Career Fairs: Getting Prepared over Winter Break

The career fair season will be getting underway just a few weeks after you get back to campus. Here’s the lineup for Spring 2017:

Here are some things to to do NOW to get ready.

  1. Figure out which fairs you will attend and why. There are lots of reasons, beyond getting a summer internship or post graduation job: to learn more about jobs and employers that might interest you, to practice your interviewing/networking skills, to get to know employers that you’d like to work with after you graduate.
  2. Start researching (where possible) the employers that you would like to talk to. I-Link is already listing the employers who will be attending the Business Career Fair.
  3. Fill any gaps in your wardrobe. Contrary to what you may have heard, suits are NOT a requirement. A suit may help you make a good impression at the Business Career Fair, but it will just show you to be out of place at the Arts and Culture Fair or the Startup Fair. Some good business casual pieces (slacks, skirts, collared shirts, professional-looking tops, jacket, dress shoes) will help you look professionally appropriate in a range of contexts.
  4. Update your resume (or create one if you haven’t yet). 
  5. Think about how you will introduce yourself to potential employers. You don’t need to memorize an elevator pitch, but you should be prepared to start a conversation in which you can point out your relevant skills and experience.


Drive Off the Spleen and Regulate the Circulation!

rain-122691_1920That interval just before finals: it’s a period that brings the opening lines of Moby Dick to life.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

The sea is a long way away, and whaling vessels are in short supply, but Reading Day does offer the opportunity to break out of your accustomed study ruts (or procrastination ruts) and try a change of scenery to get the intellectual and creative juices flowing. Here are some Reading Day opportunities around campus this Thursday:

  • ESC will be holding its annual finals study lock-in this Thursday (12/8) at 8 pm in the English Building Atrium. Refreshments will be provided. You do not need to stay overnight and can come and go as you please. You are more than welcome to bring friends who are not English/CW majors/minors. What better way to study than with ESC?
  • Spending too much time in the English Building already? No one likes having to study all night, but if you must, why not study at the Y with the YMCA Student Board? Join your favorite people in your favorite building for snacks, crafts, and a weirdly diverse array of stress balls. We’re keeping the building open until midnight so stop whether it is for a few minutes or many hours. See the FB event page for details:
  • Are you looking for a new, super awesome place to study for your finals? This Reading Day, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has got your back.
    Look forward to raffle prizes, coloring, grilled cheese and coffee at the Intermezzo Cafe, and 20% off from the Promenade gift shop for Campus Appreciation Days!
    There will also be plenty of seating with charging stations, an on-site Residence Hall Libraries’ bookmobile, and of course KCPA’s regular, everyday amenities.
    Also feel free to stop by the KCPA Ambassadors table for information on how YOU can get involved with Krannert Center for the Performing Arts!
  • Whatever your study plan is, feel free to stop by EB 200 (Undergraduate Advising) for some Reading Day treats.

Are there any Reading day we’ve missed? Feel free to mention the in the comments.


Guest Post: How to Get Recommendation Letters for Grad School

Last week we offered a post on the vexed irycebaronissue of getting recommendation letters for jobs. Recommendation letters for grad school are a little less complicated: YES, you’ll need them and YES, you should ask your professors for them. But who should you ask? How? When? What steps can you take to make sure your letters reflect your strengths?

Iryce Baron kindly took some time out from prepping her fall courses on the Literature of Fantasy and British Feminist Fiction to write down some advice for students seeking recommendations. 


by Iryce Baron

It happens when I least expect it. The semester is rapidly coming to a close and I’m woefully behind on my work. My office is crammed full of students every day, I’m up to my ears in grading, I’m staying up till 2 a.m. prepping for classes while living on Cheetos and Coke Zero and I haven’t even written the final exam yet. Suddenly I get a notice that I have new email and there’s a note from a former student I haven’t heard from in ages or a student who rarely talks in class. It means only one thing—said student needs a recommendation and I can only hope that it wasn’t due the day before yesterday.

It’s part of our job as academics to write recommendations. It can be a really formative experience between faculty and students or it can be an exercise in frustration for everyone. If you’re planning on attending graduate school or going to law school here’s what you can to do to maximize the experience for yourself and your instructor.

It’s always best to give your professor a heads up with at least a month’s notice. 

Sure we’ve all produced recommendations at the eleventh hour—sometimes it’s unavoidable—a student decides to apply to a program at the last minute and we do our best to help them out, another faculty member gets sick and can’t deliver. But to optimize your chances of getting the most thorough and positive evaluation of your work, ask in advance.Some students give far more time than one month and that can be problematic as well because that means faculty can forget when it’s due with other work always looming over their heads. If you send in your request very early, make sure you also send follow-ups.

If you’re going to ask your professor for a recommendation, try to meet with them at least once during office hours and clearly establish what your academic goals are.

Whether you’re going to graduate school in an area of literary studies that syncs up neatly with your professor’s interests or you’re changing directions and applying to a program in physical therapy, let them know precisely what your educational and professional aspirations are. You want to be a human rights lawyer or work with a large firm doing corporate law—that’s fine too. Just share any relevant information so they can focus on your strengths and personalize the letter.

If at all possible, ask faculty members for letters who know you well and know your work well.  

Graduate and professional programs often require three academic references. If you think you’d like a letter from a faculty member try to be vocal in class and try to meet with them outside of class so that they can get to know you better.Be prepared to share papers that you handed in for the course. The most effective recommendations contain direct references to the work students produced in class.

Try to request letters from faculty members whose classes you’ve done especially well in. 

You might have loved your class on theory or you might have a had a professor who is a superstar, but if you didn’t get an A in the course, it’s preferable to forgo that person and to approach someone who can be as enthusiastic about your work as possible.If you’re a late bloomer though, don’t be discouraged. We’ve all written letters for students who are just beginning to show promise. It’s okay to ask someone for a letter who gave you B. Just try to gauge how supportive the instructor can be about your work. I always encourage students who didn’t receive an A in my course to see if anyone else is available, but if not, I focus only on the positive elements of their work.

And don’t forget these two things because they’re really important.

  1. Almost any program that you apply to will ask if you are willing to waive your right to access your letters of reference.  It is imperative that you do this. I once had a student who initially did not waive her rights to access her letters and I told her she needed to throw out all her paperwork and begin anew. Her response, “If this is what they want, then why do even give you an option?” In an age of social media when everyone seemingly has access to anything you post online, it seems a particularly dated request. My answer was, it’s the academic equivalent of a trick question and you must do it. She just finished her PhD at Harvard and I know I gave her the right advice.
  2. Make sure that whether you send faculty emails with links that store your references for future use or that go directly to the universities you’re applying to, you clarify when the letter is due and that you provide the correct materials to be filled out and include pre-addressed envelopes that are stamped if you prefer hard copies.

And finally, let your referees know which schools you got admitted to and where you’ve decided to go and send a letter of thanks. It’s very much appreciated.

Campus Career Fairs, 2016-17

Save the dates! The fairs in boldface are of particular interest for English department majors, but all of these fairs are open to all majors.

Campus Career Fairs for 2016-2017 Academic Year

Fall Semester:

Engineering Career Fair – September 7 & 8, 2016
Business Career Fair – September 14 & 15, 2016
Engineering Employment EXPO—September 19 & 20, 2016
FOCUS: The Job Fair for Career-Focused, Paid, Campus Work—September 21, 2016
ACES & Sciences Career Fair—October 6, 2016
LAS in CU: LAS Local Internship Fair—October 19, 2016
Graduate & Professional School Fair—October 19, 2016
International Career Forum—October 21, 2016
Fall Illini Career & Internship Fair—October 26, 2016

Spring Semester:

Business Career Fair—February 1 & 2, 2017
Arts and Culture Career Fair (held in Chicago for UIUC and UIC students)—February 3, 2017
Engineering Career Fair—February 7 & 8, 2017
Start Up Career Fair—February 9, 2017
Educators’ Fair—March 6, 2017 at EIU
Illini Career and Internship Fair—April 5, 2017
Research Park Career Fair—spring 2017