Can I Take My Dog To Work?

Editor’s Note: A version of this blog originally ran in June of 2012.

June 21st is Take Your Dog to Work Day! Employees across the nation will collectively bedazzle their furry best friends with tours of their cubicle, the water cooler and perhaps even the view from the corner office. If your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi-friendly company culture, how would you know where to look for work?    To find a good fit with your next position and organization (no matter what your priorities happen to be, pet-friendly is just one example), take advantage of Career Services’ resources to help current students and alumni learn more about the places that they might work.

Researching employers with Career Services’ online resources

Researching potential employers is a critical element of every job search.  It is extremely important at the beginning when you need to identify your options, and necessary during the application and interview stage, to help you communicate the match between a prospective employer’s needs and your relevant skills, values and accomplishments.  Before you are called to interview, do your best to find out the following about the organization:

  • Mission; product/service (i.e., what is the purpose of this company/organization?)
  • Sector: non-profit, private (for-profit), public (government agency)
  • Structure and management
  • Financial health
  • “Clients” and competitors  (i.e., who receives the services of this company, and who else is targeting this group with their services
  • Company/organization culture
  • The hiring process

Career Services offers several online resources through our library subscriptions pages to help you research potential employers.  You must log in with your PennKey and password to access the subscriptions, which are listed alphabetically.  For those interested in exploring industries such as consulting, healthcare, and investment banking, and are particularly useful.  These reference resources allow you to read overviews of various major industries, discover the “major players” (i.e., biggest, influential companies), and learn more about typical position types within each industry.

We also subscribe to ReferenceUSA, which provides contact information as well as specific company data for United States businesses in particular (as well as some Canadian and other international businesses).  If you use the advanced search option, you can get information on credit ratings, company histories, executives’ names, and even the company’s local “competitors”.

For international students, GoinGlobal and H1VisaJobs offer databases which can help you identify the companies who have applied to the federal government in 2010 for H1Visas (this gives you a head start if you know a company is willing to hire international candidates, or is familiar with H1 Visa hiring procedures.)

Use networking as a tool to find out employer or industry information you can’t get through your online research.  If you are a current Penn student or alumnus/a, be sure to use PACNet (our online networking database) to identify alumni who can give you the “inside scoop” on a particular organization or field.

Once you use these resources to research an employer, you will be better able to:

  • Connect your accomplishments to the performance criteria that the organization is looking for.
  • Identify the most important skills, qualifications and experiences that are in demand in a given industry.
  • Assess an organization’s potential workplace needs and how you can contribute given your work style.
  • Show how your goals match those of the company (given its mission, size, structure, and market specialization).
  • Understand how your values match those of the organization; and how the environment will help you be productive.

Employer research makes for a more effective job search, and in fact for a better fit once you land an offer and start your new position.   You (and possibly your pet) will be glad you put the effort in.

Post Script:  How would you know where to look for work, if your number one priority is a Fido or FiFi friendly company culture?  While there are plenty of  websites focused on pet-friendly employers –  unfortunately it seems the number of corporate pet friendly employers is pretty limited, with rating as one of the top.

Reading Days

By Sharon Fleshman

When I speak of “reading days”, I’m not referring to those days between the last day of classes and finals.  I’m talking about setting aside some time to catch up on reading of the non-academic variety.  This is something I’m definitely anticipating as I wrap up a class that I’ve been taking and the pace in my office slows a bit.

After finals, after graduation or at some point during the summer, consider blocking off a few hours a week to read and reflect on developments in your field.  Think of several newspapers, magazines or trade journals that are respected in your current (or targeted) industry.    Commit to regularly skimming these periodicals for articles that intrigue you and provide you with updates and trends.  For online resources, make sure to bookmark the websites for quick access.  You may even want to take a break from your screen; pick up a relevant newspaper or magazine and note items of interest.  Either way, this practice has two primary benefits:

You stay informed about your field.  If you are seeking employment, your growing awareness of your field will likely enhance your conversations during job interviews or networking meetings.  Once you are employed in your field of choice, continuing to be well-read will facilitate your professional development.

You uncover hidden jobs.  For example, you could be reading the business section of a regional newspaper and see that a division of a given company is expanding. As you peruse a website geared toward the non-profit sector, you might find that an organization has received funding for a new project.   Both of these scenarios would present opportunities for you to investigate the possibility of applying to jobs that haven’t been posted yet.

If you’d like to brainstorm ways to make the most of “reading days” for your career development or job search, contact a Career Services advisor or consult with a mentor in your field of interest.  In the meantime, be sure to also venture into other genres, such as novels, biographies, or essays, which can inspire and energize you for the road ahead.

I want to work here because…

by Sharon Fleshman

When I work with students on cover letters or mock interviews, they can find it challenging to articulate what appeals to them about a particular employer.  Indeed, all of the non-profits, businesses, schools, hospitals, and agencies seem to look alike after writing the umpteenth letter.  Yet it is crucial to pinpoint why you want to work at Employer A, Employer B, Employer C, etc…  Here are some thoughts on how to proceed in an efficient way.

Explore the employer’s website.

Fortunately, the internet makes it easier to conduct employer research.  Be on the lookout for a mission statement or a list of core values and reflect on how they resonate with your own work values.  Even if a mission and core values are not posted, perusing the website can give you a feel for the company’s approach to providing products and services, conducting business, and developing staff.  Also, check out recent news items, projects or initiatives as some of them may intrigue you and reaffirm your interest in the organization.

Document highlights from conversations with employees.

Talking with those who work at a given organization can generate interest, so keep track of your chats with those representing the employer at career fairs or information sessions.  Make sure that the exchange is still fresh in your mind by taking notes on business cards shortly after the conversations.  Another source of good dialogue about an employer is an informational interview, where you typically have more time.   With this approach to employer research, you can be more prepared for the job search and eventually write or say something like, “During my conversations with alumni during the recent campus information session, I was pleased to hear that company X values ….”

Reflect on any previous hands-on experience with the employer.

You may have interned or volunteered with an organization of interest.   While it may seem like a no-brainer that you would love to keep working there, you still need to make it clear that you enjoyed the experience and would continue to add value and thrive as an employee.

Navigating the federal career maze

During my time at Penn, I’ve noticed that there’s an increasing interest in government careers.  The number of College undergrads who succeeded in finding a job in the government after they graduate nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009.

It’s fantastic that Penn students are getting jobs in the public sector but I know that finding federal job postings can be a bit of a mystery.  Everyone knows about USAJobs, but most college students actually get their jobs by applying directly to the federal agencies and into one of their student programs and by networking, just like people do in the private sector.

That means you have to do thorough research of opportunities that interest you.  For instance, if you’re looking to work abroad, don’t just apply to the State Department, but also include other agencies that have an interest internationally, including the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the International Trade Administration.

Here are a few websites that I’ve found useful for researching federal agencies and opportunities beyond the usual suspects:

(1)  In the Partnership for Public Service’s Federal Careers by Field of Interest guides, you can find by major or career field lists of federal agencies hiring in those fields, top position titles, sample internships and jobs, and geographic distribution of those jobs.  This is how I find out that the Department of Defense is the biggest federal provider of communications positions and that you have to search for public affairs specialists if you’re look for a PR job in the government.

(2)  To find federal agencies located near where you want to live, try the new, the good old blue pages of the phone book, and the local Federal Executive Board‘s agency lists.  When I typed “San Diego psychology positions” into, a bunch of jobs for psychology graduates in San Diego area federal agencies appeared in the search results.

(3)   If you like numbers and can tolerate a less friendly interface, you also might like using Fedscope to research which federal agencies are located in your state and what and how many positions they have in your field.  When you’re on this website, click on employment and the most recent data (month/year) to access a wealth of federal employment data.

    Our wisdom on this topic is kept on the Career Services’ Make an Impact resource website. Check it out. And please share your tips with us in the comments section.