Holiday Networking

November 24th, 2015 - No Comments

The holidays are upon us! How can you use them to network your way to a stellar job? Even as a prospective student considering an MBA, you can start the search for your summer internship now.

While some job seekers assume everyone they might want to reach will be out over the holidays, the smaller numbers of resumes and cover letters submitted then are likely to get more attention. Additionally, a firm’s new fiscal year may start in January, which can be the busiest hiring month of the year AND “people hire people they know and like,” so don’t be a stranger!

Many parties happen in December. Whether it’s your own office party or an event through a health club, social or religious organization, make it a point to be there and introduce yourself. Ask questions that show interest in people’s lives and career paths. If you commonly work with a small group within a larger firm, challenge yourself to interact with at least three colleagues whom you don’t know well and learn something about their passions. You never know who they might know in your target industry or what they’ve done in a previous job that may align perfectly with your career goals.

While it’s true that many folks add precious vacation days to national holidays to lengthen time away to visit family or flee to warmer climates, some do stay in the office to get work done in peace. Reach out to alumni from your undergraduate alma mater or other contacts you can find through LinkedIn at some of your target firms and request an info interview, even in the first couple weeks of December. Keep the note short and professional, asking for no more than 30 minutes to get insight on their function and how things work in the company. Briefly state your background and what motivates you to learn more, based on your knowledge of the firm. Indicating that you realize they may not have any openings at this time could relieve their potential concern that you’re reaching out just to ask for a job! Include your availability for a call or meeting over the next week or so and if you’re local or planning to visit the area on a particular day, offer to meet at the office or a local coffee shop, if that’s more convenient. Meeting in person can boost your credibility and demonstrates a clear willingness to invest in the relationship and your career.

A large percentage of people credit networking with helping them land a job. Building relationships can take time, so starting this process early is wise. At the end of your meeting, be sure to ask with whom the person recommends you speak, given your specific interests. This will enable you to join existing networks and get a broad array of perspectives on your function and industries of interest, either to help you clarify your goals or to prepare you for interviews.

Happy Holidays!

Emily Giacomini
Associate Director, MBA Career Services

Giacomini Orientation

Emily Giacomini at Orientation 2015

Six Attributes of Career Self-Reliance

November 19th, 2015 - No Comments

Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright was asked if there were any guarantees to lasting employment in the future. In her response, she said the only guarantee is of lasting employability; fostered by a positive attitude, strong communication skills, the ability to get along with others, the ability to solve problems and to accept change.

Brown Orientation

Mike Brown at Orientation, 2015

Within business and organizations, the old employment contract of job security and life-long employment has disappeared. Because of increased technology and the need to be competitive in the global marketplace, companies are constantly restructuring their workplaces.

Payroll costs account for up to 65% of total operating costs. “Doing more with less,” has become the mantra of American business during the last 15 years. The rules have changed and hardworking, loyal “company people” have found themselves in search of new jobs or new careers.

It is this concept of employability that must become a part of our mindset. Employability or career self-reliance rests with the individual not the employer.

The best symbol of the old employment contract was the “career ladder.” A representation of the new contract is the “career lattice,” or “jungle gym” in which one’s career will take an upward, diagonal, horizontal or even downward route. Under the new employment contract, we must develop a “self-employed” attitude; becoming self-directing managers of our own careers.

I believe these attitudes toward employability or career self-reliance are indispensable for future success:

Own your career. View your work as owner of your business. Career success is now your responsibility, not your employers. Set goals; plan the steps to achieve them. Regard your skills and technical abilities as products, being always aware of your marketability.

Assess and evaluate your accomplishments, abilities and personal strengths constantly. Chronicle your achievements quarterly, or at least yearly. Benchmark your competencies to others in your field or industry. Remain competitive and never become complacent. Standing still is moving backwards!

Be open to multiple career directions. If you could paint your “career mosaic,” what would each of those tiles say about you? Manager, writer, student, lecturer, furniture refinisher, volunteer, activist, hobbyist. You may have a “portfolio” career based on your skills, interests and values. Your opportunities to develop secondary work will become greater. At the same time, you will create multiple streams of income and work satisfaction.

Become a continuous learner. Enhance your work and life skills. Determine areas of personal or professional development that may be holding you back. Attend seminars and training seminars to acquire new skills. Pursue advanced degree, continuing education and certificate programs. Participate in lectures and speaker series.

Be passionate about your work. Do what you love and love what you do. View your work not as a job but as a value contribution to your employer, and a series of career accomplishments to bolster your own “product portfolio.”

Constantly re-think, re-define and re-construct your work. Be your own agent of change. You may reinvent yourself for three or four career changes and have 10 to 20 different jobs. The key is being proactive, rather than reactive.

The beauty if this wisdom is simple. It will change. As companies continue to reinvent the way they do business, we too must reinvent our worklife. With a new mindset of employability, however, you will control the choices.

Mike Brown, Director, Smeal MBA Career Services

MBA Diwali

November 9th, 2015 - No Comments

One of the great perks of attending a full-time MBA Program (and, honestly, being an administrator at one) is experiencing daily a diverse community of people. In this program, you learn a great deal from people who originate from a different background than your own. Our international students are always more than happy to share their cultures and traditions with us and our program is richer for it.

Our community celebrates three major events each year in order for us to learn more about various cultures. Those events are Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Lunar New Year. On October 26th, our MBA Association collaborated with our Indian students to host a Diwali celebration. Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and is the biggest holiday in India. The Diwali celebration in the MBA program, begins with an Indian buffet dinner (pro tip: if you haven’t had Samosas in your life, you’re missing out). Following dinner is a series of dances, songs, videos, games, and a fashion show. A large portion of attendees don traditional Indian clothes including beautiful kurtas and stunning saris.

This event is a wonderful way to come together as a community and experience this magnificent celebration. We speak often about how close knit our program is and events such as this one really make us a family. Because We Are!

-Susan K. Winarchick
Penn State Smeal MBA Admissions Operations Manager

Diwali 2015

From the left: Susan Winarchick, Samarpita Guha, Stacey Dorang Peeler, and Effie Li.

Is This My Fork?

November 5th, 2015 - No Comments

First year MBA students at Penn State Smeal recently completed Career Immersion Week. One of their workshops included an etiquette lunch. The presenter, Kelly Frager, put students at ease by explaining that much of the information she would cover during the meal would serve as simple reminders. Kelly explained how etiquette has been around for a long time, doesn’t change, and that this refresher etiquette lunch should help students feel more confident about their table manners. Because so many interviews and business meetings happen around meals, it’s important to be prepared.

Throughout lunch it was interesting for me to consider how casual dining, which is becoming increasingly more common in business settings, might inadvertently cause us to break the rules. In a formal dining situation, diners have at least two forks – one for salad and one for their entrée. Most casual restaurants will encourage us to keep our forks from appetizer through dessert. In a formal or casual dining situation, if you drop your utensil, you are supposed to leave it where it landed and ask for a new one. Of course it makes sense to avoid putting a dirty fork back on a clean table and you certainly wouldn’t use it for eating. However, I could also image a server in a more casual restaurant thinking it’s rude for a diner to leave their utensil on the floor, especially if it lands in other peoples’ path. Knowing the rules and understanding the expectations in both formal and informal settings is essential for making good impressions.

Students found the session to be fun and informative. As Kelly explained, etiquette is about being “other-centered.” If you’re focused on making others feel comfortable and put them at ease, you’re demonstrating proper etiquette. I also think about a quote from Oscar Wilde, “The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork.” Because table manners involve more than just being courteous, I’m glad we offer an etiquette lunch to every first year class. Our graduates “roll up their sleeves” attitude and a top-notch curriculum with world class faculty, combined with refined manners help to explain why our MBA graduates are consistently successful in the workplace.

Brenda Fabian
MBA Admissions Associate Director


B-School Blog Halloween Edition: The Horrors of Fashion

October 30th, 2015 - No Comments

I’ll start by saying that by no means am I a fashion maven, or even what someone would consider a “snappy dresser”. I don’t seek designer labels, and I’ve been known to refer to winter as “black pants season.” Given my small stature, simply buying pants that don’t trail like a train behind me can be a major item on my “to do” list (translation–I have some basics that I stick to, and only occasionally do I stray from the “norm” when it comes to work dress). I do, however, have experience evaluating future business school students. And I can tell you, that while you can’t always judge a “book by its cover”, how you present yourself to a recruiter is very important. That includes what you choose to wear to a recruiting event, how you decide to style your hair and makeup, and what accessories you select. This advice is for men and women–so listen up. 

In the spirit of wanting to see people be successful and present themselves as confident professionals in the application process (yes–as early as the “just looking for information” at an MBA fair), I’ll proceed with a few tips that will hopefully help b-school applicants avoid some big professional dress “no-nos”. Unfortunately, my inspiration comes from a series of recent recruiting events (which, even in this month of Halloween, have scared me more than any horror movie). The egregious errors I will address are not for the faint of heart–but will hopefully serve as a warning to others. 


-Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy are classic film characters (and even breakfast cereal stars). Where they do NOT belong: on your leggings underneath your business casual, otherwise lovely, navy blue dress. 

 Bloody Bandages 

-Where you expect to see them: operating rooms, accident scenes, and in some Halloween decorations and costumes. Reality check: shaving accidents happen. That’s ok. Just please, PLEASE, change the Band-Aid before putting on your dress clothes. No one wants to see the aftermath of what happened in your bathroom earlier in the day.


-Traditionally used to cover windows, for vampires to hide behind in Bela Lugosi movies, and for the occasional nanny sewing project in such films as The Sound of Music. If your wardrobe choice consists of anything that looks like Mary Kate and/or Ashley Olsen wore it 10 years ago, save it for another occasion. The bohemian look can be trendy–but it’s not trending in the b-school application process. (For those mystery novel fans, “Curtains” is also a great book for spook season by Agatha Christie).

 Crocheted Ties 

-I love a good find on Etsy. I appreciate the handicraft of a talented knitter. I’ve even been known to crochet a scarf or two. Would I recommend wearing something grandma made with your suit, loafers and French cuff dress shirt? No. Points to said wearer for boasting school colors, but way too artsy for the business school recruiting fair scene. Save this tie for the school graduation celebration, and instead, pick a traditional silk tie–even one with a pop of color– if you want to add some whimsy to your business casual dress on recruiting day.


-If your dress begs the question “did she forget pants?”, it’s too short to wear to a business event. If that’s your best option, at least grab some tights or leggings. Enough said. 


-T-shirts are a casual staple. You can even dress them up (a little bit), with jeans and a blazer for a put together look. Logo t-shirts that boast the acts from the last music fest you went to and/or promote your favorite cocktail–paired with a suit AND SNEAKERS–don’t cut it. Just. Don’t. 


-They call undergarments unmentionables, because no one should be mentioning them. Only you should know what’s under that suit or dress. Do a trial run of your outfit and check a mirror from all sides. If anything is causing lumps, bumps, or showing through your clothing, it’s not the right item for your outfit.

 Questionable Graphics 

-If you choose to express your personal style on a handbag, backpack, or other garment/accessory, that’s up to you. Just think about the image it might portray in a professional situation (example: toting a purse with a handgun spraying bullets on your pocketbook might not make the best initial impression with those reviewing your grad school application.) Show them how tough you are by flying through the application process with professionalism and poise.

 In no way is this blog an attempt to thwart your personal style, but there is a time and place for everything–and that time and place may not be a recruiting fair. Use good judgment. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter. Ask a good friend for a candid assessment. And then go out there and put your best foot (and shoe!) forward.

 Happy Halloween!

 –Stacey Dorang Peeler

THON Fundraising Season is Here!

October 22nd, 2015 - No Comments


MBA Soccer Fundraiser for THON

September 25th marked the beginning of THON fundraising for the 2015-2016 academic year. Our MBA students are again sponsoring dancers to participate in the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON), which is a philanthropy run by students to benefit the Four Diamonds Fund at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Four Diamonds provides assistance for children who are diagnosed with pediatric cancer and their families.

Last Friday, MBA students participated in a charity soccer game, where the 2nd year team defeated the 1st year team.  Each player made a donation and the proceeds were donated to THON. Upcoming fundraisers include a silent auction during our Diwali celebration and a Turkey Bowl flag football game.

If you would like to make a donation to THON earmarked for the MBA dancers, you can do so at this link:

Ann Mallison
Director of MBA Student Services

Behind the Scenes

October 14th, 2015 - No Comments

Many of you are probably wondering what goes on behind the scenes after you hit submit on your application. While I’ll save you from the tedious recounting of every single step, I thought it would be helpful to give you a general idea of the journey your application file takes once it hits the admissions office!


Susan is in her office somewhere!

Step one:  All of your submitted information, which comes to us through several different systems, is compiled by our team and checked for completeness. This also includes running essays through our iThenticate software. If any piece of the application is missing, someone from our team (usually Susan, our Operations Manager, will reach out to the applicant and let them know their file is still incomplete).


Step two: Every applicant’s file goes to a member of the admissions team for initial review. What are we looking for? Ultimately, a reason to want to invite you to an interview to get to know you better—which is the next step in the process! We will begin assessing your candidacy during our initial review in several areas, keeping in mind these three themes:

-Will you be academically successful at Smeal? (transcripts, GPA, test scores)

-Are your goals clear and are we the right program to help you achieve them and find the type of job that you want post-MBA? (resume, essays, video)

-Are you a good fit for are program, and is our program a good fit for you? (all parts of the application can help us answer this)


Step three: The first decision is made. Those we hope to get to know better and whom we think could be a good candidate for the program based on their applications are invited to interview, and an interview invitation is sent via email. For those who do not receive an invitation to interview, a deny letter is sent. This typically happens within 2-4 weeks of when the application is received. At peak times of year, it takes a bit longer to move people through the process.


Step four: For those who move on, an interview (in-person or via webcam) is conducted. During the interview, someone from our team seeks to learn more about your goals, your past experiences, what you want out of an MBA, etc. in the interview conversation. You will also have time to ask us questions. Remember, while we are selecting you, you are also selecting us! Have some questions prepared.


Step five: The next decision is made—the BIG ONE. After we have assessed your print file and video and evaluated your interview performance, the committee will determine if you will be offered admission, denied admission or wait-listed. These decisions are then communicated before the next round deadline. (Timetable: For those who are admitted, financial aid packages may be awarded at time of admission OR later in a separate communication. Aid, like admission, is done on a rolling basis, so just because someone doesn’t get aid initially doesn’t mean they might not receive it later in the process.


Step six: You evaluate, we wait. In your admission letter, you will be given a date by which you must communicate your enrollment decision to us and put down a deposit if you will attend our program—which we hope you will do if given the opportunity! Your enrollment deposit is viewed as your final commitment to us and holds your spot in our next class.


While this is a very basic, high level overview of our process, we know applying to business school can be stressful, and we hope this provides a little bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes. We hope to see your application soon!


–Stacey Dorang Peeler

Smeal Honor Code

September 21st, 2015 - No Comments

Greetings from Happy Valley!


The Smeal Honor Code, started by Penn State Smeal MBA students in 2006, is a pledge that holds the Smeal community accountable for upholding integrity and ethical behavior.


The code reads: “We, the Smeal College of Business community, aspire to the highest ethical standards and will hold each other accountable to them. We will not engage in any action that is improper or that creates the appearance of impropriety in our academic lives, and we intend to hold to this standard in our future careers.”


Earlier this month we held our biannual Honor Code signing, a special tradition in the Smeal College of Business community. Each semester, students, faculty, and staff sign the Honor Code to reaffirm their commitment to integrity and ethical behavior, and members of the community also volunteer to staff the signing area. Those who sign the Honor Code also have the option to receive an e-certificate, confirming their participation in the Honor Code signing, that they may add to their LinkedIn profile.


View our short video to learn more about the college’s commitment to integrity and why current students sign the Honor Code.


Jen Eury, Ph.D.
Director of Honor and Integrity
Smeal College of Business


Advice When Considering an MBA

September 21st, 2015 - No Comments

Recently, I became the Admissions Operations Manager for the MBA Program, and, thus, I am the newest member of the Admissions Team. I have been with the MBA Program for 10 years and prior to joining Admissions, I served as the Student Services Representative for the program. During my time in Student Services, I had the opportunity to work with nearly 1000 students and it has provided me with a unique perspective on what student life entails. Based on my observations, below are a few things to think about when choosing an MBA program.

-Fit – One of the first things you will discover is that the Smeal MBA Program is a family. Our students pitch in together for everything from a tailgate to a job search. If a student sees a job posting that would be a good fit for a classmate, it gets sent to that classmate. For some students, this is the right environment for them. What it comes down to is finding the right fit for YOU.

-Time – Life as an MBA student is a busy one. Between class, team meetings, and the job search, it can be difficult to find outside time. Keep in mind whether or not this is the right time for you to make a two year commitment to your education.

-Opportunities – I know I mentioned that life is already busy for students, but it is important to take advantage of the additional opportunities that are afforded to MBA students. Student Associations will often have trips to meet with companies and learn more about their process. Alums come back to campus to mentor and guide current students. Case competitions allow students not only an educational experience, but also typically offer prize money. Making the most of these possibilities can provide you with a more well-rounded MBA experience.

-Have Fun – If you come to Penn State, hike Mount Nittany. Visit the Penn State Creamery…often. Go to a concert at the Bryce Jordan Center. Take in an exhibit at the Palmer Art Museum. Your educational experience is much like life – you get out of it what you put into it. Make that time two of the most important years of your life.

-Susan K. Winarchick, Penn State Smeal MBA Admissions Operations Manager

Video Essay Tips

September 4th, 2015 - No Comments

As part of the application for the Smeal MBA program, we require a video essay. We do this for several reasons. We get a better sense of your personality, it can assist us in assessing your potential, and we can see how you think on your feet. The video application also benefits you and helps you learn more about us. Our questions are prepared in a way that will help you gain a sense of what matters to us, including our culture and values, and the qualities we’re seeking in our candidates.

•Dress like you would for an interview. This one is easy!
•Choose a neutral and professional background. Avoid white walls if possible.
•Sit at a clutter-free space.
•Avoid being “back lit” from a window or lamp.
•Sit farther away from your computer than you would when typing. It’s better to have your computer slightly higher than lower to avoid the appearance of looking down on someone.
•Avoid interruptions. Make sure alarms are turned off. Turn off or silence your cell phone and close all other programs on your computer. Consider hanging a “do not disturb” note on the door or over the doorbell explaining that you have a video recording in progress. Have a neighbor watch your children or pets to avoid interruptions (or the fear of interruptions).

•Check the audio and use the highest-speed Internet connection you can. With slower Internet connections, video may not align well with the audio and can cause time delays.
•Try plugging your computer directly into your Internet cable, rather than using a wireless connection.
•Plug in your computer so there’s no chance that the battery will die.
•Invest in better microphones if necessary.
•Use the practice session and practice questions until you’re comfortable with the format. The entire process should only take 15 to 20 minutes to complete so don’t rush.

•Remember to look into the camera, not the computer screen, to mimic eye contact. If necessary, place a small photo near the camera to help you remember to look into the camera.
•Maintain good posture and relax your shoulders to avoid looking appearing stiff. Remember that gestures can look exaggerated on video so gesture sparingly.
•You won’t have the benefit of seeing your interviewer’s physical cues to assess whether or not they’re engaged. You don’t want to present as having a flat personality so be sure to communicate with enthusiasm (within reason) and professionalism. Focus on speaking slowly, and don’t be afraid to smile. Smiling will also help relax you.
•Be aware of how long you are taking to respond to each question. You will a specified amount of time to respond to questions. Balance the need to be concise with the need to be thorough, and use all of the time you have.

–Brenda Fabian

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