The English/CW Major’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays, 2016 Edition

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The holidays? They can be stressful, particularly when they give your family members opportunities to quiz you about your plans after graduation. This year, your career plans (or lack thereof) may be a welcome distraction from politics, so all the more reason to brace yourself for those conversations.

Some tips:

  1. Be prepared.  These conversations often stem from loving concern. Look for ways to reassure the people who care about you that you’re on your way to a stable, self-supporting adult life. Some things that will demonstrate that you are headed towards a career path:
  2. Save this link to your phone.  The odds may or may not be ever in your favor, but the data certainly is, so you can be ready when a relative trots out some canard about English majors being unemployable.
  3. Seriously, it’s a tough labor market, but you are no less employable than anyone else. Keep this table from the Illini Success survey handy, in case you have a relative telling you to switch your major.
  4. Need more talking points?  Try this, this, this, or this.
  5. Learn more.  Take some time to browse this very blog for additional information on jobs that English majors do (including human resources, advancement and development, communication, business consulting, science journalism, running small businesses, legal writingproject managementbook publishing, video editing, science editing, project operations, librarianship, B2B publishing).
  6. Stay true to yourself. Spend time with a book you want to read but don’t HAVE to read to remind yourself why you got into this major in the first place. Write a poem. Watch a movie with some intellectual heft to it. Make a trip to the nearest independent or used bookstore.

How to Get a Job in Publishing

Last week Dawn Durante and James Engelhardt, acquisitions editors at the University of Illinois Press, came to the Department of English to offer their advice and experience on working in the publishing industry.

Some specific suggestions they had:

  1. Understand the publishing process and recognize that there are a lot of different points of entry.life-cycle-of-a-book
  2. Recognize that the publishing industry has many different dimensions: not just the well-known large trade publishers in New York, but also regional presses, university presses, specialty publishers.
  3. The path to a stable full-time job in the business can be long and winding. It is, said Durante, “very apprenticelike.”
  4. Look for ways to get relevant experience working: internships, volunteer work, paid employment. Note that experience doesn’t have to be directly in the publishing industry to be relevant.
  5. Follow publishing houses that interest you on Twitter.
  6. Get familiar with the range of publishers out there and the wide variety of jobs in the industry by keeping up with relevant professional and trade websites:

Recommendation Letters?!?

thumbs-up-1197306_1280If you’re applying to graduate school, you will definitely need letters of recommendation from your professors. But what about if you’re thinking about a future job search, not grad school?

Opinions vary!

According to The Intern Queen, if you’re coming up on the end of a summer job or internship, you should absolutely ask for a recommendation letter to show future employers. She tells you why and explains how in this short video:

This columnist from Forbes sort-of agrees: “In the past, obtaining recommendation letters was a requirement of the job search process. Today, not as much. Now, this step is considered optional, but savvy job seekers understand that it can help give them an edge when it comes to obtaining a position.”

But not everyone is so sure. This writer argues

letters of recommendation are not valued much by employers outside of academe. Why? Because skeptical employers think you wrote the letter for the reference to sign; because it’s written in advance, the writer’s had time to soften your weaknesses or omit them, and write those glowing phrases of praise; because it doesn’t permit the employer to ask his or her own questions.

Many people get jobs without recommendations in their job-search toolkit. However, it is vital to have references whom prospective employers can contact.  Click here for some useful advice on choosing and soliciting good references.

Bottom line: if you feel comfortable asking for a job recommendation letter, go ahead and do so.  It can’t hurt, and somewhere down the line it might help. But staying in touch with potential references and maintaining your network might be a better use of your time.

Which Career-Planning Course Should I Take?

AnneOdom(2)We didn’t put it on the bucket list, but you should still do it: take a course to help your career planning. The Department of English offers three, all of which have the same number, English 199. (Yes, it’s confusing–we’re working on that….).

For Fall 2016, here’s a quick guide to help you figure out which course you should take, complete with the numbers that will help you enroll in it.

ENGL 199 – CP2: Career Planning for Humanities Majors

  • Wednesdays, 5pm – 6:30pm. EB 131
  • Oct. 19 – Dec. 7 (second eight weeks)
  • One credit
  • Who should take it: Students at ANY stage of their studies in a word-centered “impractical” major like English or CW. Whether you’re a new student with no career plans or a graduating senior needing to find a job fast, this course will help move you towards your goals. You will learn to network, write an effective resume and cover letter, present yourself to potential employers, interview, and research potential careers,
  • How to register: use CRN 50105

ENGL 199 – MMM: Career and Internship Fair Prep

  • ONLINE Aug. 22 – Oct.14 (first eight weeks)
  • One Credit
  • Who should take it: Students at ANY stage of their studies who want to explore career possibilities and connect to potential employers by attending career fairs. This course is specifically designed to prep you for the LAS Internship Fair, which will take place Oct. 19, the week after the course has ended, but the skills you learn will be applicable to any career or internship fair, including the Illini Career and Internship Fair, the Business Career Fair, or the Arts and Culture Career Fair. You will learn to tailor your resume, research career fair opportunities, construct an effective elevator pitch, network, and use the career fair to advance your own goals.
  • How to register: use CRN 65563

ENGL 199 – INT: Internship Seminar

  • Thursdays, 3:30pm – 4:30pm. EB 131
  • Oct. 20 – Dec. 1 (second eight weeks)
  • One credit
  • Who should take it: Students who have located a fall semester internship for which they wish to receive academic credit. This course will help you weave your internship experience into your overall career path and help you speak and write effectively about the skills you have gained through your internship.
  • How to register: When you have lined up a fall semester internship, contact Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships, and she will make sure you are cleared to enroll in the course.

 

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