Illinois Business Consulting and English/CW Majors

by Valerie O’Brien

Has the buzz about business and tech industries needing humanities majors led you to consider a career in the private sector? Are you wondering how to supplement your rich humanities background (and entries on your résumé) with some business experience before you graduate? You might consider joining Illinois Business Consulting, a time-intensive but professionally rewarding organization that offers you hands-on consulting experience. Here’s what we learned from Andrew Allen, Director of Illinois Business Consulting, when he spoke as a part of the Engl 199: Career Planning for Humanities
Majors lecture series this week.

What is Illinois Business Consulting (IBC)?

IBC is an extracurricular opportunity open to undergraduate and graduate students in all andrew allen screen capmajors that gives participating students the opportunity to practice business consulting as it’s done
in the real world. Students accepted to the program work on interdisciplinary teams to develop a consulting strategy in response to a business problem posed by a real-world for-profit or non-profit organization. Teams will ultimately present their work to that organization and receive valuable feedback from clients on their project.

Ok – but what is consulting?

Business consulting firms develop solutions to a number of problems businesses face, primarily related to either increasing revenues or reducing costs. IBC specializes in strategy consulting, so the kinds of problems consultants might be asked to address could include how to get more of a particular demographic to purchase a product or how to help a business offer a more competitive product more generally (e.g., how a small ice cream manufacturer can sell more of its product in a market dominated by very large businesses).

What are the benefits of participating in IBC?

Some of the benefits of joining IBC include the following:

  • Long-term interdisciplinary collaboration with your consulting team
  • Experience with real-world problem-solving
  • Enhancement of communication and public-speaking skills through work with both clients and team members
  • Development of project management skills
  • Firsthand experience with career opportunities in consulting and other fields of business

What can Humanities majors bring to consulting?

English and other Humanities majors have a lot to offer the business world! Skills in the following areas, which you consistently develop in your humanities courses, are just some of those that will apply to work in consulting:

  • Analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Research
  • Written and oral communication
  • Project management
  • Creativity

How can you apply to join IBC?

IBC accepts applications at the beginning of each semester. The final deadline to apply for Spring 2016 is 11:59 pm on January 8, 2016, but applications are open now, so you can submit an application anytime before then. For more information, visit

The application process will involve three stages: first, the submission of the online application (with essay questions) and a résumé; second, a behavioral interview; and third, a case interview in which you’ll be asked to practice solving problems like those you might encounter in consulting cases.

IBC’s application process is selective, so you’ll want to prepare! You can learn more about case interviews by visiting or checking out David Ohrvall’s book Crack the Case System (2011). You might also look into U of I’s own student consulting group, OTCR Consulting, which provides a list of additional resources for case interviews here (


If you’d like to learn more about intersections between a humanities background and careers in business, be sure to attend next week’s talk with Tony Pomonis on how a humanities degree will help you run your own business– Wednesday, Nov. 11, 4 – 5pm in 119 English Building.

English/CW Majors :: Winter Job Shadow Program

winter break job shadow logoThe Career Center‘s Winter Break Job Shadow Program will help you engage with alumni, professionals, or companies of interest to help develop your professional network and explore career opportunities.

The program is a one-day commitment during winter break. The Job Shadow Program will focus on experiences relevant for LAS, AHS, Media, FAA, and Education students.

The “required” information sessions have all ended, but you can still apply to the program, even if you didn’t attend one.  Here’s how:

  1.  Fill out and submit online the 2015-15 Student Job Shadow Agreement. (The purpose of the information sessions was to have students complete this form.)
  2. Go on I-Link (the U of Illinois Career Center’s job database; if you haven’t used it before there will be a few questions to answer the first time you log in with your NetID).
  3. On I-Link click on the “Jobs” pull-down menu and then “I-Link Jobs.”
  4. Once you’re in the “I-Link Jobs” menu, go to “Advanced Search.”
  5. In “Advanced Search” pull down the menu under “Show Me” (upper left-hand side) and click “Job Shadow Listings.”Look over the job shadow listings that have “TCC” in the title.
  6. When you find one or more you want to apply to, you’ll need to go back to the I-Link “Home” screen to start the process.
  7. To apply for Winter Break Job Shadow opportunities:
    1. Make sure you’ve submitted the  2015-15 Student Job Shadow Agreement. If you skipped that step, go back and do it.
    2. Update your resume for the job shadow opportunities you want to apply for.  You may find it useful to create more than one version of your resume if you’re exploring career options that draw on different parts of your background or skills.
    3. Save your resume(s) as PDFs.  If you have more than one, label them clearly so you’ll know which is which.
    4. Go to the I-Link “Home” and find the button under your name in the upper left hand corner that says “upload your resume now.”
    5. Click it, and follow the directions to upload your resume(s).
    6. Go back to the job shadow listing(s) that you want to apply for and click “Apply.”
    7. Follow the directions to upload your resume.
  8. If accepted, attend the required orientation/information session (details will be forthcoming).
  9. When you return to campus after break, let us here in the Advising Office know how your job shadow went!

How to Be Yourself in Front of an Audience

by Valerie O’Brien

Last night’s panel, “Enhancing Your Public Speaking Skills,” featured great advice that was both appropriate for public speakers of all experience levels and applicable to a range of contexts, from class presentations to job interviews.

Here are 5 pieces of advice from panelists Professor Janice Harrington (Creative Writing), Professor Andrew Gaedtke (English), and undergraduate Stephanie Svarz (Theater and English):


  1. “Public speaking is about experience, not talent.”

All three panelists agreed that public speaking becomes more comfortable the more you do it. So, Professor Harrington suggested, you should create opportunities for yourself to practice speaking publicly: present your research at a small conference, for instance, or gather a group of your friends to discuss a paper. Additionally, you can learn from public speakers you admire. Pay attention to the practices of your favorite professors, politicians, or TED Talks presenters; try to imitate their public speaking persona. But also, Harrington and Svarz advised, “do you” – not all presentation habits will work for everyone, and it’s important that you remain authentic.

  1. “Find your power stance”

In particular, Svarz cited the Alexander technique, which recommends planting your feet in a strong base, keeping your knees unlocked, relaxing your shoulders, and keeping your head up. This method is effective for public speaking because it enables you to receive energy from and respond to your audience as they react to your performance. Harrington also stressed the influence of the body on public speaking: eye contact, deep breathing, projecting (by opening the mouth wider to make the voice bigger), and deliberate pacing can be great tools for calming nerves and delivering a strong speech.

  1. “Public speaking is a mechanism for discovery.”

Professor Gaedtke characterized public speaking as an opportunity to think originally on the spot. He elaborated that you can think of public speaking as a chance to continue to develop your ideas, even about a topic you’ve thought about extensively. In that regard, public speaking is not only a means of sharing ideas, but also a creative act in which your audience participates. This demonstration of the way someone thinks (rather than simply what they think) can be public speaking’s most compelling outcome, he suggested.

  1. “Speaking on the fly is only possible if you’ve prepared rigorously.”

All three speakers stressed preparation and improvisation as keys to successful public speaking. It is preparation that enables improvisation, Gaedtke explained, while Svarz emphasized that preparation is all that you (as public speaker) can control. Always rehearse your speech beforehand to familiarize yourself with the material about which you’ll be speaking.

  1. “You are the expert in the room on whatever you’re speaking about.”

Selecting an angle on your topic that reflects your unique interests, Svarz suggested, can help you to recognize your own expertise. In encouraging public speakers to “develop a confidence habit” and thereby “break the habit of self-loathing.”  Harrington also spoke to this idea. This combination of confidence and passion can accentuate your own interest in your topic and keep your audience invested as well

If you want other great tips on professional and academic development, check out some of our other upcoming events, listed at