Handshake for English and Creative Writing Majors

This summer, the Career Center is transitioning to new online career platform, Handshake. Those of you returning to campus should be relieved to know that Handshake is replacing I-Link, the jobs search database that the U of I had previously used to connect students to employers. Handshake is in every way an improvement over what came before: it’s structured around skills, not majors or departments, and it’s much easier to shape to your interests.

A few things that English and Creative Writing majors should know about Handshake:

  1. This resource will be helpful to you, no matter where you are in your education, so take some time this summer to log on and start checking it out.
  2. It’s a good idea to start building your profile. Employers use Handshake to seek out students, and they will be able to find you more easily if your information is online.
  3. If you’re looking for work experience while you’re on campus, Handshake lists local part-time jobs and internships, many of which do not appear on the Virtual Job Board or the Research Job Board. Click “Jobs and Internships” and set the filter to “part-time” with a location of Champaign, IL. There are also some unpaid internships listed there, but think hard about the conditions under which you are willing to work for free.
  4. If you’re NOT looking for a job or internship now, Handshake can help you with your career exploration. Every student can see every job on the site, depending on how far you are willing to scroll. Handshake will order job openings to reflect the information in your profile, so that the jobs that appear first will vary from student to student. This customized list of openings is a great resource for figuring out what kinds of jobs appeal to you and what you’ll need to do between now and graduation to demonstrate your “fit” for them. You can start learning about potential careers and companies by not only reading a lot of job ads, but also bringing to your reading the same critical and self-reflective eye that you bring to your academic work.

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How to Write a Resume

A resume is neither a really long business card, nor a really short autobiography. It’s an advertisement for yourself. A good resume is never a single static document. It should change all the time, depending on whom you are advertising TO and what parts of your background will be most relevant to that person.

The effective resume has one purpose: to get the reader to request a face-to-face meeting in which you can convey your full value.

Entire books, websites, library sections are devoted to the craft of resumes. For English/CW majors who are trying to put together their first resume — either to apply for a job or to have it handy in case a job comes up — we offer three “recipes” that range from easy-but-not-necessarily effective (“the resume kludge”) to hard-but-more-likely-to-advance-you-towards-your-goals (“the resume design”).

Have you been reluctant to develop your resume because you don’t yet have relevant work experience? You can find some advice to get you started here, here, and here.

Recipe 1: The resume kludge. Continue reading

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?

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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.