Who could have imagined that we would actually grow up into reasonably responsible adults who owned homes, held jobs, and raised families?

Aha—that’s the point!  It happens to all of us.  Whether we had a plan when we graduated from college or whether it took years and some job changes, we do eventually grow up.  Whether it’s a straight line or a crooked path, somehow, we usually find our way to a good place—to jobs we enjoy and valued relationships that are so important to a life well lived.

During the past few weeks in my office at Penn I’ve met with triumphant students who are negotiating job offers and making plans to find apartments and move to new cities.  Congratulations to those of you who fit into this category; I know you’ve worked hard.  I’ve also met with students who feel as if they are the only one without a job and a definite plan for after graduation.  I can assure you that you are not alone in this situation.  You have also worked hard, making the most of your precious time at Penn, and you deserve to celebrate Commencement just as enthusiastically as your already employed peers.

MANY Penn seniors will wait until after graduation to begin or to resume a job search.  It’s okay.  In fact, despite the presence of Career Counselor Mother (obviously not to be confused with Tiger Mother) in their lives, neither of my young adult children had jobs upon graduation or had even begun their job searches at the time they walked up on the stage for their undergraduate diplomas.  They are now both gainfully employed, living independently, and one has even earned an MBA.  Believe me—you too will visit an old friend thirty or forty years from now and realize that amazingly, you found direction in your life—and the anxiety surrounding your first post-college job search will have faded into a blurred memory.

Although I have tried repeatedly to find a magic wand and crystal ball to aid me in helping you with your career exploration and decision making, there is ultimately no magic available to make this journey easier.  There may be serendipity along the way—and I wish you a healthy dose of it.  However, I suspect it will take some work and some self-analysis for you to merge your interests, talents, and experiences into a career choice and successful job search.

Please remember that you have lots of people to support you and cheer you on as you begin or continue on the journey to YOUR adulthood and independence—to YOUR own terrace or porch.  You know how to find us in Career Services.  Please reach out and let us know how we can help you get started on the path to your porch—and if you should happen to stumble upon a magic wand or crystal ball, feel free to bring that along too.  Maybe we can use it to look to a future with a little more Mayberry in it for us all!

Good luck with exams, hearty congratulations to the Class of 2011, and Happy Summer Vacation to all!