Are You Investing in Yourself?

Tiffany J. Franklin, Associate Director

Congratulations 2017 Graduates! As you celebrate your accomplishments at Penn and take your next steps into the world, whether it’s working full-time, graduate and professional school, volunteering, or travel, it’s a good idea to consider how you will continue to grow as a professional after Penn. For years, you’ve had structured syllabi for classes and countless resources to help you grow just steps from Locust Walk. Now, as you embark on your new life, it’s up to you to ensure your continued growth and to provide structure to the ambiguous endeavor known as professional development.

Why bother with professional development?

Before getting into the how of professional development, let’s talk about the why. Professional development is an investment in yourself. It’s making sure you continue to build skills and remain relevant as the world shifts around you. It’s about staying on top of your game so you can be an agent of change rather than a person reacting to change and trying to keep up.

As a student at Penn, you were all about the possibilities and pondering how you could make your mark on the world in numerous ways. No matter how many years pass since your commencement, never stop asking yourself that question. Keep learning so you can give your future self choices. Do things today that you will thank yourself for in a few years.

Where to begin…

  • Attend Conferences – These are great venues to meet other professionals in the field, learn best practices, gain insights into the future direction of an industry, and meet people in your field.
  • Read industry publications and general business news – Staying informed will help you perform your current job better and is helpful for networking situations, brainstorming, and future interviews.
  • Attend Networking functions Get to know people when you are not looking for a job. Building professional relationships now will make your life much easier for down the road when you are ready to switch positions and call upon some of these contacts.
  • Identify mentors both inside and outside your field. Find people with career paths you admire and see if they are willing to share advice about what has worked for them. Check out QuakerNet to find Penn alumni within every field imaginable. Conduct informational interviews to learn more.
  • Look for dream positions. What skills do you need for those? Where’s the gap between what you can do now and what you will need to do that job? How can you work on that in the meantime? Perhaps taking a course on coding through or a workshop/course at a local college to build your skills.
  • Pay attention to your hobbies and interests. Perhaps your hobbies are just that – distractions for fun that you never want to monetize. But, sometimes there’s more to it. There are stories of many entrepreneurs who turned a blog they started on the side into something that later became their primary source of income. This takes a lot of time and energy, but with commitment, it’s another possibility. Keep in mind that not every interest you pursue has to make sense or relate to your career. When Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class for fun, did he expect it would inform his design aesthetic for wildly successful products at the company he would build?


Keep in mind that Career Services is here for Penn Alumni and we can help you come up with a professional development plan tailored to you. As new grads, this is the best time to develop good habits (investing in a retirement plan, professional development) that will benefit you for years to come.