Identifying the Marketable Skills Employers Look For

April 15th, 2014 - No Comments

Today we welcome Mike Brown, Director of MBA Career Services for the Penn State Smeal College of Business as our guest blogger.

Identifying the Marketable Skills Employers Look For

By Mike Brown, Director, MBA Career Services Smeal College of Business

I found the results of an Internet survey of 750 hiring managers to be noteworthy enough to share with you. Survey results concluded that: a) 9 of 10 job candidates had not adequately identified their most marketable skills, and b) candidates could not adequately convey them in a job interview. Staggering results in light of the fact that job interviews play a major role in whether a candidate receives a job offer.


Think of the advantage that you would have if you already identified those skills and personality traits interviewers and hiring managers look for. At Smeal’s MBA Career Services, we believe that those characteristics fall into three categories: Competency, Commitment and Compatibility.


Competency — your skills that relate to the job’s responsibilities. These are often called the “technical skills.” Your competencies to use instrumentation, to write programs, analyze data or craft compelling marketing messages are “can do” skills. Knowing how you match these competencies is the first step in obtaining an interview. Just knowing them, however, is not enough. Recall achievements or examples of how you used those skills, and you will distance yourself from 80% of your competition. Recall times when you saved your company money or time. Think of instances when you looked at alternative solutions that reduced costs, or reduced waste or made better use of resources.


Commitment — the traits that motivate you to do your best work. Employers look for drive, energy, enthusiasm or your desire to get things done. Speaking of your energy, initiative or your ability to give extra effort is a major trait sought by employers. Pride in your work and always taking the extra step to ensure a job is done will separate you from others. As with competency, think of examples of times when you’ve demonstrated your motivated traits.


Compatibility — the third characteristic for improving your marketability is your ability to “fit in.” Employers and potential team members look for strong communication skills, good listening skills, great chemistry and social skills…in short, likeability. Honesty and integrity are vital to a smooth transition into a new work environment. Ask yourself how well you accept feedback, and how well you give it constructively. In the interview process, these characteristics will come to light in a peer or group interview with potential team members.


Your potential employer will be looking for the best combination of competency, commitment and compatibility; the “walk on water” candidate. Potential colleagues or peers will be interested in your ability to “fit in.”  Seldom in one’s career do we really stop and “take stock” of these characteristics that make up our own personal brand but I urge you to take stock of yours.


Remember yours is not just a job or internship search but a marketing campaign. Those who believe that, have a greater advantage over those who don’t.


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Summer is coming…

April 8th, 2014 - No Comments

…and going. As you look forward to MBA orientation in August, you might think “I have the WHOLE summer ahead of me!”. Before you know it, you’ll be packing up and moving to campus and the time will have flown by.

While it’s important to get some rest and relaxation in before the program starts, there is also business to attend to. Please make sure you are keeping up with program emails and assignments. There will be pre-work to do for accounting and also for our Career Services team. Our goal is to position you to come into the program and be well-equipped to succeed  both academically and on the career front from day one.

If you haven’t made housing arrangements yet, NOW is the time. Don’t forget, your “go to” place for information is our Admitted Student page:

We can’t wait to welcome you to Smeal in person in just a few short months!

–Stacey Dorang Peeler

“Firefighter for a Day Challenge”

April 2nd, 2014 - No Comments

Today we welcome guest blogger Erik Orient, Director of MBA Student Services at the Penn State Smeal MBA Program.

On Mar 27, 2014, 40 Smeal MBA and EMBA students had a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the New York City Fire Department.  As part of the newly piloted “Leadership Immersion” for the full-time MBA program, the students traveled to New York City and spent a day learning about leadership, decision-making, implicit communication, and selfless service from FDNY professionals.

The “Firefighter for a Day Challenge” started with a terse welcome from one of the FDNY Lieutenants, breaking into teams, and some calisthenics. After that, each team spent the day paired up with experienced firefighters while going through scenario-based leadership exercises such as hose drills, casualty recovery operations, emergency responses, confined space negotiation, and extinguishing fires.  A few students also got to participate in the final event, ominously named the “mother of all drills” which could simultaneously be described as both terrifying and exhilarating….and really, really, hot.

Throughout the day, each team reviewed its actions with their FDNY leader and learned a great deal about themselves and, maybe more importantly, the firefighter culture.  Most of us already harbored great respect for our first responders, but it increased enormously by the end of the training as we recognized the unbridled courage, physical stamina, and commitment to others that is a part of the firefighter’s character.

We concluded our visit with an emotionally challenging visit to part of the training facility.  The same lieutenant who initially greeted us with a granite face and stern language had now softened ever so slightly as he stood in front of 343 pictures of his fallen brothers who were killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.  It was immediately clear why he and his fellow firefighters are so razor focused on always being at the top of their game.  The price for second rate performance in their line of work is a human life, and that’s a bottom line tha

t very few of us ever have to think about.

- Erik Orient

Our thanks to the FDNY for sharing their time and talents!


Sandy Simler is suited up and ready to take on the fire.

Sandy Simler is suited up and ready to take on the fire.

The FDNY Helmet that returned to the Smeal MBA Program.

The FDNY Helmet that returned to the Smeal MBA Program.

Fires burn as our MBA and EMBA students spend a day with the FDNY.

Fires burn as our MBA and EMBA students spend a day with the FDNY.

Global Immersion

March 20th, 2014 - No Comments

March 3rd-7th our students went on Global Immersion to different parts of the world and for my 2nd time I was able to accompany them. I was one of the staff members that took 22 students to Lima, Peru. It was an amazing week. We were able to see how business is done in an emerging economy, different from ours in many ways. Outside of the companies and business side of the trip there was also a lot to learn about the culture of the area. We toured the city, ate great fresh seafood, and even visited an ancient archeological site (

The things that can be learned and experienced through stepping outside of the everyday and traveling around the world are truly amazing and I encourage everyone to try to see as much as they can at every opportunity. After all, as you progress in your careers the entire world will become the marketplace you each will want to take advantage of. The more you expose yourself to different cultures and experiences now the better.

Plus the views are terrific.
-Scott Sylves

Honor & Integrity at the Penn State Smeal College of Business

March 13th, 2014 - No Comments

*Today we welcome guest blogger, Jennifer Eury to our Admissions Blog.*

Hi, I’m Jennifer Eury, and I’m the Honor and Integrity Director for the Smeal College of Business. Honor and integrity are important to our community, and in fact, these values underscore who we are as a leading business school community.

At Smeal, we have an Honor Code:

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 this standard in our future careers.

In fact, in 2006, MBA students helped to draft this code, which was later adopted by the Smeal community in 2007. Every semester, we invite students (and all members of the Smeal community) to sign the honor code and reaffirm their commitment to integrity and ethical behavior in their academic lives and future careers. The photo here is from a recent signing event.

In addition to signing the honor code each semester or staffing the honor code signing tables, there are a number of ways for MBA students to get involved and to help promote integrity and ethical behavior. For example, each semester we invite speakers to campus to share their successes and their failures, and to engage in a candid dialogue with our students. We host executive-level speakers to talk about leadership as part of the Executive Insights series, and each of these speakers address ethics in the professional workplace and how they lead with integrity in their own careers. Most recently, we also hosted former HealthSouth CFO Aaron Beam, who spent three months in federal prison for fraud, as part of our G. Albert Shoemaker Lecture series. We also encourage our student organizations to identify opportunities to promote honor and integrity through special events and activities.

This is indeed a special community. I hope you will consider learning more about our commitment to helping our students develop the skills and knowledge to prepare them for the ethical dilemmas that they will experience in the professional workplace. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I can be reached at 814-867-5106 or via e-mail at

Honor Code Signing

Honor Code Signing

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Now What?

February 25th, 2014 - No Comments

You applied to b-school for Fall 2014—and didn’t get in. Now what? Panic? Hide under your bed? Give up your worldly possessions and move to the forest?

Start with a deep breath. A b-school rejection is what you make of it. While not the outcome for which you had hoped, how you handle it could very well determine if it’s just a speed bump on the road of life, or if it completely throws you off course.

Fact: The b-school admissions process is very competitive. Thousands of bright people of strong character get denied from their top choice each year.

Fact: Many dust themselves off, figure out what went wrong, correct their course, and get into b-school the following year.

At Smeal, we make it a practice to offer feedback to denied applicants so we can help them understand what went wrong and advise on how they might improve their chances in the next year’s admissions cycle. While we recognize you can’t go back in time and change things such as undergraduate transcripts or a job on your resume that might have been a bad fit, there is a lot you still CAN affect in time to apply again next year. If you have been denied this year and want to re-apply, please contact us between May and July and we’ll set up a feedback call with you.

Meanwhile, here are some of the aspects of the application to think about:

1)If you interviewed, how did it go? Did you feel prepared? Were your goals clear? Did you present the best picture of yourself that you could have while remaining true to yourself and your ambitions? If English is your second language, did you communicate confidently and clearly? Did you take the option to interview in-person if it was available to you (and feasible)? Did you present yourself in a professional manner (dress, mannerisms, etc.)

2)Did you choose recommenders who could really paint the best picture of what it’s like to work with you in a professional setting? Were your recommenders people who truly knew you well—and could attest to both your strengths and challenges?

3)Was your GMAT/GRE test performance as strong as it could have been? Did you prepare in earnest and do your best?

4)Does your resume present all of the information a committee needs to understand your experiences and accomplishments? (Including a clear time line of job progression, promotions, and duties.)

5)Did you take advantage of optional pieces of the application at schools who offered them? (i.e. Video submissions, additional essays, etc.)Taking the time to go the extra mile says a lot about your character. Optional pieces of the application are likely never a make it or break it part of the application, but they can help the committee get to know you better.

6)Were your essays clear, well-written, and organized logically? Did you answer the question asked and follow the directions regarding length/word limit? Did you use grammar and spell check (seriously—some people forget!)

7) Did your goals align with the strengths of the program—and did you apply to programs that made sense for your career and academic goals?

Part of the educational journey, and life’s journey, sometimes means failing and trying again. We hope that you will use your experience to learn more about yourself and your goals, and use that new found knowledge to apply again next year if that’s the best decision for you. In the long run, failure is only a true failure if we learn nothing from it.

–Stacey Dorang Peeler

Time Management Skills: Learn what works for you now!

February 18th, 2014 - No Comments

As you embark towards your MBA there may be no more important skill you can learn or cultivate than time management. Trust me when I tell you it’s better to get these skills as strong as possible now before you really need them than after your semester begins and you’re up to your ears in deadlines. I speak from experience.

I always feel like I had average skills when it came to time management, but once a brought a few new stressors into my life I realized I had no idea what I was doing. In April my wife and I had our first child, in August I began going back to school for a Master’s Degree, and in September we bought a new house we decided to renovate from top to bottom. It didn’t take long before I felt as if I was drowning without a life raft in a sea of “not enough time”. Learning what time management techniques work best for me before I needed them, would have helped me avoid many grey hairs and made my first few months of craziness easier to handle.

Just about anyone will tell you the same basics when it comes to time management techniques prioritize your tasks, plan ahead, and set goals. These few things sound simple as can be and you probably think will be right there for you in your head when you need. I’m telling if you don’t start using them before you really need them so they become second nature it may be harder than you think to pick them up.

Learn to prioritize the items on your plate each day. Rank your tasks as you see them in order of importance and urgency. If you don’t start to think about your time as a precious commodity and rank your tasks in a hierarchy you could easily start down a path of inefficiency.

Plan, plan, plan. It’s human nature when confronted with a pile of strains on your time to want to dive right in and start knocking things off the list. It really does take practice to be able to stand back and develop a plan first, especially when you are feeling stress to get it all done. Taking 30 minutes or an hour at the beginning of your day or week could save you much more time in the long run as you become more efficient.

Set goals or milestones on your progress to make sure you are getting where you need to go. These will help serve 2 goals. First of all they will give you an update on how you are progressing, showing that you are either on pace or if you need to ramp things up. The second benefit is that it can be a moral boost to set goals for yourself and then to complete them.

Make sure you find a plan that works for you because everyone if different. Also if you wait until your first year at an MBA program to learn how to best manage your time it may be too late.

- Scott Sylves

Making the Most of Admitted Student Weekends

February 6th, 2014 - No Comments

This blog has been “re-purposed” from the MBA Mondays Blog: The MBA Mondays Blog is dedicated to providing b-school admissions advice to Service Academy graduates considering an MBA. It was originally posted on 1.27.14.


If you’ve been admitted to an MBA program, you’ve likely also been invited to a school’s Admitted Student Weekend, “Visitation Weekend” or “Welcome Weekend”.  While the title of the event may differ from school to school, most programs host this event in the spring during which all admitted candidates are invited to spend time on campus diving deeper into the program, getting to know students, staff and faculty, and generally getting a more in depth feel for what it’s like to be an MBA at a particular school.  By the time Admitted Student Weekend rolls around, you’ve done the interview, you’re already accepted, and you are likely down to a couple of programs on your short list. This is the last chance to ask your final questions before making your commitment to a school, and also a great way to start getting to know other students who will likely be in your class if you attend that program. (It’s also possible you’ve already enrolled in a program. If that’s the case, you should STILL go to your program’s Visitation Weekend. It will help you stay engaged, meet new people who will soon be your classmates, and maybe even give you the opportunity to knock some things off the administrative “to do” list long before orientation starts.)

Some tips on how to make the most of a “Visitation Weekend”:

1)I’ll say it again—GO! You can only gain more insight and be more prepared for what your new life as an MBA student will bring. Yes, you’ve probably already done a visit. Yes, you’ve probably already seen a class. B-school is a huge investment, and this is the last shot you likely have before taking the plunge. In addition, most programs offer some kind of financial support to help bear the cost of making the trip and the expenses associated with it (i.e.: providing hotel rooms, meals, travel reimbursement). Most also let you bring a guest (partner, spouse, parent). Schools understand that for many, embarking on an MBA journey affects your family too. Take advantage of the option to attend with a guest if you think it would be beneficial.

2)Talk not only to faculty, staff and current MBA students, but also spend time talking to other admitted students. These are the people you will be in classes with for the next 2 years. Does it feel right? Are these people you want to work with on teams? Are you on the “same page”?

3)The agenda for the weekend is likely packed. Schools want to really give you a thorough exposure to everything they offer because they know how important your decision is. Do your best to attend every scheduled session—even if they are optional. You’ll be exhausted at the end of the event, but you’ll know you gave it 100% and made the most of your visit.

4)If there’s something still “nagging” you, or you have a tough question you haven’t asked yet, ASK IT. Schools genuinely want you to make the right choice for YOU, and most administrators and students will be glad you brought up a question or issue sooner rather than later. Things you think might be “taboo” or inappropriate to ask are likely asked about more than you think.

5)If you can spare the extra time during the trip, take the time to look at housing options while you are there. In most areas, graduate student housing fills up quickly. Unless you are comfortable with the sight unseen approach, try to check out some places to live while you are in town.

6)Mind your manners. While the school will do its best to make the best impression possible, you should do the same. Even at this early stage, you are already creating a reputation with faculty and your soon-to-be classmates. Be aware of things like dress codes for certain events, and if alcohol is being served, know your limits.

7)Plan ahead and communicate with the admissions team at the school. If you will arrive late, leave early, or need some kind of special accommodation (dietary, or other), let the event planner know in advance so they can help you have the best experience possible.

Here’s to a fantastic spring full of fruitful Admitted Student Weekends!

–Stacey Dorang Peeler

Honesty is the Best Policy When Writing Career Goals

February 4th, 2014 - No Comments

Recently in an article about Wharton’s perceived conservative admissions decisions, published in “Poets & Quants” Adam Hoff, of Amerasia Consulting Group, mentions telling his clients to “proceed with caution when it comes to laying out your post-MBA plans. If your goal is even remotely hard to achieve, we strongly advise reconsidering that goal as it relates to your Wharton application.” (Poets & Quants, Byrne )  From the standpoint of a Business school, the phrase “reconsider the goal as it relates to…” is a scary statement.  The article implies that applicants should tailor their career goal statement to what the Business School admissions team wants to hear, which is becoming more in synch with what Career Services teams think are employable.  To some extent, candidates are encouraged to stretch the truth a bit if their true goals are ambitious or are not in line with a school’s placement strength.

The reality is just the opposite.  Admissions committees prefer to know the truth, upfront.  Being truthful about career goals from day one can only help both the school and the candidate.  If a business school is going to deny you because they can’t help you find a job that meets your career goals, then that is not the business school for you.  Throw away rankings and consultants.  Listen to what your heart and passion are telling you are your future career aspirations.  Then find a few good schools who can help you achieve your dreams.

Suppose a candidate who “reconsiders his goals as they relate to a particular school” gains admission to that school.  Two weeks after classes start and recruiters begin to hire on-campus, this student begins to realize that he either needs to look for work in line with his “reconsidered goal” or needs to focus on what he truly wants to do. However, if he focuses on the true passion there is no assistance at this highly ranked institution to help him chase his dreams.  Now he becomes dis-enchanted with the school and the program.  This discontent grows throughout his time at the institution.  By graduation the student is unhappy and may not have a job – at least not one that meets his true goals.  From this standpoint the school is unhappy as well.  They now have an unhappy student, who is soon to be an un-happy alumnus.  It is a lose/lose situation.

Candidates need to lose the “I need to get into the MBA Program with the highest ranking, highest starting salaries and highest employment number” mentality, and realize they really should be looking for the schools that will help them achieve their true dreams and goals.


By Ann Mallison

Associate Director of Admissions

Penn State Smeal MBA Program

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Atlanta MBA Alumni Networking Reception

December 17th, 2013 - No Comments

On December 6, 2013 Penn State Smeal MBA Alumni met for a networking reception at Twist Restaurant & Tapas Bar in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta.  The event was coordinated by Paul Poissant, Director of MBA Employer Relations. Our thanks to Paul and to all of the alumni who attended the event. A good time was had by all, and we look forward to alumni receptions in more cities in the new year!


Twist Restaurant and Tapas Bar

Twist Restaurant and Tapas Bar


Paul Poissant – Director of MBA Employer Relations hosted the event.


Recent Alumni


Meeting New Friends


Re-connecting with Old Friends


Kyle Berry, ’13, Enjoying the Evening


A Fun Night


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