There are two types of people at Penn: the ones who get jobs through OCR, and the ones who have to make it on their own.
No one knows this better than Barbara Hewitt, whose conservative black pantsuit makes her look like an OCR hopeful herself. In fact, Ms. Hewitt is a Wharton Undergraduate Advisor and Penn's On-Campus Recruitment Supervisor, who helps students prepare for the corporate world from her windowless office in the basement of McNeil. In the 16 years she has worked for Career Services, Ms. Hewitt has guided a steady stream of young professionals through interviews, internships and full–time offers from some of the world’s leading names: Goldman Sachs. Bain & Company. Teach For America.
“Because OCR is so visible, that’s what people think we only care about, and that’s not true,” Ms. Hewitt sighs. “We’ve always wanted to help students find other jobs. We do a lot of one–on–ones with students, connecting [them] with alumni.” But she agrees personal attention, however helpful, pales in visibility compared to OCR’s resources. “I think we’re already doing [the best we can]. But we always want to do more.”
With the resources to recruit college juniors and seniors and offer handsome salaries, companies like Morgan Stanley and McKinsey are OCR’s high–rollers, hiring students months before graduation due to their predictable turnover in employees. It’s no surprise, then, that of the students who graduated with full-time job offers in 2013, 57% went to work in finance, consulting or technology.
“Penn students can do all kinds of interesting things,” Ms. Hewitt says. “But they’re not. Students who are interested in other kinds of opportunities need to take initiative and look harder.”
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Dylan Hewitt wants to run for office some day. But there’s no OCR for the White House.
He discovered the Communications and Public Service (ComPS) major while talking to a like–minded student at a protest in front of City Hall. “The ComPS program is such a hidden gem,” says Dylan, explaining how it enabled him, as an undergrad, to take graduate–level courses at the Fels Institute of Government, Penn’s graduate program for public management. His first Fels professor, former Pennsylvania Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies, became a mentor for Dylan. The relationship provided him a wealth of unique opportunities, including accompanying her to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
He continued to pursue his interests in politics throughout his undergraduate education. During his junior year, a different friend told him about the opportunity to submatriculate into Fels. He is now working towards his Masters of Public Administration and TA–ing the same Margolies class that first sparked his interest.
“If there was one thing I could go back and say to freshman year Dylan, or even any freshman,” he says, “it would be to be open to opportunity, because it might not be the way you are planning for things to go. It might be the way things are meant to go all along.”
Although Dylan discovered his passion later in college, Sarah Wilker found hers in a high school Greek mythology class.
When it came time to apply to college, Sarah fell in love with the archaeology resources at the Penn Museum. And the rest was history.
Because of her archeological aspirations, Sarah received funding from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) for her past two summer trips, which she spent preserving monuments in Athens, digging in the deserts of Turkey and excavating ruins in Tuscany. She gained access to these highly–coveted excavations with the help of one of her professors, who connected her to a Nautical Archeology project run by Stanford University.
“I’m incredibly thankful for everything I’ve been able to accomplish through CURF’s generosity. They don’t let their research kids flounder,” she laughs. “It’s not really a Career Services kind of job.”
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Forgoing the concrete jungle of his finance–minded peers, senior Isaac Silber spent two summers in the wilderness as a counselor at Windsor Mountain International, a camp in New Hampshire. Though Isaac concedes that choosing to be a camp counselor instead of an intern “wasn’t a very Penn thing” to do, the experience did expose him to one thing every Penn student is familiar with: networking.
“If I want to travel somewhere,” he says, “I have so many connections all over the world now. And I got to teach kids music, which was pretty great.”
One connection in particular, a drum teacher at the camp, helped springboard Isaac’s thesis project. He received funding from the English department and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, which seeks to represent minority interests through scholarship. Using his grants, Isaac spent a month living and playing music with a master drummer in Kingston, Jamaica, while researching the Kumina and Revival religions for his thesis.
Isaac reflects on his unique experience: “I definitely thought summers were the time for a break from Penn culture. But I also realized by junior year that I needed to do something productive.” Having given himself the space to explore genuine interests, Isaac now looks forward to pushing his English major and jazz minor towards a graduate degree in ethnomusicology.
“You should want to study something that you’d also like to do in your free time,” says Manola Gonzalez, another senior English major. When it came time to decide on a career path, Manola found herself in a pack of College cohorts at an OCR info session for consulting. “It’s actually a really practical career for an English major, because it’s the same kind of analytical skills,” she explains. But as Manola researched consulting companies and dropped her resume, she found herself hesitant to completely follow through. “When it really got down to it...did I ever want to go into business? No.” She smiles. “My somewhat cognizant self knew that I wanted to write.”
Enter RealArts. Funded by the Kelly Writers House, RealArts is a summer internship program that offers creatively–inclined students opportunities to work in some of the world’s leading media companies. Not only are RealArts interns getting facetime with the heads of companies like MTV and Rolling Stone, but they also receive a $4,000 stipend.
Manola, a former DP beat reporter, applied for the RealArts internship during her junior year and was selected as the summer editorial intern for Philadelphia Magazine. Though the job entailed a lot of research and fact–checking, its creative environment allowed Manola to write and brainstorm freely. Looking forward, Manola hopes to continue her passions abroad in the United Kingdom, where she is applying to graduate creative writing programs.
“There’s a tendency in any writing program to have your head in the clouds...but there’s still a real–world verdict out there. That’s what the name ‘RealArts’ is meant to convey,” says Anthony DeCurtis, a creative writing professor and co-founder of the program. “That however esoteric your interests, there are possible ways to realize them.”
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And then there are those who go it alone.
Matthew Gibstein’s after–school job in high school was at the local Apple Store. When he wasn’t busy selling iPhones at the age of eighteen, Matthew was avidly following tech startups via Twitter and tech news websites. At Penn, he was attracted to the Science, Technology and Society major and hoped it would help him land an internship at one of the innovative companies he used to follow. But when Matthew logged onto PennLink, there was nothing.
“You go on a website and you don’t see an internship [listing]. You don’t see an internship recruiter or university recruiter on LinkedIn,” he recounts. “All the resources that you would have from traditional companies seem to be absent.”
Matthew soon learned that these budding companies, with their scarce resources and hyper–focus on growth, were not going to come to him. He started cold–calling startups, sometimes even tweeting at them, convincing them he could help promote their visions. “Once they finally picked up the phone...I basically told them they had to hire me,” Matthew says sheepishly. His tenacity paid off, landing him internships at companies like Square, Uber, Dorm Room Fund and First Round Capital. His greatest feat was being accepted into the ultra–selective Google Internship Program, where he spent his sophomore year summer.
But as OCR picked up during the spring semester of his junior year, Matthew couldn’t ignore the chance “for the last time, potentially ever...to try something, and if [I didn’t] like it there would be no consequences, there would be no story to explain, just [an] opportunity to try something new.” Eager to learn more about the “hard skills” his friends allegedly gained from their finance internships, Matthew interviewed for and accepted an internship offer to work in technology consulting for a prestigious global firm. But he soon realized that those “hard skills” he was so keen on learning did little to whet his appetite the way a startup did. So with graduation looming on the horizon, Matthew is looking forward to reverting back to his original method of job recruitment: telling tech industry leaders that they need him on their team.
“We go to one of the best schools in the world,” Matthew says proudly, “and if there is something that we want to do and it’s not readily accessible at our fingertips, most of us are well–equipped to figure out how to find that.”
Sophia Fischler-Gottfried and Lauren Greenberg are communications majors from Teaneck, NJ and Avon, CT, respectively. Both are former social media editors for 34th Street; Sophia is also a former Ego editor.