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.

When to Start Looking for Summer Internships, Revisited

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#WOCintech chat

It’s a question we get a lot here in English Advising:

when should one start looking for summer internships?  

We answered it in October, but as summmer 2017 draws closer, it’s time to answer it again.

The answer? Yes.

Which is to say, it’s never too soon to start

  •  thinking about what kind of a summer internship you want;
  • considering your options: can you manage on an unpaid internship or do you need a summer income? Do you need to live at home or can you relocate for the summer?
  •  researching the existing internship opportunities with companies you know you want to work with;
  • following various job boards and seeing what opportunities come up; and
  • preparing your resume(s).

English, unlike some other majors, has no set time-frame for finding internships. How could it? Narrower, more career-focused majors channel students towards a handful of corporations that aggressively recruit students for specific entry-level positions. In these fields, internships have evolved as a cost-effective way for companies to identify potential long-term hires.

Some English and creative-writing majors choose to compete for those kinds of internship programs. A degree in English doesn’t limit you, however, to large-scale corporate recruiting opportunities. You have choices that are not always available to students in other majors, about how and where you want to apply your skills. Nonprofits? Small start-ups? Large foundations? An in-house communications department? A marketing/PR consultancy? A small or midsize business? Do you want to solve the world’s problems? Make a lot of money? Do a job when you’re always learning? Work one-on-one helping people?

The internships you seek will vary, depending on your goals, and so will their deadlines.

If you want a summer internship and you haven’t started looking, NOW would be a good time to start.

  • Start checking I-Link regularly to see what employers are already looking for summer interns.
  • If you are willing to relocate for the summer, look at the websites of your dream employers to see if they offer internships. MANY do! Internships at media and entertainment companies that you’ve heard of tend to be highly competitive, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t make the attempt.
  • Check Bookjobs.com for internships in the publishing industry.
  • Check Idealist.org for summer internships at nonprofits.
  • Prepare to attend the winter and spring campus career fairs. Research the companies who will be there and go with a plan to talk to the specific employers that interest you.
  • Is there an organization you’d like to work for that doesn’t have an internship program? Some places may be open to working with you to create an opportunity.
  • Keep in mind that some local opportunities (e.g., the UIntern program) may not be advertised until the spring semester is underway.

Internships are not the only path to professional experience. They can be a great way to explore your options and start networking, but other summer activities may better equip you for your particular goals: a part-time or summer job that builds your skills, volunteer work with an organization that interests you, intensive involvement in your RSO, or time devoted to a project of your own.

 

 

 

The English/CW Major’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays, 2016 Edition

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The holidays? They can be stressful, particularly when they give your family members opportunities to quiz you about your plans after graduation. This year, your career plans (or lack thereof) may be a welcome distraction from politics, so all the more reason to brace yourself for those conversations.

Some tips:

  1. Be prepared.  These conversations often stem from loving concern. Look for ways to reassure the people who care about you that you’re on your way to a stable, self-supporting adult life. Some things that will demonstrate that you are headed towards a career path:
  2. Save this link to your phone.  The odds may or may not be ever in your favor, but the data certainly is, so you can be ready when a relative trots out some canard about English majors being unemployable.
  3. Seriously, it’s a tough labor market, but you are no less employable than anyone else. Keep this table from the Illini Success survey handy, in case you have a relative telling you to switch your major.
  4. Need more talking points?  Try this, this, this, or this.
  5. Learn more.  Take some time to browse this very blog for additional information on jobs that English majors do (including human resources, advancement and development, communication, business consulting, science journalism, running small businesses, legal writingproject managementbook publishing, video editing, science editing, project operations, librarianship, B2B publishing).
  6. Stay true to yourself. Spend time with a book you want to read but don’t HAVE to read to remind yourself why you got into this major in the first place. Write a poem. Watch a movie with some intellectual heft to it. Make a trip to the nearest independent or used bookstore.

Jobs for Those with People Skills

First Job: Human Resources

Consider the following list of qualifications:hr-jobThis is an entry-level position in human resources, a field for which English and creative writing are always “related majors.”

Human resources is the work of recruiting potential employees, hiring them, getting them started in their jobs, and then resolving problems that arise. If you’ve helped a friend get hired at your work, if you’ve trained a new employee, if you’ve helped someone in trouble keep their job–you’ve already done work in this area.

Alumnus Theo Long, the Associate Director of Talent Management (“a fancy way of saying human resources”) for the U of I Office of Advancemtheodore_longent was in the English department yesterday to talk about his own experience. It was a field he stumbled into, but the point where it became a career path, rather than simply a way to pay the bills, was the point where he realized he could make a difference in the lives of other people. Having seen on-the-job conflicts be mismanaged (“some managers just love to fire people”), he sought out a managerial role where he could help resolve conflicts supportively and constructively.

There are a lot of entry-level roles in HR that do NOT require a graduate degree, particularly recruiting new employees. For those who want to advance in the field without committing to a graduate program, the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) offers a certification program, which involves self-study, an exam, and a fee.

Theo also noted that an entry-level HR job can be a point of entry into an organization or an industry in which you may ultimately pursue other career paths: project management, communications, public relations.

Second Job: Advancement/Development/Fundraising

Higher education, not-for-profit organizations, philanthropy, social justice and political activism…all these kinds of organizations require donations to stay afloat. The work of of obtaining and managing those donations goes by many names.  Theo Long’s HR job falls within the University of Illinois’s Office of Advancement which works with donors. Theo offered insight into the kinds of skills that are key for jobs in this area: not just the ability to ask people for money (though that is important) but also–a strong commitment to the mission of the organization that you’re raising money for, excellent listening skills, and curiosity. He also noted that advancement takes a lot of different forms: there is need for event planners, project managers, and researchers. A background in sales, customer service, organizing events for your RSO, and helping with fundraising in any capacity can make you eligible for an entry level job in this area. Theo also noted that the University of Illinois Foundation regularly seeks student employees to call alumni and seek donations. It’s not work that everyone takes to, but for anyone thinking about a career in the non-profit realm, it’s valuable experience.

Theo is a member of the Alumni Mentoring program, so feel free to contact him using your Alumni Mentoring Directory (and if you haven’t yet signed up for the Alumni Mentoring program, please set up an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox by emailing kwilcox@illinois.edu or calling 333-4346).

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