Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Dr. Joseph Barber

Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice, and so I am going to give you some simple advice. It is advice that you may choose to ignore during finals, or might be prevented from heeding at other times because small creatures (e.g., cats, dogs, wicked babies) spend the twilight hours wailing. But the advice is “get enough sleep”. It is advice that I certainly hope to follow again someday very soon (wicked baby permitting).

It may come as no surprise that lack of sleep can have an effect on mood, on health, on the ability to access different types of knowledge, on relationships, on academic success, and potentially on your ability to maximize career opportunities. Getting enough sleep before that important job interview should be a critical part of your preparations. There are lots of studies investigating the link between sleep deprivation and disruption and many of the factors I list above. If you are looking for some (somewhat soporific) reading materials to help you slumber, then you can check out some of these studies and see the results for yourself:

  • Gomes et al. 2011. Sleep and academic performance in undergraduates: a multi-measure, multi-predictor approach. CHRONOBIOLOGY INTERNATIONAL 28(9): 786-801
  • Gunzelmann et al. 2011. Diminished access to declarative knowledge with sleep deprivation. COGNITIVE SYSTEMS RESEARCH 13(1): 1-11
  • Soares et al. 2011. Sleep disturbances, body mass index and eating behaviour in undergraduate students. JOURNAL OF SLEEP RESEARCH 20(3): 479-486
  • Forquer et al. 2008. Sleep patterns of college students at a public university. JOURNAL OF AMERICAN COLLEGE HEALTH 56(5): 563-565
  • Pallos et al. 2007. The quality of sleep and factors associated with poor sleep in Japanese graduate students. SLEEP AND BIOLOGICAL RHYTHMS 5(4): 234-238

The reasons that undergraduates and graduates may have poor sleep habits may vary, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sleep-specific research that focuses primarily on graduate students out there. Stereotypes might suggest that in the wee hours of the morning undergraduates are out partying, and graduates are locked away in libraries or labs trying to make progress on writing their thesis or getting experiments to work. There is probably some truth in these, but these stereotypes obviously won’t tell the whole story.

Now, there is not much we can do at Career Services to help you sleep better (unless you sleep better listening to online OCR orientations). However, if you are worried about finding internships or jobs, then perhaps the advice of a career advisor will help you feel more prepared and confident – and that will certainly help you sleep better. Addressing your stress and anxiety is important, and if helpful advice from a career advisor doesn’t necessarily help, then make use of some of the other student services available to you as well. It is worth it for a good night’s sleep.

I’ll let Wordsworth have the last word today, and wish you all a good night (do I hear the wailing of my nocturnal baby?).

A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by,
One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I’ve thought of all by turns; and still do lie
Sleepless; and soon the small birds’ melodies
Must hear, first utter’d from my orchard trees;
And the first Cuckoo’s melancholy cry.
Even thus last night, and two nights more, I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear to night away:
Without Thee what is all the morning’s wealth?
Come, blessed barrier betwixt day and day,
Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

“To Sleep” William Wordsworth

The O Words

by Anne Lucas

Lately, whether greeting a student for an appointment in Career Services or watching the news, I’m reminded of the same “O” word–Overwhelmed.  Seniors especially are overwhelmed by classes, assignments, leadership roles on campus and now—oh no!—a job search too.  It’s understandable.

Our economy is overwhelmed by unemployment, a housing crisis, a frenetic and frightening stock market—and oh so much more.  Truly, it can feel overwhelming to confront these challenges and to develop and execute a winning strategy to become employed or remain employed.

So what’s a person to do in these overwhelming, uncertain times?  Okay, I can’t help myself.  I feel my Pollyanna Anne surfacing as I choose a different “O” word for our times—Optimism!  It seems to me that the time has come for us to remember and practice the old adage of looking on the bright side.  If you can just ignore recent political debates, I promise you that there is a bright side to 2011!

First, you are a student, perhaps an alumnus/a, of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the best schools in the country and in the world.  Your Penn education can open doors for you.  Because you are affiliated with Penn, you must be smart and capable, with a pretty good work ethic too.  Throughout the decades I have been affiliated with Penn as a career counselor, I have witnessed so many students and alumni accomplishing amazing things—on campus and beyond.  You are next.

Every once in a while, the media even brings us a happy, positive story.  On September 23 Morning Joe interviewed Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, the entrepreneurial founders of Method.  They started Method in 2001, in the midst of a recession and, despite entering the extremely competitive field of laundry detergent and cleaning products, they have achieved wonderful success.  These two young, upbeat young men actually explained that they took “advantage of the recession to do things differently…focus and innovate.”  Clearly there still are plenty of success stories, even in difficult economic times, and you can be one of them.

So how do you begin to change “overwhelmed” to “optimistic?”  Rather than getting bogged down by—and perhaps even feeding—those nasty negatives, it’s important to seek and proclaim the positives in every day.  In fact, I currently have a contract with someone who has promised to text me every day citing two positive aspects of his day—one work-related and the other personal.  Sometimes he has to dig deep to find something.  It might be a compliment from a customer when he’s worked hard to solve a problem.  On a personal level it could be an exhilarating run in the park. It’s all about attitude, and I vote for Optimistic over Overwhelmed every time!

Once we get into the habit of deliberately identifying the positive situations in our lives, we’ll increase our levels of optimism.  As you probably know, Penn is home to a very famous professor associated with optimism—Dr. Martin Seligman.  Check out his homepage, “Authentic Happiness” at:

Let’s unite to make Optimism the Penn way.  Finally,  in case you need further inspiration, enjoy Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Accentuate the Positive:”

After the Pomp and Circumstance…. Are You in the Mood for a Job Search?

image via Flickr and CarbonNYC

On Monday, I watched the great procession of graduates on Locust walk, and enjoyed the pervasive sense of pride at Penn. Graduation is a very special celebration – when we actually take the time to acknowledge the huge accomplishment it is to complete several years of academic training. Today is quiet on campus, a very dramatic difference from the pomp and circumstance of just two days ago.

And so I began to think…what will the coming weeks be like for the graduates who don’t yet know the next step in their career plans? This blog is for those newly minted alumni who might be feeling a little like procrastinating: don’t let graduation fade into a distant memory – you need this reminder that you can accomplish a great deal, and that you can learn new skills (like how to successfully job search) in the same way you learned the skills required to complete your academic programs. It is really important to stay motivated when you job search, and especially to focus on the things that help you maintain your self esteem.

Unfortunately, when job searching, a person’s “self worth” can take a hit – people often report to me their feeling demoralized or disappointed, especially when the process takes longer than expected or when the search includes rejections from desirable employers. For some graduates, the new release from school obligations actually adds another layer of challenge – a lack of structure in the day. Job seekers may begin to doubt their own productivity, or find there are fewer activities in the day to provide a sense of accomplishment. This quote from the Earl of Chesterfield just about sums up how I think procrastination works: “It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.”

In a tough economy, finding the job search to be a discouraging experience is understandable, and at the same time, you will genuinely benefit if you prioritize maintaining your self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy (knowing that you have the ability to make changes in your situation). As a job seeker, you are far better off if you are motivated to learn about new opportunities, face unknowns with confidence, and market yourself because you know that your skills and accomplishments are hard earned, and your ability to get things done will be valued by employers. This attitude is essential for persevering; and persevering is essential for a successful job search.

While you are in the process of looking for work, there are many things you can do to build or maintain self worth. Here are some ideas to get you started on writing your own list:

• Think about a time in school when you faced a new assignment or had to learn a new skill. What did you do to take steps to get it done? When you successfully faced a challenge, what did you learn about yourself?
• Do self assessment, so you understand not only what you are good at, but what you like to do. Some helpful worksheets are listed here.
• Make sure each day has some structure to it – keep busy and reward yourself when you do activities that contribute to your job search.
• Set small and/or measurable goals (I.E. contact 2 new people in my networking, apply to 2 jobs today)
• Continue doing hobbies that you enjoy.
• Exercise regularly – develop and/or maintain healthy habits.
• Review your accomplishments and successes from previous academic projects, internships and work experiences. Talk with former classmates, supervisors or coworkers and friends if you are having a hard time thinking of examples.
• Continue learning and gaining skills – take a noncredit class or workshop or read a book on your own. If you are in Philadelphia, check out the resources of the Philadelphia Free library, or the Career Services library.
• Keep networking and making connections with others. Here is a quick online presentation on networking, and more information and tips from the Career Services web site are here.
• Volunteer – helping others is a great way to know how valuable your efforts are. To find an organization that needs your help, start here.
• Avoid procrastinating, which paradoxically increases anxiety while you avoid the real work of job searching – here are some tips (replace the word “Academic” with “Job Seeker” for the full effect)
• Seek support. Meet with a career advisor (you knew I would say that, right?) – we are here to help, and will be around all summer.

By engaging in constructive activities and thinking about good experiences, you are fostering a positive attitude and strengthening self- esteem. Valuing your accomplishments – believing that you can succeed – can help you take more of the risks that are part of job searching and career planning. You be more open to opportunities that may come your way, at the same time you will be more prepared to take advantage of them. This may lead to an offer-in-hand sooner than you’d expect, and yet another reason to for a newly minted graduate to celebrate.