Shake It Off

It’s hard to believe that the summer is half over already.  Whatever you are doing this summer, this is the perfect time to take a look at where you are and appreciate what you’ve done so far.  With the hectic schedules of most students during the school year, it may be difficult to see the end of the tunnel. There is always some test, paper, or quiz that pulls you back into having to deal with school.  Take this time to really sit back and look at where you are.  Summer is the time to really reflect on yourself and to check in with your progress. If you’re a rising sophomore, congratulate yourself on completing your first year in college. Get excited about the possibilities of your future if you are a rising senior. And if you are a rising junior, bask in the knowledge that you have another year of being a student before you have to start really thinking about your first job. Be positive about where you are going. For some, this past semester – or school year – wasn’t their best.  Even if that is the case, take the time now to reevaluate where there is room for improvement. It’s hard being a student sometimes. Students come into the office with the worries of life written all over their faces. Use this time during the summer to shake off the worries so that you can return to campus fresh and ready to tackle new challenges.

How I Made Networking Feel Good

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This blog is by Jessica Schneider, CAS ’15

No longer are your qualifications enough. In a tough job market, especially for young people, it’s essential. You likely never met someone who enjoys networking. If name tags, business cards, and forced conversation is unappealing, I’m here to say why you’ve probably just been doing it wrong.

I gave OCR (On-Campus Recruiting) at Penn a first try this past year. It was a total disaster. We stood around with company representatives in little groups, and one eager-beaver asked of questions while the rest of us listened uncomfortably to their one-on-one banter. At some point, I would try to break in to shake the representative’s hand and blurt out, “thank you so much, it was great meeting you!”

This is wrong, I thought. There has to be a better way!

That’s when I resolved use my internship this summer in the U.S. Senate to learn how to network. After all, it’s the honest-to-goodness folks in politics who say: it’s all about who you know. This is what I learned.

Have a goal in mind: Networking starts before you are looking for a job. Building your network, you will:

  • ž   Explore your options in a general field
  • ž   Learn more about particular professions
  • ž   Meet other professionals

I always keep these things in mind, and use them to avoid the scary term “networking.”

Where to start: I signed up for every networking event on my radar—sometimes three per day! Penn has great communities of alumni and organizations like Career Services who put together events and make this easy. Office parties count also. Practice, practice, practice! The first five or even ten events that I attended felt uncomfortable, but eventually I caught on. It’s a learning curve; I recommend that you get this phase over with a.s.a.p.

The next steps: Reach out to people individually. I spoke with my own friends, recent grads, family, coworkers, and former offices first, and then asked for suggestions of people in my field whom I should meet, along with a connection request. Start a running checklist.

About that “awkward”: Do you remember your goals? You aren’t networking; you are exploring, learning, and meeting. Events and meetings are not about you, they are about the person with whom you are meeting and their experiences.

  • ž   Avoid vague questions such as, “What is it like to work at ____?” Instead, ask about their personal experiences, their tricks of the trade, their favorite experiences, their rookie mistakes, them, them, and them. Each person is different and speaks best about her/his own experiences.
  • ž   Do not ask people about advice for yourself such as, “Do you suggest I pursue a law degree?” because only you know what is best for you. Instead, ask about what they did/would do in that situation.
  • ž   Never ask something that you can Google—it wastes both your time and theirs. Instead, ask about their own personal experience with the subject.
  • ž   At events, don’t spend the whole time with one person; that’s what one-on-ones are for. Meet, ask a few questions, and spend some time, but don’t stay for her/his life story.
  • ž   Relax, and smile!

Be outgoing—at an event or meeting, you already know that people are friendly and ready to share. The only way that you can turn someone cold is by dominating the conversation, making it about yourself, or dismissing what they have to say, but these are general rules about being nice.

On following up: Follow up so much that you find yourself sending friends a thank you text after a fun Saturday night. Eventually, this became second nature for me, and now I feel rude if I don’t follow up in a timely manner. It sure comes off rude if I don’t. Typing my follow up in the same language that I use to speak makes this speedy, saying thank you again, what I took away from the conversation, maybe a reminder to send something we spoke about, or perhaps attaching my resume if she/he asked. I never, never, never send form emails. Following up is the Holy Grail, so don’t forget it on the kitchen counter.

Networking can be fun. You’ll meet interesting people, hear fun stories, learn the real ins and outs of a job, and get lots of free hors d’oeuvres! I could not be any more grateful for the opportunity to spend the summer in Washington, DC and take a crash course in making professional friends. Reach out to me any time, and I’ll be happy to tell you more about my experience in learning to network.

Something New for the Summer

by Julie Vick

For graduate students summer can be hectic and not the relaxing time from earlier years. Doctoral students may be teaching or TA-ing semester-length courses in five or six weeks, studying needed foreign languages or systems, participating in fieldwork, or designing and conducting lab-based research. Professional students may be interning with a company or not-for-profit to get a taste of their potential future work world.
Whether these warmer months find you doing “more of the same,” or doing something different and new to you, it’s important that you do a few other things:

  1. Take a break from the here-and-now to focus on the future,
  2. Do something fun and not related to schoolwork or career, and
  3. Do something for someone else.

Following those steps will help you to feel both prepared and renewed when summer comes to an end and the semester starts up again.

Do something for your future

  • Build and maintain your network
    • Reach out to previous employers, professors and others to let them know what you’re doing this summer
    • Identify people who do work that interests you and conduct some information interviews
    • Attend a networking event (or an event where you can meet new people) through your alma mater, employer, professional association or one organized for people in your urban area
    • Keep track of all interactions and thank/acknowledge everyone who talks with you and/or provides advice or information
  • Think about your plans for next year
  • What else will you do in addition to coursework?
    • Serve on a student group committee
    • Help organize your graduate group’s symposium series
    • Plan to attend Career Services programs and workshops and connect with a career advisor
  • If it’s your final year, when will you start your job search?

Do something that’s fun

  • Get away, even for just a weekend.
  • Do something physical. Perhaps you go to the gym everyday but try an outdoor activity. Being active outside – better still, being in nature –can rejuvenate you. Take a bike ride. Go hiking. Try canoeing or kayaking. There are bike trails and state parks closer than you think.

Do something for someone else

  • There are lots of opportunities to serve as a volunteer. If you’re not sure where to start, find out if there’s a volunteer activities coordinator at your institution. Just spending a morning helping to clean up an abandoned block, playing with a hospitalized child or reading to an infirm elderly adult can help you forget about the stresses in your life and bring some joy to someone else

Doing these things will renew you; renewing yourself will help you start the new school year off well.

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” ― William Shakespeare

I’ve Missed You, Too

My colleague, Joseph Barber, is never at a loss for words.  He always knows exactly what to say and when to say it.  Take for example, this timely blog entry, posted this time last year:

Welcome to Career Services! We’ve Missed You.

By Dr. Joseph Barber

Congratulations! You are reading this blog, and so you are probably aware of Career Services and some of the many resources we have to help you with the job search and application process. All the posts within this blog compliment the links, tools, and archived workshops and videos available on the Career Services website. You’ve probably been there already, and hopefully you’ll be back soon. And when you come back, stay for a while – and poke around to see what information you can find to answer your questions.

In return for all this information, I would like to ask for a small favour! Really, it is just a small one. All I would like you to do is to ask your friends, colleagues, and peers if they have visited the Career Services website, or popped in to see us in the McNeil building recently. That’s it – simple. Now, some of the people you ask may look at you kind of funny – especially if you bring this topic up during dinner, in the middle of an episode of Glee, or whilst pipetting something mutagenic…, but they will eventually thank you for doing so, particularly if they have never heard about the resources we offer. In the hustle and bustle of daily academic life, things like thinking strategically about preparing yourself for future careers can sometimes fall by the wayside. However, your time at Penn provides you with a wealth of opportunities to gain knowledge, meet people, and gain practical, applied experiences that together will maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a job in the your career field of choice – whatever that may be. The sooner you start to do this, the better!

We certainly don’t want your friends, colleagues, and peers to wait until the last minute to think about this, or never to visit us at all – and you probably don’t want that either. We are here all summer, all semester, and our role is to serve you – to help you think about your career options, and to understand all the steps involved in making career decisions. Here are just some of the key services we offer:

  1. Resume, CV, cover letter, and other miscellaneous job application material reviews.
  2. Workshops on topics such as networking and interviewing; discussion panels with speakers from academic and non-academic careers; career fairs full of interesting employers seeking good candidates.
  3. Mock interviews, where we record you answering questions, and then discuss your answer whilst watching your video (many people don’t like the sound of their voice – but once you get over that, you’ll see how beneficial this experience can be).
  4. Career exploration, which can be very handy if you don’t quite know what you want to do or be, or can’t decide between different options.
  5. Advice from you peers. Just as you can advise your friends, colleagues, and peers to check out this blog and visit our website, so can you gain from the advice from those who have gone before you. Whether looking at the results of the Career Plans Survey, or reaching out to Penn Alumni who are doing what you might like to do one day as well, you’ll find plenty of helpful information through our website.

Share this list with your friends, colleagues, and peers, and encourage them to make an appointment to see an advisor. You could be helping them to get started on their pathway to success. It is very satisfying to be helpful, which is why we are also looking forward to seeing you again! So remember, spread the word that Career Services is open for business, and hopefully we will get to see many more of you soon.

Time Travel

by J. Michael DeAngelis

About two years ago, I got one of the more amusing text messages I have ever received.  It read: “I’m saving my Snapple cap for you!”

Now, this message came from a good friend, but it still confused me.  I like a gift from my friends as much as the next guy, but there are limits.  After all, I don’t ever think “I’m going to save this Big Mac container for Kevin” or “I can’t wait till Maura sees gum wrapper I’m keeping for her!”  I was apprehensive, to say the least.  But when I did get my gifted Snapple cap, it made me laugh and smile from ear to ear.  For on the underside of the cap was a fantastic quote:

“First things first, but not necessarily in that order.” – Doctor Who

My friend knew me all too well.  I love Doctor Who.  I have all the DVDs, enough collectables to open my own Ebay store and I may or may not have a quarter-scale model of the TARDIS in my hallway.  If you don’t know, the TARDIS is the Doctor’s time machine.  A machine that I wish I had today.  I’d jump back in time to yesterday when I was supposed to have posted this blog…or I’d jump to the future where all the many summer projects which have been halting my blogging will be over.  I wear a lot of hats in Career Services and blogger-in-chief sometimes has to take a back seat to, say, making sure pre-med students can access our new credentials system.

Luckily, there are other great bloggers in this office AND other Doctor Who fans!  So, in place of any great nuggets of wisdom I might impart on you today, let’s step back into the Career Services TARDIS and revisit a classic entry from last summer, “5 Job Hunting Tips You Can Get From Dr. Who” by the always eloquent Dr. Joseph Barber.


1) Your resume is actually bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. What? Well…, ok, all I mean is that the way you describe your experiences and knowledge by using specific illustrations of your skills in action achieving tangible outcomes will make even a 1-page resume feel like it is chock-full of relevant information. Your resume won’t contain any swimming pools, though.

2) You can’t actually regenerate – and so don’t try, but you can and should talk about your experiences in a different way when applying to different positions. There is no one-size-fits-all resume that will work for two different jobs, even if they are in the same industry (e.g., pharmaceutical industry jobs, consulting). The more time you can take tailoring your resume and cover letter (and even your academic CV to a certain extent), the better you will be able to convince an employer that your experiences are a good fit for their requirements.

3) If you spend too much time by yourself, you will end up talking to yourself. If you spend too much time looking at your own resume, your brain will begin to tune out, and you will start to miss those small errors that can creep in. Additionally, sometimes we can find it hard to think about the range of different skills we have used in different experiences – we get so used to talking about ourselves in one way that we can forget that we do actually have a bunch of transferable skills that are applicable to many jobs. Come to Career Services to get a critique of your resume, and you’ll find this fresh perspective to be helpful.

4) Time travel is actually quite hard, and rarely goes exactly according to plan. This means that you can’t go back and change your past – that really never works out well in the future anyway. For example, back in the past you may have started a PhD thinking you wanted to be a professor, but in the present you may have decided not to take the academic career path. Make use of your time at Penn to gain a wide range of different experiences to explore your options, take some courses outside of your subject, join and actively participate in some student/postdoc groups. Make sure you also have a convincing narrative as to why you are seeking the jobs you are applying to. Note: no employer wants to hear: “I realized I didn’t want to be a professor, and so I decided to apply for this job”. This isn’t a convincing reason why someone should hire you. Talk about what you gained from your academic and non-academic experiences, and how you can use your skills and abilities in a way that would make you an ideal candidate for the jobs you are interested in.

5) For someone with an identity problem, the Doctor has a rather extensive network of contacts. True, it is easier to make contacts when you own a small blue box that is bigger on the inside than the outside, and travels across time and space…, and when you are 900 or so years old/young. However, with a bit of courageous outreach to your own list contacts, and good use of social networking platforms like LinkedIn and, you’ll find that you can soon generate a comparable network – relatively speaking (which when talking about relativity can get very confusing). Don’t leave it up to chance, though. Set aside some time each week or month to connect with new people who might be doing jobs you are interested in, or to get back in contact with former colleagues, supervisors, and advisors. Networking is about building and maintaining meaningful connections with people over time…, wherever or whenever that time is!