Thinking about Life After Penn

Student: "What can I do with an HSOC or STSC major?"  
Us: "What can't you do with an HSOC or STSC major?"

 Our interdisciplinary programs provide the knowledge and skills needed for a rapidly changing and interconnected world.  With a strong understanding of the relationship between different sectors and disciplines, backed up by critical thinking, strong writing, research and speaking skills, our students have a wide variety of options after graduation with an STSC or and HSOC major, including health- and science-based positions, consulting, finance, public policy, and non-profit work.  

  • Many of our students go on to graduate school within a few years of graduation, in medicine, law, public health, and business.  
  • Being a liberal arts major is an asset on the job market.  Liberal arts majors tend to do well at finding a career fit and navigating the job market. According to Career Services at Penn:  "Evidence shows that there is not a direct correlation between a major and a career or lifestyle after Penn.  Employers want new hires with strong research, analytical and communication skills.  Students get these necessary skills through each and every one of the majors in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Given this fact, students should study something that interests them, because people do better in areas that interest them.  If you heed this advice, you might simultaneously increase your personal happiness and your GPA!"

Explaining your STSC/HSOC major to employers.pdf. A presentation from Career Services on the skills that 97% of employers really value.


If your goal is a fellowship of some kind, study this Fellowship Chart from CURF to get started:  Fellowships Chart from CURF.pdf

Job Hunting - The Dos and Don'ts of Getting Started 

1) Don't let anyone tell you that you are "too late" to get a job or internship.  You are where you are - and Career Services will work with you.  Unless you are working in investment banking, the timeline is that you will find a job sometime during spring term or in the summer after graduation.  For internships, applications and notifications occur between February and April.

2) Don't think in terms of finding a "career"--a career is what you find and develop by having jobs and internships; you don't have to (and shouldn't) know what it is right now.  Think in terms of an internship (a few months) or a first job (a year or two).  What do you need to know or learn, and what internship, job or worksite will help you get that? 
 Five Career Questions to Ask Yourself.pdf 

3) Do remember that searching for internships and jobs consists of doing lots of little jobs, its not one big thing.  Don't expect  to know how do to this already somehow - you learn by doing it - and you can get lots of help along the way from Career Services.  Break down the process into manageable chunks of time or specific tasks and do a chunk/task every week.

4) Do attend the workshops that Career Services hosts with CAPS - take the Meyers-Brigg test and Strong Inventory free to increase your knowledge of your skills and preferences and the careers that exist - explore how to manage the anxiety and stress of jub hunting

5) Do keep track of your applications, contacts, networking, and where you are in the process for any job you apply for.  Here is a spread sheet used by a recent graduate to keep track of her search for job in the healthcare industry.

Undergraduate Job Search Spreadsheet.pdf

Job Hunting - The Steps

  •  Explore the Career Services website and make an appointment.   
  • Write your resume, using the advice on the Career Services website.  Drop off your resume at Career Services for feedback.
  • Draft cover letters.  The cover letter is the bridge to the organization between your resume and the organization.  Think of the cover letter as a flashlight that you use to highlight the parts of your resume that you really want the organization to pay attention to.  Get help from Career Services in editing your basic cover letter
  • Information Interviews
  • Research job fields and titles
  • Network
  • Develop an elevator speech
  • Set up a job-searching spreadsheet to keep track of jobs, contacts, networking, and where you are in the process.  See example above

 When you write a cover letter

  • Use job description as a guide
  • Look for buzzwords in the description to help you write your letter
  • Show, don’t tell.  If you are the Queen of England, show how you are the Queen of England, don’t just say you are.  If you have had experiences that demonstrate your skill or perseverance or growth, don’t say that you had the experience, state specifically what that experience is and how you demonstrated it. 
  • Talk about you, and connect you to the job you want
  • Talk about the job, and connect the job to you
  • Don't write a "one-size fits all" cover letter--be prepared to tailor your basic cover letter to the job for which you are applying.

Set up informational interviews.  If you don't know what this is, read the Career Services website for help in how to do this.  When you are setting up an informational interview:

  • Make it easy for the person you are approaching
  • Be prepared with specific questions
  • Specify that you only want 15 minutes of their time
  • Ask, “Can I call you or would you prefer email?”  Give them the opportunity to respond.
  • Don't ask for a job or give them your resume (unless they request that you send one).
  • Ask, “Who else would be good for me to talk to?”
  • Write a thank-you email or note.

Research job fields and titles, using Career Services resources.

  • Learn what kinds of jobs there are
  • Learn how to find different kinds of jobs and how to apply for them
  • Select a few target organizations
  • Set a Google alert to whenever that organization is mentioned you hear about it and get more information to talk about in cover letters and informational interview

Use existing networks, such as

  • Linked in
  • Quakernet
  • HSOC and STSC alums

Develop an "elevator speech"--a short (1 minute or less) speech about your interests and what you do that you use to network with people and to set up informational interviews with people who are doing things that you think are interesting and cool. Practice, practice, practice this speech (and practice with friends) in which you tell

  • Who you are
  • What you are doing now
  • What you want to do


Most of the information for job hunting applies to finding an internship.  Seek the help of Careeer Services and use their databases to locate internships.  If an internship is unpaid or underpaid, you can apply for funds from Career Services to help make it possible for you to take an unpaid or underpaid internship.

How to Ask for Recommendations

  • Make your request to the person as promptly as possible--at least 3 weeks before the recommendation is due to a program, school or employer.
  • If writing an email, keep it fairly brief and to the point.  Introduce yourself again, ask them if they would write you a recommendation for ____, supply a couple sentences about yourself and then attach your resume to the email so that they can see who you are and what you've done, instead of writing long detailed paragraphs.  Offer to supply any other material they need, and/or to come in to talk about it.  It is often a good idea to tell the person what kind of perspective you want them to supply to the organization for which you need the recommendation--for example, to speak to your research skills, or your management skills, or your social skills--so that you don't have all your recommenders saying the same thing.
  • Make sure your recommender has all the information they need to submit the recommendation (email addresses, websites, etc.) If the recommendation is to be submitted by mail, provide the person who is writing the recommendation with an addressed, stamped envelope for each recommendation they have to send.  
  • Send a friendly reminder two weeks and one week before the recommendation is due.
  • Thank the person who is writing you a recommendation for agreeing to do it, and thank them again when the recommendation has been submitted.  Send a thank-you email or thank-you note.
  • Remember to make it easy for the person to write and deliver the recommendation and to feel good about you in the process!

General Advice

  • Every move you make in the job market should be a step towards the goal you want
  • Do not be afraid to take a risk or change direction
  • Pick an industry or sector you care about and become an expert in it
  • Always be networking – both up and down and laterally
  • Help more than you are helped
  • Always have an updated resume

Graduate Programs

For advice on graduate programs (the purpose of going to graduate school, and different kinds of graduate programs) speak with department faculty, with faculty in the area in which you are thinking of attending graduate school, and with Career Services counselors.