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More than a tenth of Penn’s undergraduate class of 2012 pursued “common good” careers directly after graduation.

Defined by Career Services as positions in education, government or the not-for-profit sector, “common good careers” do not fit the corporate mold — or Penn’s reputation for pre-professionalism. For students with enough motivation, though, resources exist on campus to aid in pursuing full-time positions in these sectors.

“There are definitely more resources available to students going back to school or getting an office job,” 2012 College graduate Aileen Palmer said in an email.

“[But] the resources for those looking to do something a little different are there, you just have to work a little harder to find them,” she said.

Palmer is currently working as the Program Development Associate for Spark MicroGrants, a community development startup based out of Musanze, Rwanda.

“My desire to go a non-traditional direction was cemented after going to one OCR event junior year and being absolutely miserable,” Palmer noted.

She said that Career Services helped her decide which types of organizations to pursue and how to write a relevant cover letter once she decided to steer clear of more corporate positions.

“It was important to me to be working for an organization with a mission statement that I really believed in,” Palmer said.

2012 College graduate Caroline Kokubun, who is currently a Community Health Development Extensionist for the Peace Corps-Zambia, felt the same way as Palmer.

“When I applied to the Peace Corps, I wasn’t looking for the temporary stability of a 9-5 while I figured things out,” Kokubun wrote in an email.

For Kokubun, the Peace Corps was the perfect job because she “was looking for experiences that [she] couldn’t get through internships or desk jobs.”

Associate Director of Career Services Kelly Cleary said many students like Palmer and Kokubun express interest in non-traditional careers and that her department tries to highlight such opportunities in its “Friday Flash” emails.

One resource for these students is a “Common Good Careers” listserv, which was created last year to cater to students who have interests in nonprofits, non-governmental organizations and similar companies.

Moreover, Career Services hosts a Government and Policy Career Fair and an NGO, Non-Profit and Government Career Forum each year.

“The reality is that the employers that come onto campus to do on-campus recruiting are very large employers,” Cleary said. “A lot of [common good] employers can’t afford to come up to Philadelphia.”

However, some common good employers — like Teach for America — recruit in the traditional manner.

“We attend career fairs, partner with student organizations and host meetings with students,” TFA Recruitment Manager Deirdre McShea said in an email.

As a result, six percent of the 2012 graduating class applied for Teach for America appointments. McShea said that 41 seniors joined the corps, making Penn one of TFA’s top contributors for medium-sized schools.

Cleary, however, mentioned that the number of Penn graduates in non-traditional positions might be higher if those employers recruited at the same time as financial and consulting companies, which employed 51% of 2012 graduates, and their peer firms.

“Most of these [traditional] companies just hire when they need somebody and then need someone to start right away,” Cleary said. She noted that students who get offers through OCR in the fall can find it difficult to wait on TFA or Peace Corps offers in the spring.

But she said that many students who wait “end up being happiest with their choices.”

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