LinkedIn and Career Research

The fall semester is a good time to reflect on next steps in your job and internship searches. Career Services is here to assist you with navigating the process.  One of the most commonly asked questions from students is “How do I learn more about a particular field/company/speak with people who work there?”.  LinkedIn has become one of the most effective and efficient resources to facilitate introductions, create connections, and learn about employers, industries, and job opportunities.  Using LinkedIn as an information tool is an important aspect of your career exploration and job search.  It serves a variety of purposes such as:  branding yourself/skills, researching employers, as well as connecting with people who can share their insight on topics and career fields and answer your questions.  LinkedIn also provides a convenient and efficient way to network.  Networking is divided into two parts.  First, it can be viewed as an opportunity to gather information and second, it allows you to share information about yourself in order to achieve your career goals.  October is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with LinkedIn and start to establish some connections.  Some key aspects to remember when using LinkedIn:

    • When using LinkedIn, be sure to join the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Group. You’re eligible to be a part of this community while both a student and after you have graduated.
    • Remember that your profile is your brand. Therefore, you want to ensure it’s a professional looking photo (e.g. not from a social/party setting). The summary section on your profile is a narrative that describes your academic and professional background.
    • Linkedin enables you to learn about employers that interest you. You can elect to follow employers within the newsfeed in addition to identifying potential connections at that company who could share with you their advice and insight into their experience, culture and mission of the company, and the hiring process/recruiting process.
    • Connections may be defined as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree. The category next to a person’s name indicates how you might know the person and who you may mutually be connected to. This is very useful to know since you could then potentially reach out to a mutual connection and ask for an “e-introduction” with the alumnus/alumna. In the message, you could ask for a 15-20 minute conversation to ask the alum about his/her role, experience at the company and advice he/she may have for you as you move forward with your job search.
  • We can help you with using LinkedIn as a networking tool so feel free to come in for an advising appointment at Career Services. Appointments can be made by calling 215-898-7531 or through Handshake.

Networking for International Students

Dr. Esther H. Ra, Career Advisor for Nursing, Education, and Social Policy & Practice

According to Merriam Webster online, it defines networking as: Networking: noun net·work·ing \ˈnet-ˌwər-kiŋ\

1: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Here at Penn, we are proud to have in our midst a diverse body of scholars who come from across the globe. It is not unusual to rub shoulders with a student with multi-lingual fluencies or who was born and educated overseas before arriving at Penn. Such students are wonderful assets to our Penn community and we, here at Career Services, have the pleasure of advising them on career-related topics and helping them to navigate the job search, whether it be in the United States or abroad. Many of the questions I often address with our international students pertain to the nuts and bolts of networking, which include: How do I start networking in a foreign country when I don’t know anyone? When and how should I say what I want to say and how should I proceed? Also, students have sometimes expressed self-consciousness in their English language skills when approaching Americans, who may be of higher status or individuals who they have never met. These are all valid concerns and make networking daunting even for a native English speaker, however, they should not deter students from reaching out and making connections with the community around them.

Why is Networking Important?

Why network? Do I have to reach out to individuals I do not know very well and strike up professional conversations with them? The answer is yes. Often, I will hear from students that they prefer not to bother others or be in such awkward situations, however, networking is essential to delving into the hidden job market. Without proactive networking, it is difficult to tap into the stream of positions that never even make it onto an organization’s website. According to LinkedIn, a study reveals that 85% of jobs are obtained through networking1. Many jobs are shared internally first to identify a qualified candidate before being posted publicly. If a qualified candidate is located prior to a job becoming public, often the positions are filled accordingly. Networking is instrumental to obtaining a desired job, so it is imperative to be intentional about reaching out.

The Greeting: Handshake, Eye contact, and Smile

Perhaps, one American civility that may be quite universal in all professional settings is the handshake. Typically, handshakes are used when greeting an individual for the first time and sometimes even thereafter for subsequent meetings. Some tips to remember are:

Be firm. When shaking a potential employer or interviewer’s hand, be sure to give it good shake. It need not be extremely vigorous, however, a weak handshake, often called “the dead fish handshake” can be remembered negatively and leave a bad impression. A firm handshake, one where a firm grasp of the palm and fingers occurs, connotes confidence and ability, while a weak handshake, one where the fingers do not grasp the other’s palm and fingers, connotes introversion and anxiety.

Make eye contact. When shaking an individual’s hand, be sure to make good eye contact. In some cultures, it may be rude to look directly into someone’s eye, however, in professional settings in the US, it is expected and acceptable to meet someone’s gaze, particularly when greeting them for the first time. When speaking, it is also important to make direct eye contact from time to time, to display feelings of interest and commitment to the conversation.

Share a smile. Generally speaking, Americans appreciate neighborliness and conversation. After shaking hands, making good eye contact, be open and share a welcoming smile. A warm smile can go a long way while networking, positioning yourself as friendly and accessible. Such a simple act can open doors for more casual conversations, as well as, light-hearted moments between potential interviewers, which can make the process seem less intimidating.

Informational Interviews

Take advantage of informational interviews, especially while at Penn. Do take the time to set up informational interviews with professors, colleagues, classmates, and alums. Yes, it takes a bit of legwork to find individuals to network with, but the gains after doing your initial research, will pay itself forward after graduation. Also, so many individuals, such as alums and professors, are very willing to help, one needs only to inquire. Many alums have often been in the same position and have expressed a willingness to speak to current students to help begin their networking journey. Please check out our resources on Penn’s Career website for more information on dos and don’ts of networking:

Resources for International Students

There are several sites I encourage international students to peruse: 1) Penn Career Services:

Our website, of course, is chockful of practical and useful information for all students, including international students. The networking section outlines protocols that may help familiarize students with typical American networking interactions. We also have networking tips located in our video archives, which can also be accessed and viewed.  2) Another website that is extremely useful is GoinGlobal:

This is a comprehensive global website that helps the career search by country, profession, and topic.

3) Last, but not least, many of our international students have sought out the help of Marks Family Writing Center on Penn Campus:

The Center is a wonderful place to receive regular help on writing cover letters and any other correspondence. It is always recommended that students, international or not, receive feedback on their resume and cover letter, or any other communication. Of course, advisors in our office are always more than willing to look over your resume/CVs and cover letters. However, if you are not able to get the documents to us in time, be sure a classmate or family member can take a look before submitting an application.

If you are a Penn international student and need any help with career-related issues, please come in and visit us! Allow us to help you navigate the sometimes choppy waters of networking. Penn’s Career Services advisors are here to help. We look forward to meeting with you!

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.

Networking Using Technology: Quakernet & LinkedIn

Anne Marie Gercke, Associate Director

The term “networking” can be daunting, especially for those of us who don’t find “schmoozing” or “wheeling and dealing” to be experiences we typically enjoy. For that reason, job-seekers may feel frustrated or even stressed when it constantly pops up in career-related conversations. When I ask my students about their networking endeavors, I will sometimes hear, “Oh, I don’t really have any helpful connections.” In reality, any Penn student or alum with a PennKey has thousands of connections. They just need to know where – and how – to look and find them.

So, here is a quick tutorial to help those students and alumni who have not yet been able to master the art of networking.

First, this is what you’ll need:

  1. Computer/internet access
  2. PennKey and password

Second, here is what you can proactively do:

  1. Create a LinkedIn account (if you don’t already have one)
  2. Bookmark these sites: LinkedIn Find Alumni Tool | Quakernet
  3. Join the University of Pennsylvania LinkedIn Alumni Group (you are welcome to join as a current student)

Next, we will start with LinkedIn to find some alums. When you go to the Find Alumni Tool, you’ll see a page that looks like this:

The site currently pre-populates with over 145,000 alums who have Penn as their most recent university. You can filter the results so that you are working with a more manageable number. For ease, we will narrow it to alums who work at Google in San Francisco. You can do this by clicking on the tabs for Google and San Francisco Bay Area and the results will automatically refilter.

Now we have 256 results. We could narrow even further, but this will do for now. I’ll scroll down to the first row of results to see what we have.

I’ve hidden the identities of these alums to respect their privacy, but this screenshot should give you the general idea of what you’ll see. These are the first five of 256 Penn alums working at Google in the San Francisco Bay Area. This view allows you to see some basic information, like their graduation year and if you have connections in common (see red arrow). If you click on their name and then their profile, you can learn more about them and their career. Let’s click on that first result.

We can see that this person works for Google as the Latin America Marketing Lead. If it would make sense to connect based on your interests, you may reach out to one of your mutual connections (in this case, the screen is showing us we have two connections in common, but again, I hid the photos of the connections to protect their privacy since this tutorial is for information purposes only). I could then potentially reach out to a mutual connection to ask for an “e-introduction” with the alum. The goal would be to set up a 15-20 minute conversation to ask the alum about his/her role, experience at the company and advice he/she may have for you in the field. This is what we call informational interviewing and this is how networking is accomplished.

I know what you are thinking. Is it normal to contact strangers out of the blue? Short answer: yes. Your peers are doing it. More importantly, your direct competition is doing it. You should be doing it. Most alums are very happy to chat. For any job you are considering applying to, it’s a really great practice to try to reach out to at least someone at the company beforehand to try to make a connection. As you can see here, thanks to technology, it doesn’t have to take a ton of time.

Sometimes you will not have anyone in common with the fellow Quaker. Perhaps when you click on the person’s name, however, you see you are in the same group.

If you are in the University of Pennsylvania LinkedIn Alumni Group and you see the word ‘Group’ like you do above, it’s very plausible that is the group to which you both belong as there are currently 40k+ members. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn requires you to simultaneously request to connect if you want to message someone (if you aren’t already connected). But if you are in the same group, you can navigate to that group, type the person’s name into the member search, toggle over their name and a little email icon will show.

That’s how you can send an email through LinkedIn without having to simultaneously ask to connect.

Now let’s say you find someone you’d like to have a conversation with, but you have no connections in common and you aren’t members of the same group. Here’s where Quakernet can come in handy.

Quakernet is a great tool because it’s all encompassing of everyone who has come through Penn, with their email address. When someone gets a new job or is promoted do they run to Quakernet to make sure it’s up-to-date? Maybe. But probably not that often. Since it is such a large database, it’s very difficult to keep it as accurate as LinkedIn, which is solely updated by the individual and much more a part of mainstream social media. That said, here is why Quakernet is a very valuable tool.

Let’s look at this person (see below) as an example. Because I see the 3rd in place of 2nd (meaning we have common connections) or Group (meaning we are in the same group), I know that the only way I could reach out to this person through LinkedIn would be to simultaneously request to connect. Some alums are fine with this, so you can use your discretion on how comfortable you are requesting to connect with people you have never met.

However, another method would be to plug the alum’s name into the Quakernet keyword search to find his email address.

Voila! As you can see, his information hasn’t been updated in Quakernet, so if I had run a search in Quakernet this alum wouldn’t have been part of the results because he doesn’t have Google in his profile. However, when I click on his profile I am able to get his direct email address (in most cases several emails addresses) so the database is an excellent too for finding contact information. Once I found him through Quakernet I’d send him an email indicating I found his information through Penn’s networking tools and I’d be really grateful for 15-20 minutes of his time to talk about his career in marketing. Again, having these conversations and making connections is an effective and efficient way to network, and if you follow the steps I outlined, it doesn’t have to be quite as daunting as it seems.

You can learn more about networking on our website, and we are happy to walk you through the process in person, as well. Now that you have the tools and know how to use them, get out there and connect!


Using Marketing Principles as a Job Seeker

Dr. Joseph Barber, Associate Director

I am currently taking an “Introduction to marketing” course on Coursera as a way to think about the whole job search process in a slightly different way. Marketing is actually a very relevant topic when it comes to the process of career development. At some point as a job seeker, you are trying to encourage another entity (an employer) to purchase your product (your skills, experiences, and knowledge). To do this, you have to have a product worth buying, you have to know how to sell that product, and you have to know how to sell that product to a particular segment of customers. So far, some of the most pertinent topics covered in the course include the idea that no matter what the product is, it won’t be equally attractive to the entire customer base. In other words, some buyers will really like the product, some will respond to it fairly neutrally (they might buy it, but they might equally buy a similar product from another vendor), and some won’t find it attractive at all. In business, it generally makes the most sense to focus efforts on the subset of the population who really likes the product (taking a customer-centric approach and using a process of segmentation), rather than just hoping that everyone will find your product equally attractive (a product-centric approach). One of the career analogies here is quite clear. Sending out 50 versions of the same resume to 50 different companies (even if the job being applied for is similar – e.g., medical writer) won’t work as well as really taking the time to understand the differences between the employers, and targeting the most attractive and relevant ones with highly tailored application materials.

So far in the course, several marketing principles, assumptions, and theories have been shared, and I am still processing this information in my mind. It is interesting, though, to look for other areas of overlap between these concepts and what we focus on as career advisors. Here are three market-driven principles that were shared:

  1. Know your markets
  2. Customers have the final say
  3. Be the best at one of these three concepts (compared to the competition): operational excellence, performance superiority, and customer intimacy, but just good enough in the other two

Knowing the market is essential. The more you understand about who your customers are (and in career terms these are hiring employers), the easier it is to convince them that you have what they are looking for. If employers are the customers in this case, then they still get the final say. That means that there is little point in telling an employer about all of the great work you have done, and all of the super experiences that you have gained, if this information does not align with what the employer is looking for. For example, over the course of a 5-year PhD, a graduate student can gain a very wide range of transferable skills. However, one of the consequences of doing a PhD is often a lack of practice talking about these skills outside of the context of the very specific research field the student has been working on. In an interview for a non-faculty job, PhD students and postdocs have to be careful not to answer the question “so tell me about your research” by actually spending 5 minutes talking about the specifics of their research. Instead, they have to be able to answer “so tell me how you did your research”, because the answer to this question will be much more skills-focused. Additionally, having completed a 5 year PhD and a 5 year postdoc, there may be some expectation on the side of the candidate that these combined experiences by themselves should qualify them for a wide range of positions. This is not the case – the employer wants the candidates to be able to show how these experiences make them a good fit, and wants the candidate to be able to demonstrate this level of understanding.

And then the idea of being the best at one of the concepts listed above (operational excellence, performance superiority, and customer intimacy), but good enough at the other two, might be relevant to the job seeker as a way to show that there are different approaches to successfully landing a position. Performance superiority might represent the research skills a student has gained. Someone with 15 published papers and two grants might demonstrate performance superiority. Operational excellence might represent the number of connections that a candidate has in different career fields, or their knowledge of these fields and of what employers are looking for based on extensive research into their different career fields. Customer intimacy would represent the degree to which a candidate has actually initiated and then further developed relationships with contacts at different employers through collaborations or networking (taking the idea of knowing people to the more advanced level of having professional relationships with these people). Given this, the following scenarios demonstrate how excellence in any of these three areas can help. Someone might be hired because they are the best at what they do even if they don’t have a lot of contacts or professional relationships with employers, or even if they don’t know much about the business itself (they can easily be trained in that, for example). Another person might get hired because they have been able to craft a spectacular resume that shows that they understand the nature of the position to which they are applying, even if they are not the best candidate in terms of their accomplishments (the most accomplished individual who cannot articulate how their accomplishments are relevant might not get the job, after all). And finally, someone else might get hired even though they are not the most accomplished, and even if they don’t have a smart-looking, tailored resume, but because they have great working relationships with people at a specific company, and those future colleagues can easily see themselves working with the candidate for the foreseeable future (fit always plays a role in hiring decisions). You only need to be the best in one of these dimensions…, but it helps if you are not terrible at the other two.

One other marketing topic that is directly relevant to the job search is the idea of brand positioning. One of the points mentioned in the course is the idea that a personal brand is not what you say about yourself, but represents what others say about you. You can come up with a really snappy brand statement about yourself, a well-craft narrative about what skills and experience you bring, but if this is not how the customers see you, then these statements won’t stick. This is another good reason to develop a broad professional network, and to cultivate this network carefully, and tend to it frequently. It will be people in this network who create your personal brand. You can help them through your interactions, through being able to articulate your unique selling proposition (the clear, simple, and unique benefits you bring), but beyond that, they will define your brand for you. When it comes to branding, the goal is to get consumers to notice the brand, but also to understand the information it represents. Just like with resumes, if there is too much information (and especially too much irrelevant information), the audience will likely block all of it out. Clear, concise, target-focused information should be at the heart of personal brands, resumes, and pretty much any form of communication.

I have obviously got more to learn about marketing, and hopefully will come across more ideas for how marketing principles can help individual job seekers. Interestingly, I think there will be information from this course that can also be used by institutional career centers at universities to better market themselves to their customers (the students and postdocs they serve). From branding, to segmentation and targeting, to customer-centricity, these are all relevant to how we as career advisors can better work with these populations.