How to Conquer the Gies Business Career Fair as an English/CW Major (Updated for Fall 2018)

  1. The Gies Business Career Fair is open to all majors, and many employers come hoping to meet majors from all over the university.
  2. Bring your I-Card — it’s the only requirement for entry.
  3. If you’re inclined to go, go! If you’re not whether “business” is for you, go. Talking to employers is a great way to find out more about what “business” careers are out there and how you might fit in. If you’re planning to to to the LAS & ACES Career Fair in October, going to the Gies fair is a great way to get familiar with the career fair format, so you go to the next one with even more confidence.
  4. Prepare. Having a plan is the difference between a traumatizing career fairexperience and a useful one. A little bit of preparation will show you that you are not only employable, but have choices about your employment. 
  5. Preparation = Handshake. Spend a half hour on Handshake to identify some employers you want to approach. The “event” page for the Business Career Fair tells you
    • which employers will be there, and on which day (each employer only attends for one day)
    • what particular employers do
    • what positions employers are seeking to fill
    • whether employers have internships or jobs
    • where to find more information on the company website
  6. Not all employers will want to talk to English/CW majors! That’s okay. Focus on the ones that do. Don’t try to search for your major — instead look for employers who
    • seek a wide breadth of backgrounds (e.g., Morningstar, Anheuser-Busch, Addison),
    • have positions requiring excellent communication and relationship-building skills (recruiting, sales, consulting, client services, marketing, human resources),
    • specify majors related to business or communication, or
    • don’t ask for specific quantitative or technical knowledge.
  7. Come up with a list of 2 – 7 employers. More than that on either day may leave you overwhelmed.
  8. Create a version of your resume that emphasizes the skills those employers seek. You can find a good template here.
  9. As you prepare, you will see that some employers encourage applicants to apply online. If you’re confident that you want to pursue the job, go ahead and do so — then when the recruiter asks if you’ve applied you can say “yes!” and impress them with your enthusiasm and alacrity.
  10. Practice introducing yourself! The conventional “elevator pitches” that your engineering or finance major friends have been honing will not convey the particular strengths that you have to offer employers, so don’t try to come up with 30 seconds of achievement to rattle off. Instead, think about how to start a conversation with a recruiter and how to drop your strengths into that conversation. It’s great to start with an intelligent question about the opening that interests you (e.g., “what kinds of experience are you looking for in candidates for this recruiting internship?” and then have a good follow up that conveys your interest in and fit for the position (e.g., “that sounds really perfect for me — I’m the membership chair for Illini Against Voldemort and I’ve used my communication skills to expand our active members by fifty percent. I’m good at building relationships, and I’d like to use that talent professionally.”)
  11. Your major isn’t a shameful secret that you need to hide — but it’s not the detail that you should lead with. Employers care more about what you can do than what you study. “I write more than seventy-five pages of polished prose every semester, and I’d like to use my ability to juggle multiple deadlines to help you meet your clients’ needs” speaks to employers in a way that “I’m a Creative Writing major!” does not.
  12. Dress appropriately (black suit optional). A dark suit will help you blend in, but it’s not necessary. A professional combo of skirt/dress/slacks + top/shirt and/or blazer, with appropriate accessories (subdued jewelry or necktie) and footwear (no gym shoes or flip-flops) is fine. There’s a secure place to check bags and comfy shoes.
  13. Bring lots of copies of your resume. Two for every employer that you plan to speak to plus five extras is a good estimate. You can buy expensive “resume paper” to print it on, but regular printer paper is fine.
  14. You’ll need something to put your resumes in, and a place to take notes and stash business cards is also helpful. A “padfolio” is the most common solution to this problem — you can find them in the bookstore, but they may be less expensive online or at an office supply store. A regular folder is fine, too.
  15. Pro-tip from the student who spoke at our English Advising Breakfast Club event on surviving career fairs: hold your folder casually down at your side rather than clutching it to your chest — you’ll look more confident and approachable. If you make sure to put it in your left hand, you’ll have your right free for handshakes.
  16. There’s a free app that will help you plan your route at the fair: Career Fair Plus. There may be paper maps available when you sign in, but downloading the app ahead of time may be more convenient. Start with one or two employers that you’re less enthusiastic about so that you can get comfortable and warm up before you approach an employer that you really want to work for.
  17. Don’t let the preponderance of business and other preprofessional majors throw you off your game. The fact that you don’t look/sound/act like everyone else is what will attract the employers that you want to work for — so go ahead and be yourself.
  18. The goal is to walk away from each encounter having handed over a copy of your resume and received a business card or some other form of contact information to follow up.
  19. Take a moment between conversations to write down what happened and what you learned (the business card is a helpful place to put that info). You WILL forget, and you will need this information when you…
  20. Write a thank-you email to every recruiter that you had a conversation with AND want to stay in touch with. Often the business fair is the beginning of a longer conversation, even if the interaction you had felt lukewarm or dismissive. Use the thank you to
    • reiterate your interest in the position
    • express your enthusiasm for the company
    • mention anything specific that came up in the conversation to remind the recruiter who you are.
    • attach an electronic copy of the resume you gave them.
  21. Good luck! You’ve got this.

The Business Career Fair for English/CW Majors: Management Training Programs

There are jobs for English/CW majors at campus career fairs. It helps to know what you’re looking for, though.

ONE option (there are others — we’ll get to those in future posts) that English/CW majors should know about: management development programs. Sometimes called “leadership development” or “rotational programs,” these opportunities involve a one- to two-year commitment to a mid-size to large company. During that time, the new employee rotates through several different departments, learning how different parts of the company operate, trying out different skill sets, and and getting the big picture that will eventually help him or her flourish in a particular role. Here’s a post about one English alumna who is in the midst of such a program at Cintas.

If all goes well, at the end of the program, the employee is hired into a permanent managerial role in whichever part of the company is the best fit.

Continue reading

Things to Do at Quad Day (Updated for 2018)

University of Illinois Quad Day.

Quad Day is here! And yes, you should go.

What should you do there?

  1. Find the college version of something you enjoyed in high school, and sign up.
  2. Find something that will allow you to use your skill with or love of words, and sign up.
  3. Find something that is entirely outside your experience, and sign up.
  4. Find something that seems interesting to you for no particular reason, and sign up.
  5. Take joy in the sheer variety on display: there truly is something for everyone on a huge campus like this.
  6. Register to vote! Lots of political groups will be out registering voters. It’s not a presidential election year BUT

— If you’ll be 18 in time for the 2018 election on Nov. 7, you can register to vote. Think of it like flossing your teeth, or checking the oil in your car, or writing thank-you emails. Even if you’re not excited about doing it, it’s an important part of civic maintenance, and it’s good to start the habit early.

— If you’ve live in Champaign-Urbana because you go to college here, you are eligible to register to vote here. Some people chose to register in their home district. You can only vote once in any given election, but if you have two different addresses, you can decide which of them you want to vote from. Read more about voter registration in Champaign County here.

This Congressional district (IL-13) currently has a Republican representative, and it is considered a “race to watch” in the November midterms. Whatever your political leaning, your vote can make a difference in this election.

— Your vote counts whether you participate or not. Both parties work from their assumptions about what college-students-in-general (and 18 – 25 year olds) will do. The only way to make your vote say what you mean is to cast it.


So You Want to [insert career here] Design Video Games…

Thinking about a career writing for video games? It’s a hard field to break into, but it is a thing people do. We have a post about it here, with some resources to explore.

In considering any career path, a useful step (whether you’re just starting out in college or about to graduate) is to look at some ads for entry-level jobs in that field. Use those close reading and critical thinking skills to learn about the field and its threshold for entry.

Here’s an ad currently running on the DS Volition website:

A few things to note:

  • “Temporary.” That may mean that they have a project underway that requires some extra help, or it might mean that they don’t want to commit to a full-time hire at this level until they’ve had a chance to see someone do the job for a while. Entry-level jobs in creative fields are often provisional this way. Either way, it’s experience that will help you prove yourself to future employers — even if that employer is not DS Volition. Also, rapid turnover is characteristic of video game jobs. If your goal is a stable, permanent job with one company, gaming is not a good career path.
  • They don’t stipulate previous years of experience (that is, after all, what makes an entry-level job entry-level), but they do want “Sample Work.”  Many employers in creative fields are less interested in what you’ve studied or what qualifications you have than in examples of how you use your creative skills. They are often particularly interested in things that you’ve created in collaboration with other people.
  • They don’t stipulate a major — it’s on you to demonstrate how your college coursework is “a game relevant discipline.” Note that the ability to be “Proactive in seeking feedback and resolving issues” is baked into success in a Creative Writing workshop-style class. Video game developers who interview a lot of engineers may not know this — but you can tell them.
  • There’s some industry jargon here: “level-design,” “scripting,” “iterate gameplay,” “AAA project.” If you are not conversant with these (and other)  terms, then you have a goal for future networking. Find people in the field that you can talk to until you get to a point where you can drop these terms into conversation without feeling self-conscious.
  • The “Qualifications” section mentions a lot of soft skills. Phrases like “self-motivated with a strong work ethic” and “Ability to think creatively and analytically” often sound like white noise, but employers mean something by them and take them seriously. Consider the things that you can point to a resume, or anecdotes from your life that you could bring up in an interview, that would demonstrate that you have these qualities.

Bottom line: if you’re passionate enough about the inner workings of video games to start creating a portfolio and seeking out industry professionals, then you will be able to make a case for yourself as a candidate for a job like this. If thought of doing those things just makes you feel…tired, then gaming might not be the right industry for you. That’s okay. Look at some entry-level job ads in other fields. Read them with the level of care and attention demonstrated here. Look at lots of ads, in a wide range of fields. Talk to people about what they do and why they like it. There are many paths open to you.