Turning students’ dream jobs into reality

Almost daily, Patricia Rose finds herself quoting education specialist Tony Wagner: “The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you do with what you know.”
Rose has spent the past three decades as director of Career Services at Penn, making sure the University’s students know how to showcase their talents, especially to employers, and, more importantly, to use them accordingly.
“They come to us as accomplished young people,” says Rose. “They are going to develop more skills and be even more accomplished when they leave here. But they need to be able to communicate their abilities, and if they can’t, then I think we as an institution are failing them.”
Career Services, which is now in its 90th year of operation, works with all Penn undergraduates and most of the University’s graduate and professional students, as well as alumni. Its mission? To make sure Penn students can define their career goals, and take the steps necessary to achieve them.
With about 30 staff members, Career Services helps students perfect their resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and portfolios, whether to obtain a job or an internship. Students also look to Career Services for guidance when applying and interviewing for graduate or professional school.
“It’s all at the students’ discretion,” Rose says. “No one is required to come here. But the reason we are so heavily used—we have over 7,000 appointments per year—is because we have ambitious students who are thinking ahead. Increasingly, students as early as freshman year or their first year of graduate school are coming in, engaging with us about their future careers.”
Throughout the years, technology has made a big impact in Career Services’ reach. 
“We had over 2.3 million website hits last year,” Rose says, looking through a record book in her office in the McNeil Building. “We are extremely active on social media. And if a student wants to learn more about a certain career, for example, we have videos on our website that he or she can view, many of which feature Penn alumni discussing their work.” 
Rose says walk-ins have decreased from about 6,000 to 3,000 per year, but her team answered more than 14,000 email inquiries just last year.
“Now, a student is less likely to walk in with a short question,” Rose says. “But, they are likely to email us.” 
Career Services also hosts 11 career fairs annually, and helps bring employers from around the world to campus to recruit. Additionally, it holds workshops for a variety of groups on campus, such as departments, athletic teams, or student organizations.
Since the 1970s, Career Services has also conducted yearly surveys of Penn students’ career plans and summer internships, which are all posted on its public website. The surveys act as a reference for potential and current students, and also employers.
“Most importantly, the surveys are used for students who come in and say, for instance, they want to major in classics,” Rose says. “They look at the surveys and see where recent Penn graduates who majored in that particular field are working or attending graduate school.”
Career Services’ mantra, Rose adds, is, “Your major is not your career; it can be, but it doesn’t have to be.”
Something Rose always stresses, too, is that the function of Career Services at Penn is not simply to funnel everyone into medical school, law school, investment banks, or consulting firms. 
“We work with students who are interested in public service, in opportunities abroad, in teaching,” she says. “We are agnostic to career plans. What I want for a student is what he or she wants.”
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