How to Make Your Major an Asset

cat in the hatNo one cares what you majored in; employers care about what you can do.  The best way to make a persuasive case for yourself when talking to employers is to be able to talk knowledgeably about how you’ve used the skills they’re looking for.

A new semester offers a number of ways to gain that experience:

Do you want to be able to explain how you used your excellent communication skills to help a not-for-profit organization?  The new partnership between the Department of English and the Community Learning Lab in the School of Social Work will give you practice writing to solve real-world problems.  Email ssw-cll@illinois.edu to get information about the available service projects.

Do you want to be able to talk about the internship that taught you the teamwork, editing, social media, communications, or writing skills that employers are looking for? Apply for one! (Deadline for many spring semester internships is Jan. 22).

Do you want to be able to discuss the inner workings of a daily publication?  Do you want to be able to demonstrate your ability to write for a deadline?  The Daily Illini is looking for writers and editors and to that end is holding Info Nights on Wednesday, Jan. 27 and Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. in Gregory Hall (810 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801), Room 112

Do you want to demonstrate your commitment to the arts and your understanding of the many behind-the-scenes activities that go into making cultural events, performances, exhibits available?  Register for the Arts and Culture Career Fair taking place in Chicago on February 5, noon to 2pm and find a summer internship that will help you explore those career paths.

Do you want to talk about your leadership skills?  Learn about opportunities to get involved with registered student organizations at the RSO Involvement Fair on Wed., January 27 in the Illini Union.

Putting Your Skills into Practice: Spring 2016 Community Service Opportunities for English, CW, and ToE Students

CLL_graphicThe English Undergraduate Advising Office is excited to announce a new partnership with the U of I School of Social Work’s Community Learning Lab (CLL) for Spring 2016.

The Community Learning Lab is looking for 10-15 English, Creative Writing, or Teaching of English students to get involved in community projects for the Spring semester. If a lot of students are interested in working with CLL, they can offer even more opportunities in future semesters. Some projects are open to 2 or 3 students, so you have the option to collaborate with a friend of classmate if you’d like.  Each project will involve no more than 25 hours of work during a single semester.

To get involved, send an email ssw-cll@illinois.edu, explaining that you are an English department major interested in CLL opportunities.  You will receive a list of available projects and a link for signing up for whichever project interests you most.

This partnership will give English, Creative Writing, and Teaching of English students the opportunity to acquire valuable professional experience and to practice real-world job skills by doing community service projects for organizations in Champaign-Urbana. By offering invaluable assistance to organizations that need their help, English students will develop connections to the local community and expand their college experience beyond the borders of campus.

To learn more about this collaboration and what it means for our students, I recently talked with Katie Shumway from the Community Learning Lab.


Can you tell me a little about the Community Learning Lab? What are its goals? How does it help connect the University to the Champaign-Urbana community?

The whole point of CLL is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the campus and the community. Through our program, community partners (which can include non-profit agencies, fire departments, police departments, schools, and even some for-profit agencies) submit project requests to our online database. We examine those requests for projects and match them with courses on campus whose curriculum is in line with the needs of the project. We’ve seen that manifest in a lot of Continue reading

Cover letter writing advice: How to write a cover letter for an entry-level media job

What I see time after time from young media hopefuls are not the classic no-nos, like misspellings and typos, but what appears to be a fundamental lack of understanding of how to sell oneself to a prospective employer. While I certainly don’t speak for all media folk or even all of the editors at Slate, allow me to offer some guidance to current college students and recent grads.

Source: Cover letter writing advice: How to write a cover letter for an entry-level media job

Click the link for excellent tips on selling yourself in a cover letter.

Coping with “No”

12369123_1361183197319943_488989371648371346_nWhether your career plan involves grad school, finding an internship, or applying for jobs, the prospect of rejection looms.

Some advice as you move forward on your path through and out of college:

  1.  Get comfortable with hearing “no.”  People will say no and turn you down for things.  It’s okay, and it happens to everyone.  The sooner you make peace with that fact of existence, the more efficient you will be in pursuing opportunities without worrying about it.
  2. Let other people tell you “no.” Worried that you don’t have enough experience, you’re not what they’re looking for, there are other more qualified applicants, it’s not related to your major, your background isn’t relevant?  If the opportunity interests you and you have reason to believe that you could do it, then go ahead and pursue it. Present your experience honestly, but avoid self-defeating disclaimers like “Even though I haven’t worked directly in X…” or “I have no experience with Y, but…”
  3. Have a plan bigger than any particular “no.” Keep in mind the larger personal goals that any one job, internship, grad school program, or fellowship will serve. Are you looking to gain skills? Get certain kinds of work experience?  Obtain a mentor? Learn more about a field? There’s a way to achieve that goal even if something specific you’ve applied for doesn’t work out.  Neatly packaged programs or positions aren’t the only path to success. Take time to think through potential alternatives (networking, volunteering, job-shadowing) and keep pursuing opportunities while you wait to hear back on applications.