What to Say When Anyone Asks, “What Are you Going to Do with a Degree In English?!?”

options-396267_1920“Oh, I dunno, maybe…UX analysis, law, screenwriting, medicine, public relations, diplomacy, teaching, fundraising, librarianship, grant-writing, journalism, nursing, arts administration, corporate learning and development, human resources, content strategy, video game development, translating and interpreting, television producing, educational technology, corporate recruiting, elective office, publishing, tech customer support, marketing, project management, video editing, SEO, media development, speech pathology, event planning, information science, school administration, public service, business consulting, advertising, nonprofit management…etc.

Every organization or business has problems that can only be solved with words. English and CW majors learn the skills to solve those problems.”

Want to figure out what kinds of problems you want to solve with words? Browse this website! It has lots of resources to help. Sign up for ENGL 199-CPH (Career Planning for Humanities Majors, CRN 50105). Sign up for the Alumni Mentoring Network. All those jobs listed above? Those are things English department alumni are currently doing, and they are eager to talk to students about their career paths. Make an appointment when you get to campus to meet with Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships (kwilcox@illinois.edu. 217/300-4305).

The U of I Foundation is Advertising for Telemarketers. Again. Maybe Give It a Try?

maxresdefaultThe University of Illinois Foundation is, once again, hiring students to do telemarketing. It pays $10/hour and offers flexible hours right here on the Quad. Despite these advantages, the turnover in employees is so great that they have to hire every few months and even have a Facebook page dedicated to that endeavor.  The work involves calling alumni to ask for donations, and many students find it grueling and demoralizing. You get told “No” a LOT.  Many people do it for a few weeks or months and then decide to move on to a part-time job that has less rejection built into it.

So why bring it up here, on a website dedicated to encouraging English department majors to seek out rewarding employment? Simple: even if you have zero interest in telemarketing after you graduate, a stint in one of these jobs can give your career planning a boost: And some people turn out to be good at it and enjoy it.

  • Experience. A lot of of rewarding jobs–in organizations ranging from nonprofit arts or social outreach agencies to political organizations and start-up companies–involve fundraising. It helps to be able to tell employers that you’ve had some experience and know what it feels like to ask people for money, even if it’s not the main duty of the position.
  • Applied English Skills! In your classes, you learn a lot about rhetorical strategies, persuasion, audience, reading what is not said–as well as what is said, connecting to characters and situations very different from your own. These jobs require you do do all those things, but in real time with real stakes. Even if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll emerge with a better sense of how and where you’d prefer to apply those skills.
  • Self-knowledge. You might be good at it. Fundraising is one of those talents–like writing rhymed verse or playing a musical instrument–that you can’t know you have until you give it a try. Unlike those other things, though, you can get paid for the time you spend on the venture.
  • Life skills. You’ll get a lot of practice dealing with rejection. The sooner in life you can get comfortable with hearing “No” and moving gracefully on to the next conversation, the more opportunities you’ll give yourself to hear “Yes.” A U of I Foundation job can compress a lot of transferable life experience into a relatively short time frame. And you get paid for it.
  • Fun! The Foundation values its student employees and does its best to make the experience enjoyable and worthwhile.
  • It is, after all, a good cause.

Recommendation Letters?!?

thumbs-up-1197306_1280If you’re applying to graduate school, you will definitely need letters of recommendation from your professors. But what about if you’re thinking about a future job search, not grad school?

Opinions vary!

According to The Intern Queen, if you’re coming up on the end of a summer job or internship, you should absolutely ask for a recommendation letter to show future employers. She tells you why and explains how in this short video:

This columnist from Forbes sort-of agrees: “In the past, obtaining recommendation letters was a requirement of the job search process. Today, not as much. Now, this step is considered optional, but savvy job seekers understand that it can help give them an edge when it comes to obtaining a position.”

But not everyone is so sure. This writer argues

letters of recommendation are not valued much by employers outside of academe. Why? Because skeptical employers think you wrote the letter for the reference to sign; because it’s written in advance, the writer’s had time to soften your weaknesses or omit them, and write those glowing phrases of praise; because it doesn’t permit the employer to ask his or her own questions.

Many people get jobs without recommendations in their job-search toolkit. However, it is vital to have references whom prospective employers can contact.  Click here for some useful advice on choosing and soliciting good references.

Bottom line: if you feel comfortable asking for a job recommendation letter, go ahead and do so.  It can’t hurt, and somewhere down the line it might help. But staying in touch with potential references and maintaining your network might be a better use of your time.

Campus Career Fairs, 2016-17

Save the dates! The fairs in boldface are of particular interest for English department majors, but all of these fairs are open to all majors.

Campus Career Fairs for 2016-2017 Academic Year

Fall Semester:

Engineering Career Fair – September 7 & 8, 2016
Business Career Fair – September 14 & 15, 2016
Engineering Employment EXPO—September 19 & 20, 2016
FOCUS: The Job Fair for Career-Focused, Paid, Campus Work—September 21, 2016
ACES & Sciences Career Fair—October 6, 2016
LAS in CU: LAS Local Internship Fair—October 19, 2016
Graduate & Professional School Fair—October 19, 2016
International Career Forum—October 21, 2016
Fall Illini Career & Internship Fair—October 26, 2016

Spring Semester:

Business Career Fair—February 1 & 2, 2017
Arts and Culture Career Fair (held in Chicago for UIUC and UIC students)—February 3, 2017
Engineering Career Fair—February 7 & 8, 2017
Start Up Career Fair—February 9, 2017
Educators’ Fair—March 6, 2017 at EIU
Illini Career and Internship Fair—April 5, 2017
Research Park Career Fair—spring 2017