As the fall term draws to a close, many Penn students are thinking about how to secure summer internships that will aid in their job search after graduation. Recent research from a student-led publication suggests, however, that the majority of undergraduate students pursue summer commitments outside of expected categories.
Members of the Signal, a student group and publication that aims to combat the culture of pre-professionalism on campus, launched their project Deconstructing Penn Pathways last spring. The project compiles and analyzes data from Penn's Career Services to track what 2017 Penn graduates did each summer while undergraduates students. It also correlates this information with what the alumni did immediately after graduation.
The group wanted to create visual representations of the paths students pursue, such as consulting and health services. The project found that contrary to popular belief, most students spent their summers outside of the coveted fields like technology and finance, engaging in other types of activity.
“We tried to include the most common paths people took each summer, and if there wasn’t enough to create their own path we put that in the 'other' category,” Engineering sophomore Olivia O’Dwyer said.
The “other” category included those who explored fields less popular than options like healthcare, financial services, and technology. For College students, legal services, traveling, and design all fell in the "other" category. The “other” category also includes people who did not fill it out Career Services surveys for that year.
The project visualizes students' paths to their post-graduate occupations by having different "bands" show the number of students pursuing a certain field each year. Lines connect the bands to show how students' summer activities link to pursuits in subsequent years and after graduation.
“No matter what school you looked at, the biggest bands are 'other.' I think the assumption would be, particularly in Wharton, that the big band would be finance, but it wasn’t, it was other,” said Michael DeAngelis, the current Digital Resources Manager at Career Services.
DeAngelis said an example of a student who would fall in the "other" category may have explored finance in an internship that took place at an arts institute, for instance.
“For people on the fence, it helps create confidence,” Wharton and Engineering junior Halil Can Memoglu said.
Members of the Signal say they hope the project demonstrates that there is more than one path to secure a successful career after graduation.
“I think Penn students, in particular, do think there’s a very linear career path for everybody and once you go down one path there’s no way you can go off it. But we see all the time in resumes that that’s not true, people do veer off, and do something different every year,” said Barbara Hewitt, executive director of Career Services.
“Being able to show someone that is very powerful,” DeAngelis added.
2018 Wharton graduate Laura Gao co-founded the Signal in 2017 to interview alumni about their career trajectory while at Penn and after graduation.
“[The Signal] is a club of people who care a lot about changing Penn’s culture, whatever that culture meant to them” Gao said. "Originally the main focus of what Penn’s culture meant to me was changing the pre-professional environment and changing the way people think about careers.”
Members of the club said they intend to create more projects addressing Penn's culture. A current initiative in the works in an "Anti-Resume" project that aims to normalize failure.