How Study Abroad Can Be Career Gold

By Claire Klieger

Increasingly, the world is becoming a smaller place and being able to easily navigate in unfamiliar circumstances and different cultures certainly has its advantages. As someone who spent 11 years abroad as a child and teenager, I can’t tout the benefits of studying abroad enough. I think it’s an experience everyone should have if they can. Living some place unfamiliar will give you a perspective and skills that you can use for a lifetime. It has certainly been true for my career. My international living experience is something that has come up in every interview I’ve had as an adult. And I honestly still believe the skills I gained from that experience I use on a daily basis.

Here are the first two installments of our “Study Abroad Advice” series: “Benefits of Studying Abroad” and “Making the Most of Your Time Abroad.” Additionally, if you didn’t catch it the first time, you can read more on Career Strategizing from a Land Far Far Away.

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Tips for the Long Distance Job Search

By Barbara Hewitt

With spring break upon us, I’ve been thinking (a bit jealously I admit) about all the wonderful places Penn students will be travelling to during the coming week. (This week I’ve had students tell me they are headed off to Mexico, Florida, Trinidad/Tobago, and Japan among other places….Ahhhh, the life of a student!)

It is a big world out there, with plenty of places to ultimately settle down for a job. Whether you are looking to return to a place you hold dear to your heart, or seeking to put down roots in a new location, a long distance job search can definitely add a layer of difficulty to the process, which is why I thought I would focus this entry on providing some tips for just such a search.

Before you even begin sending out resumes and cover letters to far-away employers, recognize the challenges that you might face. If the location is entirely new to you, your network will likely not be well established there. Some employers will be hesitant to hire applicants unfamiliar with the area, worried that you may not stay long. If it is an organization that pays for interview travel costs, they will undoubtedly find it cheaper to bring in local candidates. If you are looking internationally, even the communications process can be difficult, as what is the middle of the day for prospective employers may be the middle of the night for you.

However, even with all the hurdles, it IS possible to land a job across the country or the world. During the initial stages of your search, it is wise to focus your search enough to make it manageable. Looking for a job “West of the Rockies” may be a bit too broad to start with, unless you are seeking opportunities in a relatively small industry. Start focused, and then you can expand your search later if necessary. Learn as much as you can about the growth industries in the area, the economy, and the demographics. For example, if you know that the area has a large Spanish speaking population, it would be helpful to highlight your Spanish language skills on your resume. If possible, plan at least one (preferably two) trips to the area. The first trip could be ideal for networking, exploring housing options, and conducting informational interviews, while the second could focus on actually scheduling interviews with employers. (Hopefully you can line up a number of them to help make the trip most effective.)

There are a variety of ways to research potential employers including checking out websites for the local Chamber of Commerce, which often provides a list of member organizations and may coordinate networking events. You might also research regional trade associations in your industry of interest, as they may sponsor conferences (great for networking!) and list available jobs on their websites. An added plus is that often student memberships are extremely affordable! You might also check to see if there are any career fairs that will be held in the area, and plan a trip to the area to coincide with it.

Read the local paper, as it can be very helpful in uncovering employers which might be hiring. That article about the advertising agency getting a brand new account or a real estate firm developing a new shopping center could inspire you to send them your resume! Newspapers will also help you when you go on your interview. It’s important to know how the local sports teams are doing and what the big issues are in the community. You never know what will come up over lunch when interviewing with prospective employers….and a familiarity with the community could be a big advantage.

Online sites such as or can let you search opportunities by geographic location and keyword, which can be extremely helpful. PennLink also has an option to search by zip code. The RileyGuide can help you find specific job boards for regions of the country. Specific city web sites can also be useful.

In a long distance job search, networking is critical! Check out PACNet (Penn Alumni Career Network) and regional alumni clubs to see if you might be able to schedule informational interviews with alumni in the area. Talk to other contacts you might have (friends’ parents, parents’ friends, faculty, etc.) about your interest in a particular region. You never know who might have the perfect lead for you!

In your cover letters, discuss any ties you may have to the area and the reasons you want to move there. Indicate if you plan to be in the area in the near future and suggest arranging an interview to coincide with it. It can often move the process along more quickly if the employer knows they won’t have to pay your travel costs. If you don’t plan to visit soon, suggest the possibility of an initial phone interview to discuss the position. Note that the Career Services office also has videoconferencing services available which current students can use to conduct interviews with distant employers. Skype might also be a good option to suggest for smaller employers which might not have more elaborate videoconferencing facilities easily available to them.

A long distance job can take longer and be more challenging than a local search, but it is successfully done by job seekers every day. (Want proof? California is the second most common destination state for Wharton graduates in most years.) You can land a position in a far-away place…you just need to be willing to put some extra effort into the search.

Say it Ain’t Snow

By Claire Klieger

Remember how excited you were when we had our first major snow storm of the season—all those beautiful flakes falling and covering campus in a blanket of peaceful white? And now, 70-plus inches later, just hearing the words “chance of snow showers” incites groans, hair pulling and the desire to throw things (or, at least it does when you are responsible for shoveling and driving in the stuff).

Even when it's stormy, you've got to keep trudging along in the job search.

Your job/internship search can often be a similar emotional roller coaster.  You may start out excited by the prospect of new opportunities and the many interesting postings at the click of your fingertips. However, in this stormy economy, it’s really hard to stay motivated if multiple applications yield few results.  If you have gone far enough along in the interview process to start imagining your name on the business cards, it can be especially demoralizing. Like this year’s winter weather, it may feel like your torment will never be over.

Whether OCR did not pan out for you or you just aren’t having much luck in your search, it is important to keep looking. Rather than giving into that urge to just throw yourself under a blanket and live in your PJs, now is the time to reconsider your strategy. Are you looking in the right places? Is your resume effectively highlighting your relevant skills or experiences?  Are you networking? Do your interview skills need work? Come talk to us in Career Services to see if there are tools to help you better weather your search.

Even though they are calling for snow (again) on Wednesday, eventually warm weather will be here (sooner than later for those of you going to sunny destinations for spring break).  There are lots of great jobs and internships still out there. In fact, for internships, peak season for postings is actually March. To be successful you just need to continue to put yourself out there. So, keep those wellies or uggs and that rain coat handy (as well as a retooled resume and networking or interview techniques) and when you hear that fateful weather forecast, take a deep breath (after possibly a few choice and colorful words) and say “bring it.”

Pregnancy. Never to be described as the elephant in the room, for obvious reasons.

Dr. Joseph Barber

My wife is having a baby. Well…, not right now obviously. I’m not one to “tweet” about the immediate goings-on in my life, as it is hard enough for me to keep track of them, let alone update other people. So…, my wife is going to have a baby in early spring. This is a fact that is now obvious if you see her, but was not, until recently, apparent to my colleagues at Career Services who had not seen her, and did not know her.  It was a fact that I had not shared, for no other reason than it had not really come up in conversation.

“Yes, we have three speakers confirmed for the “Expanded Career Opportunities for Science and Engineering PhDs” panel discussion scheduled for the 30th November. Unlike my wife, none of them appear to be pregnant”

The proverbial cat was let out of the bag when my wife came to speak at the “Expanded Career Opportunities for PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences” panel discussion put on by one of my colleagues at Career Services. My wife has a PhD in anthropology and now works as an Executive Director of a non-profit organization here in Philadelphia.  As soon as that cat was unleashed from its bag, it ran around the Career Services office with frightening, supersonic speed. My colleagues both congratulated me and then chastised me for not sharing this exciting news earlier. I only started at Career Services in September, and so perhaps I can use this fact as a partial excuse.

You can probably see where I am going to go with this. It is easy enough for me to (unintentionally) conceal the fact that my wife is pregnant, and despite the many adventures that March will bring (caring for a baby is much like taking care of cats, right?), I can continue to turn up each day and do my work without too much trouble. If I were applying for a job, would my wife’s pregnancy be something I would share? Probably not, unless it just came up in casual conversation, perhaps with an interviewer who had also recently had a child. Building some common ground with future colleagues is not necessarily a bad idea. Would employers care if my wife was having a baby? Well, some employers might see this as a positive, because if I got the job, I would probably work hard to keep it and the necessary benefits that came along with it.

Understanding the culture of the organizations you are applying to will be important in terms of how much information you might be willing to share. Some places are likely to be more “baby-friendly” than others. Taking the opportunity to conduct informational interviews with someone from the organization might help you find out more about this culture, and give you a better perspective. You should also find out about Family and Medical Leave benefits that employers might offer for fathers and mothers.

But what if I was a woman…, or perhaps less confusingly, what if my wife was applying for jobs while pregnant? Should she talk about babies, family, personal goals, or any of that? In general terms, if she were not showing, then she wouldn’t have to say anything about being pregnant. The same is true during phone interviews where there are no visual clues. Being pregnant does not prevent anyone from using their academic and work-based skills in the jobs they are applying to, whether these are academic or non-academic careers. When it is obvious that you are pregnant, you should probably make mention of it, even though you are generally not required to do so during interviews. Most employers are legally bound not to ask you about personal matters like this as part of interviews (or to discriminate against you for being pregnant), but the topic of families might come up if your interviews have some social element associated with them (e.g., a 2-day campus interview for a faculty position with lunches, dinners, or other social gatherings).  If it is obvious you are pregnant, it is best to address it head-on, and address it confidently.


Being pregnant provides you with an opportunity to illustrate some key skills, and show your understanding of the requirements of the job. For example, if you have thought about how you intend to rear a child and work full//part-time at the organization you are applying to, and can present your proposed approach coherently to employers, you are showing an ability to plan and organize your time effectively, and to use a little creative problem-solving to do so. For example, for academic jobs you might be able to have your classes organized ahead of time, or be able to convert them into hybrid/blended courses (part face-to-face, part on-line) prior to the start of the semester. But interviews should not get side-tracked by your pregnancy; you need to make sure that the focus remains on your teaching and research skills for academic jobs, and your relevant transferable skills (e.g., leadership, team-work, communication) for jobs outside of academia. You need to stick in your interviewers’ heads as an outstanding candidate, not as a pregnant candidate.

You can learn more about pregnancy and its relation to academic job searching, and non-academic job searching, by following these links. Wish me luck for the spring, because there is no doubt in my mind that I will need it – lots and lots of it – especially as I have just been told that looking after a baby is absolutely not the same as looking after cats.

Thoughts on Black Friday

by Barbara Hewitt

Unfortunately, my five-year old daughter made it to the mailbox before I did and quickly claimed the American Girl catalog which had arrived that day.  (Don’t ask me how we got on their mailing list…I have no idea why the publication mysteriously appeared in our box.)  Jordan and her seven-year old sister Sierra were absolutely thrilled with the many options presented to them in the catalog and spent over an hour deciding which would be the best choice for them. They then interrupted my bath to formally present their choices to me. (As any mother knows, this is the ONLY time a mom gets a few minutes to herself, so the interruption wasn’t entirely welcome to begin with!)

May have been fun in 1909, but in 2009 there are so many fancy alternatives!
This doll may have been fun in 1909, but in 2009 there are so many fancy alternatives!

American Girl dolls seem wonderful. Each comes with a historical back story explained in an accompanying book about the doll.  The downside is that they cost almost $100 each, and of course there are loads of additional items which you can purchase for each doll.  While I already had some other things in mind for Christmas for the girls, I hadn’t planned on spending $200 for the dolls, and I explained this to them, much to their disappointment.  (It prompted them to search the house for change to contribute, resulting in a grand total of $1.73…only $198.27 to go!)

On this “Black Friday”, a day when every retailer in America is pushing for us to go out and single-handedly save the US economy,  I’ve thought a lot about the various values each of us gives preference to as we consider career options. Face it – with most careers we rarely “get it all.”  While the massive amount of  Black Friday advertising may seem innocuous, it can send the underlying message that to be successful and happy we need to own it all.   Whether it be a big house in a swanky neighborhood, luxury clothes that will make a statement at work, or even an American Girl doll….as the amount of perceived “needs” goes up so does the requirement to find a job that will support the desired lifestyle.  As our financial demands increase, our career options decrease, as the number of positions that will pay a high enough salary to cover all of our “needs” is reduced.

Maybe we could reconsider what we really "need" and instead think more about the things we value.
Maybe we could reconsider what we really "need" and instead think more about the things we value.

I love working at Penn.  The atmosphere is vibrant, the students are smart and motivated, my colleagues are indeed “collegial” and the benefits are wonderful.  However, an impressive signing bonus, hefty annual bonus, and huge paycheck are simply not part of the equation when working for a nonprofit organization. (Yes, Penn is a nonprofit!) That being said, my job provides the work life balance I need right now in my life, so that I can eat dinner most nights with my kids and take them to their swim lessons on the weekends.  To me, that’s worth more any day of the week than being able to buy every new toy that comes on the market.