Should You Work for Free?

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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

When to Start Applying for Summer Internships?

clock-474128_1280It may be a peculiar question to ask when we’re nearly eight weeks into the semester but it feels like summer has barely ended. Nevertheless,it’s the time of year when students in business and engineering start nailing down their plans for the following summer. If you’re an English or CW major with friends weighing summer internship offers from Monsanto and Boeing you may be worrying that you’re already too late.

Rest assured: you’re not.

“Internship” can mean a lot of different things. In fields where the undergraduate degree confers specialized training for particular industries, large companies compete to test-drive the best students in summer internships, creating the talent pool from which they will eventually select full-time employees. They want to lock down commitments quickly, which is why the Engineering and Business Career Fairs take place so early in the fall semester.

Chances are, however, you’re majoring in English/CW because you have dreams beyond the kinds of jobs that pay well because no one would do them if they didn’t. Those kinds of jobs tend to have a slower hiring cycle.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to start looking now.

  • Companies that are recruiting intensively now for accounting, finance, computer science, and engineering interns sometimes also have opportunities in communications, marketing, sales, and research, which get posted at the same time. Even if you missed the Fall Business Career Fair, you can still apply online for marketing, communications, media, and sales internships at at companies who recruit there like Caterpillar and Textron.
  • Media and entertainment companies are only just beginning to post summer internships: Blizzard Entertainment is already recruitng summer interns, for example, but the Disney Corporation (which includes ABC, Marvel, ESPN, and Pixar) and Simon and Schuster are still mostly recruiting for spring interns. It doesn’t hurt to check the “Careers” page on any company that particularly interests you to see if they have internship openings yet.
  • For those interested primarily in print media, Bookjobs.com is an excellent resource for summer internships..
  • Local organizations looking for summer interns will be attending the LAS in CU Internship Fair on Oct. 19 from 1:00 – 3:00pm in the second floor ballroom at the Illini Union.

But–it’s entirely possible to do nothing this fall and still have a summer internship lined up by the time you leave campus in May. Many companies don’t start advertising summer internships until March or April, and the UIntern program through the University of Illinois Career Center (which matches students with local nonprofit organizations) starts recruiting students in early spring.

The key is to know what kind of experience and skills you’d like to acquire in a summer internship and to start looking for opportunities. We’re here to help you identify your options and craft a resume that will give you the best shot at them. Call 333-4346 to set up an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships.

Guest Post: Surviving the FOCUS Job Fair

By Ana V. Fleming, Communications Intern, Department of English

IMG_3446(1)Career fairs. Consistently throughout my three, going on four, years here at the University of Illinois, that phrase has terrified me–along with all the things that go with it: pressure, elevator pitches, resumes, business casual. However, after attending a number of career fairs on campus —and similar events, like corporate after-hours and part-time job fairs—I’ve grown less averse to the idea.

For instance, I recently attended the FOCUS part-time job and internship fair at the Illini Union as a senior in English. (I also attended the Department of Computer Science’s Corporate After Hours a couple of weeks ago, seeking out UI/UX design positions—I was even more of a fish out of water there!) At FOCUS, many of the students around me were from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, and many of the opportunities offered at the event were centered on graphic design (though, not all of them—there were opportunities for marketing, communications, videography, social media, and even content-development positions, among others that I probably missed). Personally, I was there seeking both writing positions and design positions; thus, I grew worried that the abundance of FAA students around me would overwhelm my chances of wrangling some of those design opportunities.

However, the fair wasn’t overly crowded, and the stakes were pretty low, so I decided to talk to as many of the represented companies and colleges (for instance, the College of ACES was there) as possible. As it turns out, most of the representatives were happy to speak with me, and each one that I spoke to took my resume for reference, regardless of whether or not they had any current openings that matched my skill set. At each booth, I asked about the kinds of jobs and internships the different companies had available, the expectations in terms of hours and pay, and their goals for the semester (or upcoming semesters). In return, they asked me about my familiarity with the company, my knowledge of certain software, and whether or not I was interested in the projects they were recruiting for.

While the fair represented around twenty companies, and I only had the time to talk to about eight of them, I could already perceive a wealth of opportunities. Everyone had been perfectly happy to talk to me, and no one made any assumptions about my competence in regards to writing or design—rather, they gave me the chance to discuss my experience and describe my capabilities. The event was pretty casual, and I walked out of the Illini Union Ballroom with the knowledge that, at the very least, I was exposed to some new opportunities, I had links to some applications in hand, and, through mere exposure and repetition, I was slightly less intimidated by career fairs and interview-style interactions than I had been walking in there (even IMG_3448(1)as a senior).

Enormous fairs like the Engineering Career Fair and Business Career Fair can be a lot to tackle at the beginning of the semester, but they are by no means the only opportunities to connect with companies. If you’re ever wondering whether or not you should attend a career fair, I’d suggest going for it, especially when smaller, more focused events like the aptly-named FOCUS are within your reach.