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. 

Handshake for English and Creative Writing Majors

This summer, the Career Center is transitioning to new online career platform, Handshake. Those of you returning to campus should be relieved to know that Handshake is replacing I-Link, the jobs search database that the U of I had previously used to connect students to employers. Handshake is in every way an improvement over what came before: it’s structured around skills, not majors or departments, and it’s much easier to shape to your interests.

A few things that English and Creative Writing majors should know about Handshake:

  1. This resource will be helpful to you, no matter where you are in your education, so take some time this summer to log on and start checking it out.
  2. It’s a good idea to start building your profile. Employers use Handshake to seek out students, and they will be able to find you more easily if your information is online.
  3. If you’re looking for work experience while you’re on campus, Handshake lists local part-time jobs and internships, many of which do not appear on the Virtual Job Board or the Research Job Board. Click “Jobs and Internships” and set the filter to “part-time” with a location of Champaign, IL. There are also some unpaid internships listed there, but think hard about the conditions under which you are willing to work for free.
  4. If you’re NOT looking for a job or internship now, Handshake can help you with your career exploration. Every student can see every job on the site, depending on how far you are willing to scroll. Handshake will order job openings to reflect the information in your profile, so that the jobs that appear first will vary from student to student. This customized list of openings is a great resource for figuring out what kinds of jobs appeal to you and what you’ll need to do between now and graduation to demonstrate your “fit” for them. You can start learning about potential careers and companies by not only reading a lot of job ads, but also bringing to your reading the same critical and self-reflective eye that you bring to your academic work.

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Why Graduating Seniors Should Talk to the Director of Internships

1. Our department’s “Director of Internships” does a lot of other things, too: putting students in touch with helpful alumni, reviewing resumes, suggesting possible career paths, helping students articulate their skills.

2. There are jobs for people with English and Creative Writing skills, and Kirstin Wilcox can help point you towards them.

3. It will make your parents happy.

4. It’s really not as painful or awkward as you think it’s going to be.

5. It’s easier than locating a job cannon and more likely to succeed.

Graduating in May? How to Find a Job by Then.

choose-the-right-direction-1536336_1920In addition to the suggestions below, “like” the English Advising Facebook page and connect on Twitter so that you can stay abreast of relevant speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities. Also, read your email! The English Advising office sends out frequent updates about jobs and job-hunting events.

Also: if you have questions about ANY of this, email kwilcox@illinois.edu to ask. Chances are, if you’re wondering, other people are, too–and you might inspire a helpful follow-up blog post.

Early January:

Forget everything anyone has ever said to you about the unemployability of English majors. It’s just wrong. The world is full of problems that can only be solved with Continue reading