Penn’s Career Services has introduced a new Peer Career Advisor program, allowing undergraduates to walk in on weekdays to receive assistance with the job application process.
The new program allows walk-ins from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Career Services office inside the McNeil Building. Along with helping with resumes, cover letters, and interview preparation, peer advisors teach students how to use Handshake, help them prepare for information sessions, and discuss potential professional fields of interest with them, Associate Director of Career Services Jingy Yen said.
The team of seven Peer Career Advisors in the fall semester is comprised of three seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, and one graduate student. Four study at the Wharton School, while two are from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and one is from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Yen said Career Services looked for a diverse team that could represent the overall undergraduate population. All peer advisors have had previous internship experience and were trained in the spring and summer, Yen said.
Part of the inspiration to implement the new program came from the existence of similar programs at other peer institutions, where students offer advice and assist undergraduates with various aspects of the job application process, Yen said.
The program was implemented as a supplement to the existing services that the full-time Career Services staff already offers, Yen said. One difference is giving students an opportunity to hear about the job application process through peers, granting a different perspective than that of a full-time advisor.
Engineering graduate student and peer advisor Maddie Paliganoff said when she was an undergraduate, she didn’t have an opportunity to talk with peers who had gone through the same process as her.
“It has been easier to just level with people in terms of [saying], ‘Oh, I have taken that class,’ or, ‘I have had an internship there,’ or, ‘I have worked at this lab,’” Paliganoff said. Students may find it more comfortable if they are talking to someone who has been in the same situation before, Paliganoff said.
The peer advisors will also participate in cover letter workshops each semester and attend meetings with students at residential halls to explain how to prepare for a career fair, Yen said.
Currently, only undergraduates can access the service, though Yen added the program has the potential to expand its service to graduates.
Yen said 250 students have accessed the service since the beginning of the semester, referring to a survey sent out after three weeks of classes.
“There is a real need for this program,” Yen said. “I am glad that we were able to support students in a different way.”
Full-time advisors still offer guidance on resumes, Yen said. Students can either walk in, make appointments, or send emails to the office. But when students walk into the office without appointments during the hours when peer advisors are available, they will be directed to see a peer advisor.
The new program can make full-time advisors more available to help with urgent issues, such as negotiating a time-sensitive job offer, Yen said. She added that students can still come back in the future with an appointment to meet with a full-time advisor to talk about their resumes.
Career Services is also considering expanding hours later into the evening instead of closing at 5 p.m., which Yen said can be a time when students are still in class.
College sophomore Austin Smith, who has met with a peer advisor, said the session was helpful. Though Smith still plans on meeting with a full-time advisor, he said it was most beneficial to “definitely [have] that [perspective of] learning from [the peer advisor's] own experience and knowing what looks best in her professional realm.”
“It’s really good getting an upperclassman to check your resume,” Engineering freshman Aditya Rathi, who has accessed the service, said. “Sometimes they do offer personal insights from their resume building or their extracurricular interests.”