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.
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.
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.
Update your resume (or create one if you haven’t yet).
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.
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.
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:
get to know I-Link and start checking it regularly to learn more about the kinds of jobs you’d like to apply for. (Pro-tip: use the “Advanced Search” window in “I-Link Jobs,” but refrain from typing into the search bar; instead use the “Industry” and “Position type” pull-down menus to focus your search.)
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.
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.
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.
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:
Understand the publishing process and recognize that there are a lot of different points of entry.
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.
The path to a stable full-time job in the business can be long and winding. It is, said Durante, “very apprenticelike.”
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.
Follow publishing houses that interest you on Twitter.
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:
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.”
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.