What to Expect at a Career Fair (and Why You Should Go)

The Research Park Career Fair is still ahead of us (March 15), but much of the spring career fair season is winding down.  If you went to a career fair this year, well done!  Career fairs are a great way to meet potential employers, explore career paths, and practice your interviewing and networking skills.  If you didn’t go to one, definitely plan to take advantage of them next year!  While some fairs (e.g., the Engineering Career Fair, the Urban Planning Fair) are intended for students with specific technical skills, many fairs feature recruiters seeking students from a variety of programs. Fairs are also targeted towards particular fields of relevance to department of English majors.  The Design+ Job Fair, the Arts and Culture Fair in Chicago, the Educators Fair, and the Illini Career and Internship Fair are particularly oriented towards the interests and skills of people who study English and Creative Writing.

Two English majors who attended the recent Arts and Culture Career Fair in Chicago were willing to share their experiences.  Meghan McCoy (a sophomore) and Henry Yeary (a freshman, who also attended the Business Career Fair last month) independently offered the same two pieces of advice based on their experience:

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Why English and Creative Writing Majors Should Be in DC this Fall

  1. The deadline for the fall illinois in dc capitolsemester Illinois in Washington program is April 1, and you don’t need to have your internship lined up in advance. In fact, many employers don’t even start advertising internships until May, so you’ll have plenty of time over the summer to find the right internship for you.
  2. Once you express interest in the program by emailing Prof. Susan Dimock, you dimockwill start getting announcements of internship openings. You’ll get even more once you officially apply.
  3. Prof. Dimock, who lives in DC and has been running this program for years, knows everything there is to know about getting a job in Washington.  She will help you craft a first-rate resume and cover letter to get the internship you want. (She’s also really nice and approachable!
  4. There are a LOT more opportunities in DC in the fall than there are in the summer.  Most are unpaid, but everyone has a better shot at the available paid internships simply because there is less competition.
  5. The cost is similar to spending a semester living in the dorms, particularly if you budget to account for the higher cost of living in DC.
  6. You don’t have to find your own housing and social life comes ready-made. You’ll share a studio apartment with a fellow student in a building housing student interns from all over the country.
  7. You’ll take 12 credits, 3 of which can be an online course of your choosing.
  8. Contrary to popular belief, government agencies and non-profits in DC aren’t looking for political science majors, econ majors, or hard-core politics junkies. They want people who can communicate well. They like the sound of “English major”–that sounds like a person who can write. They want that and don’t see enough of it. 
  9. International students can’t get internships in the federal government, and paid internships can be complicated, but they ARE eligible for jobs in congressional offices, think-tanks, not-for-profit organizations, and the embassies/consulates of their home countries.  Organizations that have an international focus are particularly open to hiring international students, regardless of home country.

 

 

From the other side of the table: Why those in positions to hire people should NOT agree to informational interviews (and why you should ask for them anyway).

Today in Slate, associate editor L. V. Anderson, describes her own experiences with giving informational interviews and makes the case for why people in positions to make hiring decisions should NOT agree to take part in them.  Her bottom line?

It’s anti-meritocratic. It’s impossible for everyone who’s searching for a job to land an informational interview with a helpful candidate…The people who get informational interviews—and the benefits they confer—tend to be people who have something in common with their target: a mutual friend, a family connection, an alma mater in common. Informational interviews are like unpaid internships and hiring for “cultural fit”—they encourage bosses to hire and promote people from the same background as their own, which effectively cuts off job opportunities for minorities. Put another way, informational interviews give a leg up to people who don’t need a leg up.

Anderson’s advice is disconcerting for anyone entering a daunting job market and, quite reasonably, seeking any “leg up” they can find (however much one wants to see the 21st Continue reading

Uncovering the Cover Letter

A cover letter is the letter that you send an employer along with your resume.

When you’re explicitly asked to write “a cover letter” to apply for a job, the letter should be a business-style letter, complete with formal salutation and signature. It should convey your enthusiasm for the position, along with your understanding of what they job entails.  It should also draw connections between the experience you’ve outlined on your resume and the requirements of the position you’re applying for.  Sometimes such a letter is called a “job application letter” or a “statement of interest.”  If you’re explicitly asked for a cover letter, it’s probably best to make it an email attachment, like your resume, rather than writing an email that serves as a cover letter.

Sometimes job or internship ads do NOT explicitly ask for a cover letter–they ask you to fill out an online application, download a resume, email a resume, send in writing samples, or Continue reading