Why Graduating Seniors Should Talk to the Director of Internships

1. Our department’s “Director of Internships” does a lot of other things, too: putting students in touch with helpful alumni, reviewing resumes, suggesting possible career paths, helping students articulate their skills.

2. There are jobs for people with English and Creative Writing skills, and Kirstin Wilcox can help point you towards them.

3. It will make your parents happy.

4. It’s really not as painful or awkward as you think it’s going to be.

5. It’s easier than locating a job cannon and more likely to succeed.

Should You Work for Free?

NO.trouser-pockets-1439412_1920-1

Your time and your skills have value. Employers ask for free labor simply because they can get it, not because your labor is worthless. Agreeing to work for free devalues your skllls, creates a bad precedent for others with those same skills, encourages employers to exploit their workers, and makes professional advancement more difficult for people who don’t have the option of working for free. 

Maybe (if your answer to any of these questions is yes)

Is an organization whose goals are so important to you that you would be willing to volunteer there under other circumstances?

Is your learning curve going to be so steep that the employer is likely to lose more than they gain by employing you? (Keep in mind that ANY new employee needs some time to learn the ropes, and that most businesses factor in those costs when they decide to hire someone.)

Is the hope of working for this particular organization so important to you that you would rather have an opportunity to prove your worth than be paid?

Is there no other way to get this particular kind of experience–a different job, volunteer work for an organization you care about, your extracurricular activities?

Is it a writing gig that will give you some non-academic work samples for your portfolio?

Does the position have some added value (prestige, filling a gap in your resume, networking opportunities) that you can get no other way?

Yes?

If you DO have a good reason to work for free, then own it.

  • Articulate your reasons clearly to yourself, in terms that will make it possible for you to recognize when you have gotten what you want from the experience.
  • Be confident that this particular opportunity is the best use of your free labor at this moment.
  • Don’t limit yourself to the opportunity in front of you: if you’re going to work for free, it might as well be for an organization that matters to you or that will teach you particular skills you want.
  • Have an endpoint: set a goal or time limit after which you will stop or insist on payment.

 

Graduating in May? How to Find a Job by Then.

choose-the-right-direction-1536336_1920In addition to the suggestions below, “like” the English Advising Facebook page and connect on Twitter so that you can stay abreast of relevant speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities. Also, read your email! The English Advising office sends out frequent updates about jobs and job-hunting events.

Also: if you have questions about ANY of this, email kwilcox@illinois.edu to ask. Chances are, if you’re wondering, other people are, too–and you might inspire a helpful follow-up blog post.

Early January:

Forget everything anyone has ever said to you about the unemployability of English majors. It’s just wrong. The world is full of problems that can only be solved with Continue reading

Forget Finding Your Passion

passiflora-588757_1920If you know what your passion is, stop reading this post and go pursue it. Go! Now! Enough procrastinating on the internet! Get started on the thing that you long for, that terrifies you, that is worth the inevitable sleepless nights and bouts of rejection. You know what you need to do, so get on with it. Seriously.

 

The rest of you?

Set passion aside for now. “Find your passion” is a worthy lifetime goal, but if you can’t yet envision even the haziest contours of what that passion might be, it’s not a particularly useful quest to start with.

  • Caring about something, does not necessarily mean caring about it enough to build a life around it.
  • “Passion” conveys a level of creativity, innovation, single-mindedness, and commitment that many well-lived, successful, happy lives don’t meet.
  • Your life experience to date may not have revealed the particular strengths or interests that will help you leave your mark on the world.

There are plenty of online tools to help you find your way to your “passion”–if that’s really how you want to frame the question of your post-graduation plans. Just google “find your passion,” and be wary of sites that are clearly trying to peddle the author’s book.

If you want some concrete next steps to take towards your future career, ponder less and do more.

Thinking about a career in [______________]? Look for a way (internship, volunteer work, part-time job) to give it a try.

Wondering if you have enough talent for [_____________] to make a go of it? Practice doing it, and put yourself out there in front of an audience sooner rather than later.

Curious about whether [_______________] would be something you’d be good at and enjoy? Find an online tutorial, take a class, use LinkedIn or the alumni mentoring network to find people who can tell you more about it.

Not even sure where to begin? Get involved with an RSO, work for a campus publication, sign up for a new activity, take the next volunteering opportunity that comes your way.

The more things you do, the more data points you’ll have to guide you to life after college. But don’t just frenetically do things: look for ways to learn from the experience you accrue.

  • what kinds of things are you good at without working at them or thinking too much about them?
  • what challenges prompt you to get obsessive and lose track of time?
  • what kinds of tedious chores are you willing to do that other people resist?
  • what kinds of people are you happiest working with?
  • what do you need to be reasonably happy?
  • what activities do you want to try that you haven’t yet?

Let your answers guide you to the next thing you try.

Your first job out of college probably won’t be your dream job. That’s okay. But the more you know about what you’re good at and what gives you satisfaction, the more likely you are to land in something that will help get you to where you want to be, even if you don’t know where that is yet.