How to Conquer the Business Career Fair as an English/CW Major

  1. Know that not only is the fair open to all majors, but many employers come hoping to meet majors from all over the university. If you’re inclined to go,  you should go. If you’re not sure whether you’re inclined or not (you’re unsure about whether “business” is for you), you should go–talking to employers is a great way to find out.
  2. Prepare.
  3. Prepare.
  4. Prepare.
  5. Prepare. Having a plan is the difference between a traumatizing Business Career Fair experience and a useful one. Going in unprepared pretty much guarantees that you’ll conclude that you’re unemployable. A little bit of preparation will show you that you are not only employable, but have choices about your employment.
  6. Preparation = Handshake. Take time to identify the employers you want to approach. The “event” page for the Business Career Fair tells you
    • which employers will be there, and on which day (it’s a two-day event)
    • what particular employers do
    • what positions employers are seeking to fill
    • whether employers have internships or jobs
    • where to find more information on the company website
  7. Not all employers will want to talk to English/CW majors! That’s okay. Focus on the ones that do. Don’t try to search for your major — instead look for employers that emphasize that they seek a wide breadth of backgrounds (e.g., Morningstar, Aerotek), that have positions requiring excellent communication and relationship-building skills (recruiting, sales, consulting, client services, marketing, human resources), that seek majors related to business or communication, and that don’t ask for specific quantitative or technical or background.
  8. Come up with a list of employers — anywhere from one to seven is reason enough to come to the career fair. More than that on either day may leave you overwhelmed.
  9. Draft a version of your resume that emphasizes the skills those employers seek.
  10. As you prepare, you will see that some employers encourage applicants to apply online. If you’re confident that you want to pursue the job, go ahead and do so — then when the recruiter asks if you’ve applied you can say “yes!” and impress them with your enthusiasm and alacrity.
  11. Practice introducing yourself! The conventional “elevator pitches” that your engineering or finance major friends have been honing will not convey the particular strengths that you have to offer employers, so don’t try to come up with 30 seconds of achievement to rattle off. Instead, think about how to start a conversation with a recruiter and how to drop your strengths into that conversation within the first 30 seconds. It’s great to start with an intelligent question about the opening that interests you (e.g., “what kinds of experience are you looking for in candidates for this recruiting position?”) and then have a good follow up that conveys your interest in and fit for the position (e.g., “that sounds really perfect for me — I’m the membership chair for Illini Against Voldemort and I’ve used my communication skills to expand our active members by fifty percent. I’m good at building relationships, and I’d like to use that talent professionally.”)
  12. Your major isn’t a shameful secret that you need to hide — but it’s not the detail that you should lead with. Employers care more about what you can do than what you study. “I write more than seventy-five pages of polished prose every semester, and I’d like to use my ability to juggle multiple deadlines to help you meet your clients’ needs” speaks to employers in a way that “I’m a Creative Writing major!” does not.
  13. Dress appropriately. A black suit will help you blend in, but it’s not necessary. A professional combo of skirt/dress/slacks + top/shirt and/or blazer, with appropriate accessories (subdued jewelry or necktie) and footwear (no gym shoes or flip-flops) is fine. There will be a place to leave coats and snowboots if the weather is bad.
  14. Bring lots of copies of your resume. Two for every employer that you plan to speak to plus five extras is a good estimate. You can buy expensive “resume paper” in the bookstore to print it out on, but it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker if you just use regular printer paper.
  15. You’ll need something to put your resumes in, and a place to take notes and stash business cards is also helpful. A “padfolio” is the most common solution to this problem — you can find them in the bookstore, but they may be less expensive online or at an office supply store.
  16. You’ll need your I-Card to get into the fair. While you’re signing in, make sure to get a copy of the fair map to plan your route. Start with one or two employers that you’re less enthusiastic about so that you can get comfortable and warm up before you approach an employer that you really want to work for.
  17. Don’t let the preponderance of business and other preprofessional majors throw you off your game. The fact that you don’t look/sound/act like everyone else is what will attract the employers that you want to work for — so go ahead and be yourself.
  18. The goal is to walk away from each encounter having handed over a copy of your resume and received a business card. Take a moment between conversations to write down what happened and what you learned. You WILL forget, and you will need this information when you…
  19. Write a thank-you email to every recruiter that you had a conversation with AND want to stay in touch with. Often the business fair is the beginning of a longer conversation, even if the interaction you had felt lukewarm or dismissive. Use the thank you to
    • reiterate your interest in the position
    • express your enthusiasm for the company
    • mention anything specific that came up in the conversation to remind the recruiter who you are.
  20. Good luck! You’ve got this.

Teaching English Abroad

Do you love teaching? Are you interested in teaching English abroad? There are plenty of opportunities in East and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

Every year China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and some other countries in Asia and the Middle East, recruit a number of English teachers with a preference given to native speakers of English. Searching the keyword “English” in Handshake will bring up any number of these opportunities.Many offer good packages in terms of remuneration, health coverage, and accommodation. With a bachelor’s degree in English, anyone who is a native of an English speaking country can apply for these positions.

Is Teaching English the Right Path for You?

The best way to find out if you enjoy teaching second language learners, before you renew your passport and invest in a plane ticket, is to give it a try — which can also help you get experience that will help you land a position. Champaign-Urbana offers many opportunities to get some experience of working with non-native speakers of English.

  • The Intensive English Institute. Each semester the Intensive English Institute hires a number of undergraduate students for internships, and these positions are paid.  You can also volunteer to be convopartners of international students at the institute, which will require you to spend one hour each week with ESL students. This will give you the opportunity to exchange culture and experience the world from another perspective.
  • Illinois International Hospitality Committee. You can also volunteer for English classes through the University of Illinois International Hospitality Committee.
  • Project READ, Parkland College. Volunteering at Parkland College can give you exposure to adult language learning. Project READ, a not-for-profit literacy service in Parkland College, provides free tutoring to adult learners seeking to improve their reading, writing, and/or English as a Second Language skills. Volunteers are needed throughout the Parkland College district. All Project READ tutors attend 12 hours of formal training to earn certification in tutoring adults. Tutor Certification Training is offered on a monthly basis at various locations. For more information about finding a tutor or to become a volunteer tutor, call 217/353-2662

Formal Certification in TESL?

Some programs for teaching English abroad require certification in teaching English as a second language. This credential can be obtained from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Department of Linguistics offers a Certificate in TESL for undergraduate students. Undergraduate students may pursue the Certificate in TESL as a stand-alone certificate, through a Minor in ESL, or Teacher Education Minor in ESL. For the certificate, undergrads need to take six courses three of which are compulsory and the rest are elective. Those pursuing the Certificate in TESL via a Minor in ESL must declare a Minor in ESL at the beginning of course work for the minor.


Surviving the 2017 Holidays: A Guide For English/CW Majors

You may find yourself and your post-graduation plans becoming part of the menu when family and friends gather for festive meals during the holiday season

Don’t stress about it — prepare!

By majoring in English or Creative Writing — or just by picking one as a minor — you have positioned yourself for success after graduation.

Here are some resources to help you talk to the people who love you about your prospects and plans.

“English/Creative writing majors don’t get jobs — maybe you should switch to something more practical.”

Just wrong. Wrong in general, but also specifically wrong for the University of illinois. Read the data, know the numbers. Save the links on your phone to show the disbelieving. Need more talking points?  Try thisthisthis, or this.

“So YOU say. What do business people, tech people say?”

“So you’re going to teach, right? Or maybe go into publishing? What else do people do with a BA like that?”

Some English or Creative Writing majors do go into teaching, or publishing, Many do not. Every business, organization, industry needs people who can solve problems with words. You have choices to make about where to use your skills. Take some time to browse this very blog for additional information on jobs that English majors do. Some possibilities include human resourcesadvancement/nonprofit fundraisingcommunicationbusiness consultingscience journalismrunning small businesseslegal writingproject managementbook publishingvideo editingscience editingproject operations, PR and digital marketing, librarianshipB2B publishing, entrepreneurship, content creation, higher ed administrationmanufacturingevents coordination, sales management,  management training, and real estate development.

“You’ll have to go to grad school to get a job, won’t you? What grad school are you thinking about?”

Well, no — you don’t need to go to law school or get a master’s degree to be employed — but you may want to get more education to achieve specific goals. “Grad school” doesn’t have to mean further education leading to a teaching or law career — recent alumni have chosen to get degrees in human resources, information/library science, medicine, nursing, bioinformatics, MBAs, MSWs. Read up on your options, and know what you want.

“Hmph. Okay. But you’re graduating in____, right? So what’s your plan?”

There are many things you can do to reassure the people who care about you that you’re on your way to a stable, self-supporting adult life. Don’t have a specific career in mind yet? That’s okay — you can take concrete steps now that will help you get a job when you graduate. Breaks are a great time to focus on your future.

  • Find time to go to the LAS Life + Career Design Lab
  • Sign up for a course that will give you some professional skills:
    • Publishing and Editing (ENGL 199 – F&G, 2:00 – 3:15pm MW, 1025 Lincoln Hall, Prof. Hapke, CRN: 67795, 3 credits)
    • Writing for Money (ENGL 380, 11am -12:15pm TR, 61 English Building, Prof. Prendergast, CRN: 59085, 3 credits)
    • Environmental Writing for Publication (ENGL 498, 12:30 – 1:50pm TR, 164 Noyes Laboratory, Prof. Wood, CRN 67479, 3 credits)
  • apply for a spring or summer internship.
  • find a part-time job that will help build your skills.
  • create or update your resume
  • get to know Handshake and start checking it regularly to learn more about the kinds of jobs you’d like to apply for. (Pro-tip: use the job function filter to explore the opportunities in different potential careers. “Writing/Editing” is an obvious one to try — but certainly not the only one available to you.)
  • get involved in a campus publication
  • register for a career preparation course:
    • Career Fair Preparation (ENGL 199 – CIP, online, Prof. WIlcox, eight weeks, one credit, Jan 16 – Mar. 18, CRN: 31940),
    • Career Planning for Humanities Majors — freshmen and sophomores (ENGL 199 – FS, 4:00 – 5:30pm W, 104 EB, Prof. Wilcox, eight weeks, one credit, Mar. 12 – May 2, CRN: 39025)
    • Career Planning for Humanities Majors — juniors and seniors (ENGL 199 – JS, 4:00 – 5:30 Thurs., 119 EB, Prof. Wilcox, eight weeks, one credit, Mar. 12 – May 2, CRN: 67456)
  • schedule an appointment to talk to Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships by calling 333-4346.
  • find some upcoming Career Center events that will be helpful to you and put them on your calendar.
  • follow up on contacts your family has suggested to you.
  • find an alumni mentor
  • practice your elevator pitch, get your professional attire, and research employers to get ready for the Business Career Fair.

“<changes subject>”

Take some time to remind yourself why you got into this major in the first place. Spend time with a book you want to read and haven’t been assigned. Write a poem. Make a trip to the nearest independent or used bookstore. Storyboard your screenplay or graphic novel ideas. Geek out by surfing Open Culture, Paris Review, LA Review of BooksWatch a movie with some intellectual heft to it. Send an email to the teacher who first got you excited about words. Let yourself get lost in the sheer joy of language. 

Would You Be Willing to Leave Your Family at Disneyland?

Every Sunday, the New York Times business section publishes an interview with a CEO. The feature is called “Corner Office” and is well worth following to understand what people mean when they talk about “company culture” and “fit.” Towards the end of the column, the interviewer always asks about the specific interview questions that CEO uses for hiring. Here’s the answer in last Sunday’s column, with Don Mal, the CEO of a software company,

To understand their work ethic, I do ask this question: Would you be willing to leave your family at Disneyland to do something that was really important for the company?

Some people have said no, and I haven’t hired them.

It’s interesting because I did leave my wife and kids at Disneyland once. It was to close the biggest deal of our company’s history. I left for two days. It wasn’t like I was leaving them there for the whole vacation.

To me, it’s not so much a loyalty question. It’s more of just trying to understand their work ethic.

There are a number of takeaways here.

  • To work at this company, you have to be able to answer “yes” with sincerity.
  • If your answer would be “no,” you wouldn’t get the job. But that could be a good thing.
  • It might be worth asking yourself: what is the work for which you WOULD leave your family at Disneyland for two days? A career-making writing opportunity? The chance to do some game-changing fundraising for your nonprofit? An international conflict that needs your particular skills?
  • If you can’t imagine the career goal that would take you away from a family vacation, that may be a non-negotiable core value that will shape your career decisions. Or it could mean that you haven’t yet discovered the work that means that much to you.

There is no “right” answer to an interview question — there is only the answer that accurately conveys whether or not you would be a good fit for that organization (and by extension, whether the organization is a good fit for you).