The Post-college Juggling Act

Sarah Hastings, Career Adviser

During a recent move, I was reminded of the stressors and challenges associated with the process. It’s true multi-tasking – planning ahead while tying up loose ends. This move got me thinking of my first summer out of college. I was not only moving, but starting a new job, managing significant expenses, and taking on many new responsibilities. Talk about juggling multiple life events at once! For new graduates, the post college adventure is likely both exciting and stressful. There are many life changes occurring in a very short period of time.

It’s important to continue the self-care you practiced during your college years and find balance as you navigate this transition. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:

1 – Take advantage of the support and advice from friends and family. Sure, thanks to social media it’s never been easier to stay in touch. However, when you are managing multiple stressors it can feel overwhelming to stop and connect with others. Consider asking a close friend or relative to check in with you periodically. Knowing someone is there as a constant presence can make a big difference as you find your ground and troubleshoot new situations.

2 – Be aware of resources available to you as you make your next move. Knowing where to look for helpful information can save you time and take some pressure offer during stressful transitions. You’ll be able to anticipate next steps and feel more confident that you are making well-informed decisions. The Career Services website is a great place to start. Whether it’s a salary or cost of living calculator or our list of relocation tips, you are sure to find valuable advice and resources.

3 – Stay connected to Penn. There are Penn Alumni Regional Clubs all over the world. While living and working in London after graduation, I connected with my own university’s alumni chapter there and built a network of great people while settling in far from home. In addition to building friendships, I learned great tips on living like a local, the healthcare system, you name it!

Best of luck as you begin this next stage. Wherever your journey takes you, there’s nothing more important than taking care of yourself and having someone, even just one person, be your “go to” as you make your way.

Career exploration solutions – using your research skills

Dr. Joseph Barber, Associate Director

One of the common challenges faced by PhD students and postdocs is being able to make certain and confident career decisions that are different from those supported or promoted by their thesis advisors. Given the many career paths taken by PhDs, and the many career fields that value some of the skills, experiences, and knowledge provided by a PhD, it can be challenging to gain a clear enough perspective on which path (or paths) might be the best to pursue. The good news for PhD students and postdocs, is that your academic training gives you the ability to solve some of these issues by yourself without having to rely on your advisor. Indeed, your advisor has given you the some of the skills you need to come up with a solution – your ability to do research! All you have to do is apply these research skills to a field beyond your thesis topic. Here are some common career-related questions that a little bit of in-person and online research can help you answer:

What do people with a PhD in my field do if they are not a postdoc or faculty member?

Ask your administrative department coordinator if they maintain a list of alumni from your research group or department and review their current positions. Ask more senior PhD students or postdocs where they have seen people going after graduation or when their postdoc finishes.

Use QuakerNet to search for alums by degree, field, location, and so on.

Get a LinkedIn account (don’t worry, it is just a tool, not a lifestyle change), and under the “my network” header on every page select the “find alumni” tool. You can use this interactive table to search by “what they studied” (click on the arrow on the right hand side of the first 3 columns to get to this one), and then you can use the overall search box at the top of the table (next to the number of results) to do a broad keyword search using “PhD” or “Ph.D.”. You can use the “find alumni” tool for any university, even if you didn’t attend it. If you were going to be relocating to the West Coast from the Philadelphia area, for example, you can look at where PhDs in your field from West Coast institutions find employment, as you may come across location-specific organizations you didn’t know.

What skills are needed to be an X (where X is any position you can imagine)?

1. Use the same alumni networks described above to find people in the position that you think you might want and have an informational interview with them (i.e., ask them about their job, how they got there, what skills they find most helpful, what challenges they tend to face on a day-to-day basis, what advice they might give people considering their career field, and if they can suggest anyone they know that you might chat with).

2. Use the title of the job and any associated keywords to search online job boards (e.g.,;;;; LinkedIn). Keep track of which companies have the position (an Excel spreadsheet works well), and pay attention to the list of skills and requirements associated with the position. Assess which of these skills you have, and which you can develop using some of the campus resources still available to you. Since it can sometimes feel hard to self-assess your own skills, work with a career advisor to get a more objective (and you’ll find, more optimistic) perspective.

3. Look at people’s profiles on LinkedIn who are doing this job and scroll down to see the list of their endorsed skills.

What can I do with skill X (where skill X is something that you might have developed through your thesis research – e.g., ethnography, data visualization, surveys, archival research)?

1. Use the skill as a keyword as you search job boards, and see what types of jobs pop up. This won’t be helpful if you are searching for a broad skills (e.g., teaching, research), but can also be helpful if you have a particular subject/knowledge expertise.

2. Go back to the “find alumni” tool on LinkedIn and look at the “What they’re skilled at” column. Type in your skill and then look at the companies and roles in which people who say they have this skill are employed. People who say they are skilled at ethnography can be found at Google and Mattel, just as an example.

What is the job market like for job X?

In addition to asking contacts you make in any career field this question, you can also get a decent visualization of trends by using the trend function on For example, throw in the word “assistant professor” into the search bar (include the “”), and you will see the cyclical nature of hiring for this position. Look for “data science”, and you will see how this position has been trending upwards in its prevalence. You can even search for specific skills that might be mentioned within the job descriptions (e.g., python, GIS) to see if these are skills you might need to gain.


How can I find a good contact at employer X?

No matter what career field you are interested in, chances are high that you know someone who knows someone in this career field who might be a useful contact. However, this person who happens to know a good contact is unlikely to dramatically wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and exclaim out loud to their now no longer sleeping partner, “My gosh…, I should let them know that I know a senior scientist at Merck who might be a great contact in their search for industry positions!”. One of the reasons that they don’t tend to wake up like this is probably because you haven’t actually told then you are seeking a contact in the biotech industry. Even if you have mentioned it in passing once, they are probably incredibly busy working on their own life that they might have forgotten.

Let’s call this person who doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night, and doesn’t start gibbering about biotech and pharma researchers at Merck, and doesn’t then reach out to you with a great contact, Maggie. It is very possible for Maggie to know someone at Merck without knowing that she knows someone at Merck. After all, the person she knows might not have been at Merck when she first met them. Perhaps they were at GSK, but have recently taken a new job at Merck where they are leading a new research group and looking to bring new people on board (people, as it turns out, like you!). Maggie doesn’t know any of this. However, if you are linked with Maggie on LinkedIn, then you stand a much greater chance of finding this out. If you were to search for Merck using company search bar on LinkedIn, then on the employer page you will see in the top right hand corner of the page the number of 1st  and 2nd degree contacts. Click on any of these 2nd degree connections (people you don’t know, but who know people you do know) and scroll done their profile to see who you know who knows them. When you find out that Maggie knows someone at Merck (which is news to Maggie), there are many ways she can actually help you:

1. You can ask Maggie if the person she knows might be a good person to talk to with the specific questions you have.

2. You can ask Maggie is she has an actual email or phone number she can share with you (something that LinkedIn doesn’t like to do).

3. You can ask if Maggie can introduce you to the contact.

4. You can ask Maggie if you can use her name when reaching out to the contact.

All of these approaches will increase the likelihood that Maggie’s contact will actually speak with you. Getting the conversation started is the first step towards making the most of a new connection who can help you achieve some of your career exploration goals.

In terms of career exploration, the goal is for you to use your already well-developed research skills to understand people, their career pathways, their skills, and their connections. You should develop specific career-focused questions you need answers for, and then don’t stop researching until you have found answers that are meaningful to you. This will mean taking advantage of online tools like LinkedIn to help you find and make real-life connections, because it is these people who will help you answer your questions.

Check out the new LinkedIn Students App

Alyssa Perkins-Chatterton, Administrative Assistant for the College Team

Last week, LinkedIn launched its newest feature, the LinkedIn linkinStudents app. The app is geared specifically graduating seniors who are looking for help in their job search. The app helps you look for jobs that are a good fit based on your major, companies that recruit at your school and the career paths of alumni with similar degrees.*

LinkedIn wants students to look at this new tool as their “personal job exploration guide”. When accessing the app you are given 5 items to review: a career suggestion based on your school and major, an article to read on various career-related topics, a company that often recruits from your school, a list of job suggestions based on recent alumni from your school with a similar major, and lastly, the app provides an actual job posting that you might be interested in based on your major/school.** What is also helpful is the “extra credit” option that allows you to swipe through more of these suggestions and add even more information about yourself such as your interests, goals and careers you find interesting. This option allows you to have a more personalized experience. Keep in mind that the app does tend to use a student’s major as one of the main data points when making suggestions. As we know, your major does not firmly dictate a straight path to your career. We’ve had English majors go into Finance and Religious Studies majors join the FBI! Just check out our survey reports to see! While your major should certainly reflect your interests, your supplemental activities and internships also help you learn what career path is right for you. This is especially true for our liberal arts students who can often have a variety of experiences that contribute to their career goals. That being said, be sure to utilize the extra credit section and add in those extra details about your interests and goals in order to have a more tailored experience!

studentappIn general, LinkedIn has received positive feedback from student users. The most common trend being that students reported the app very easy to use and navigate.

This is a great first step and career exploration tool for graduating seniors to use when planning for those next steps. However, be sure to utilize our office and resources as well! Again, we have career plan survey reports that offer great data and insight into what our recent grads are doing post Penn. And as always, call us to make an appointment or stop by for walk-in hours! We are here for all of your career related needs.


Networking Inspiration.

Networking.  Right now, I’ve been talking to students, alumni and colleagues alike about how important it is to network.  Many people loathe the idea of networking.  They don’t know what to say, or do.  You’re not alone.  Everyone, at one point or another, has been intimidated by the idea of a networking event or reaching out to someone established in their field of interest, including myself.

But, I got past this fear because I wanted to succeed. I wanted to understand – what do I need to do get ahead in my field?  What does an expert know that I don’t?  What could I do differently? I found that everyone I reached out to was receptive and helpful.  My fear was unwarranted.

So, I’d like to offer some inspiration from the mother of all networking platforms in the professional world – LinkedIn.  I came across this on Twitter from my friend John Hill, LinkedIn’s Higher Education Evangelist (@linkedinjohn). “Opportunity presents itself one connection at a time!”  Meaning,  if you do not reach out to connect, you could miss out on incredible opportunities.  I encourage you to reach out, connect and you might be surprised what comes your way.





Getting Rid of New Job Worries

By Julie Vick

What if I don’t like my new job? This question may be on the minds of some very recent graduates. With the recession still hanging on, the feeling that “any job is better than no job” and/or family pressure may have encouraged some to accept an offer that they weren’t all that excited about. Now, as the first day of work approaches, some may be having second thoughts. If that is the case for you, here is a little advice we hope you’ll take to heart:

• Don’t do the most drastic thing and quit before starting, which is a form of reneging on your offer. The world is small and a very negative picture of you may get around to potential employers. And it doesn’t reflect well on Penn either.
• Don’t start your job with the idea that you’ll “bide your time” till a year has passed and you can leave in good standing. Instead, have a positive attitude and do your job well.

• Decide that you are going to learn at least one new thing each day. You may have to make an effort to do it but most likely it will happen without you even noticing as you “get your feet wet”. Keep a record of what you are learning and before you know it you will have written the next entry for your resume.
• Try to talk to someone new every week. It might be someone in your division or department; it might be someone who works for your employer in another part of the organization; it might be a client. Again, keep track of the people you talk with. With ongoing interaction, some of them will become part of your network.

Remember that your first job after graduation probably will not be the job you have for the rest of your life. You will move on. And keep in mind that no one loves every aspect of their work every single day. But with each day you will hopefully develop confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your plans for the future. You will no longer be perceived as a student but as a professional in your field. The experience you get in this first job will help you with the next one, one that will be a better fit and that excites you more.