How to Escape the “Needing Experience to Get Experience” Paradox

 

Yes, you usually need experience to get a job. But often people apply for jobs because they need experience, and hope to get it by being employed.

The conundrum is not as cruel as it appears, though.

1. These expectations may be overstated. You usually find the expectations for prior experience in the “requirements” or “qualifications” in a job ad. It’s usually a separate section at the bottom of the ad listening all the things the ideal candidate for the job will have or be able to do. Many Continue reading

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. 

How to Get Started? A Post for Freshmen and New Transfers

University of Illinois Quad Day.

Yes, I’m talking to you: incoming freshmen and transfers. You’re getting bombarded with information from all sides, and it’s hard to take it all in. Getting a job after graduation feels a LONG way off, and if you have any brain cells available to devote to thinking about your future career, they are probably firing randomly.

The good news: you don’t need to figure anything out right now.

The bad news? It’s not actually all that bad. It’s just this: “figuring anything out” in the future will be easier if you do stuff now. That’s really all you need to know for now: do stuff.

What kind of stuff? That depends.

  • If you need to work in college, you’ve been getting emails about how to look beyond retail and fast food openings* to jobs and internships that will help you build some professional skills. Go ahead and follow the links. If any of the advertised openings sound interesting to you, follow the instructions for applying to them.
  • Did you do a lot of extracurricular activities in high school? Don’t stop now! Your clubs, volunteer work, and recreation can give you valuable and relevant experience. The difference? You’ll have a lot more freedom in deciding how and when to fill your time. The goal now isn’t college applications — it’s learning more about yourself, what you’re good at, what kind of difference you want to make in the world (and building the skills you’ll need to make that difference).**
  • Has volunteering or community service been an important part of your life up to now? Look for ways to act on those values in college. The campus and local community offers a lot of ways to get involved, to create meaningful change, to explore your scope for leadership.
  • Did you decide to major in English or Creative Writing because you are passionate about the written word? You’ll consume and create a lot of words in your courses, but campus also offers a lot of way to produce them: editing various publications (Re:Search, Montage, Daily Illini, buzz), assisting with open mic nights, getting involved with volunteer radio and TV efforts, joining theater groups, collaborating with others on events and projects. Creating, editing, and producing original content is valuable and relevant experience.

You don’t need to do all of these things from day one! One or two alone can be the center of a meaningful college experience. The important thing is to give yourself opportunities outside the classroom to discover what you’re good at and what’s important to you. The better you understand yourself, the easier it will be to identify the career directions you want to pursue.

_____________________________________

*Of course, if you really enjoy customer service work, go ahead and do more of it! — but with purpose and direction. There are a lot of career options for people who who are good at connecting with others–particularly if you’re good enough at it to advance to a managerial role.

**Quad Day can be overwhelming, but it will expose you to the vast range of clubs, organizations, and service that is available to you. Click here for our advice on how to cope with the abundance.