Fall 2020 will look like no other semester in Penn’s history and certainly not what any of us had imagined. Even though we will be working remotely, Career Services is fully prepared to continue to provide all of the services that Penn students have had access to in the past, albeit in new formats. We are here to support you as you explore career options, seek out internships or post-graduate jobs, or apply to graduate school. Although this post is on the lengthier side, please take the time to read it so that you are more fully prepared to take advantage of all that Penn has to offer. (Students taking a leave of absence may want to also review this post.)
Impact of the Economy on the Job Market
Given the pandemic, we know that there are challenges ahead which we encourage all students to take into consideration when applying for jobs or internships. While the unemployment rate has come down in the past few months from its high in April 2020, it still remains more elevated than at any point since the Great Recession. We’ve heard varied things from employers about their hiring plans for the 2020 – 2021 year. Some have told us that they plan to hire the same number of students as they have in recent years. Others have pulled back and will not be recruiting students as heavily, if at all. We’ve seen fewer employers schedule virtual on campus interviews or sign up for our fall career fairs.
So, what does this mean for you? First, you should know that Penn students are still among the most in-demand in the nation and even in a difficult economy you will still have opportunities. Second, the determination and work ethic that got you into and through Penn will continue to help you meet these new challenges. And third, Penn’s alumni network is engaged and eager to help you. Your best strategy during these extraordinary times is to start early and to fully utilize the services available to you. Previous experience has shown us that those who do not actively take advantage of our programs and services are less likely to graduate with next steps firmly secured whether it be it a job, internship or a graduate school acceptance.
Think seriously about what interests and excites you. You may want to speak to alumni who can advise you on appropriate coursework or extracurricular activities. You may need to get a graduate degree before you can pursue it. Career Services can help you sort through these options. Being thoughtful and intentional will allow you to exercise some control over a process that may at times seem outside of your control. That said, be alert to opportunities as they occur, even though doing so means you may deviate from your plan. Take a risk. Challenge yourself. Don’t worry too much right now about finding the perfect job or internship or getting into the one best graduate school. There are many routes in life that lead to the same end point. You will learn something from any first job, and something about yourself, regardless of what you end up doing. You may find it is not something you will do long-term, (the average new graduate stays in a first job for two years or less), but it will help lead you to the next step. Your ability to adapt and be resilient during these times will serve you well for life!
Some of you – particularly those of you interested finance, consulting or technology – may have received a post-graduate job or return internship offer from your Summer 2020 internship employer. If so, congratulations! Given the uncertainty of the economy, we advise giving these offers serious consideration, particularly if you felt the work and the organizational culture were a relatively good fit for you. While no job is perfect, if your offer checks most of the boxes for things you deem important, consider accepting it. However, if you found that the internship wasn’t a good match for your career goals, it makes sense to decline a return offer and commit to devoting energy throughout the upcoming year to exploring opportunities more aligned with your interests and goals. While we acknowledge that making these decisions can be difficult, especially in an uncertain economy, we want to reinforce that it is not appropriate to accept an offer and then continue to apply for other jobs or internships in the hopes of finding something you consider to be better. Your professional reputation and that of Penn as an institution are both on the line and it is important to behave in an ethical manner.
Steps to Take Now to Prepare for Fall 2020 Recruiting
Prepare for Virtual Career Fairs on Handshake
- Review our schedule for virtual career fairs and decide which one(s) interest you. Note that student registration for CareeFIRE, CareerLink, and Engineering Career Days will open to students on Sunday, September 6th at 7:00 PM EST. Our Policy and Government Fair will open for registration on September 17th and our STEM Fair on October 14th. Our other career fairs will open later. Once you register you will be able to sign up for 30-minute group sessions as well as 10 minute 1:1 sessions with employers. We advise logging on as soon as each fair opens to have the greatest opportunity to secure these spots since the number of slots available will depend on the number of employer representatives for each employer. (Students can find out more about Handshake’s virtual career fair platform here.)
- Update your Handshake profile completely as employers will be able to see it. Think of it as an expansion of your resume. Your Handshake profile, when shared publicly with employers, helps you get personalized recommendations for upcoming virtual events and recruiters use profile fields to find students to invite to their sessions. Be sure to complete all fields in your profile including job and industry interests. To sign up for Group or 1:1 sessions, your profile privacy setting will need to be set to “Community” or “Employers”.
- Because employers can set requirements on the following fields for eligibility to sign up for 1:1 meetings in the virtual career fairs, make sure that the basics are accurate: graduation date, school year, major, GPA and work authorization. Click on the pencil icon in your Handshake profile to make any necessary changes. Students who have not yet declared a major or concentration should feel free to add their intended choice. Since only one school automatically transfers into Handshake, dual degree students should add their second school. Note to transfer students, first-year graduate students, certain PhD students, and post-docs: If you don’t have a Penn GPA, put in the GPA from your previous institution or previous degree for the career fairs so that you are not screened out based on not having a GPA in the system.
- Mark your calendar for our Practice Virtual Career Fair to be held on September 4th from 2:00 – 4:00. This fair will provide the opportunity for you to register and sign up for group sessions to learn more about on-campus interviewing and preparing for career fairs as well as individual 1:1 10-minute sessions with career advisors, much like the employer 1:1 sessions you will encounter in our “real” fairs. (Student registration opens on Sunday, August 30th at 7:00 pm.)
Prepare for Virtual On Campus Interviewing
- August 10th: Many resume submissions for virtual OCI opened with most resume deadlines occurring on September 13th or later. However, a few employers have opted for earlier deadlines so research application dates carefully. To find on campus interviewing opportunities in Handshake click on Jobs and then click filters and select “interviewing on campus.” Not all employers have posted their positions yet so be sure to check back periodically.
- September 22: Virtual on campus interviews will start. An orientation explaining the entire OCI process will be available later in August on the Career Services website.
- Given the virtual nature of recruiting this year, some organizations have opted for a national recruiting strategy as opposed to a school-specific strategy, so some employers who have traditionally participated in Penn OCI will simply post their opportunities on Handshake and then work directly with students to schedule virtual interviews. It is therefore important to search both OCI job postings AND non-OCI postings in Handshake to ensure you are seeing all available opportunities.
Explore Virtual Employer Information Sessions
- You can find virtual employer information sessions in Handshake and on the events part of the Career Services website. Due to the large number of sessions requested in September, we will (with very few exceptions) only promote sessions that employers are holding exclusively for Penn students. After September you will see more events that are open to Penn students as well as students from other schools. (Note that we have not published many of the September sessions on our website yet but will do so soon!)
Customize Your Weekly Career Services Newsletter
- Take a minute to log in to the Career Services website (in the top right corner) to update your preferences so that your weekly Friday newsletter has information YOU want to learn about. Each student receives a completely customized newsletter based on their expressed interests.
We know that many of you have additional questions about recruiting for the fall. Please feel free to schedule a virtual appointment in Handshake to speak with a Career Services advisor or participate in a “same day drop in”. Our appointments tend to fill up quickly at this time of year, so if you do not see available slots please check back a few days later. Many career advisors put in appointment slots on Mondays for the following week. While it is most expedient to book appointments through Handshake, we are happy to accommodate international students in other time zones if needed. These students should directly email the coordinator for their Career Services school team to explore alternate appointment times.
You may also want to review these additional resources:
- Our resume and cover letter guides – and you can find out how to request a document review here.
- Interviewing Resources
- Networking Resources
Best wishes for the remainder of the summer and we look forward to working with you throughout the upcoming year.