Thinking about Your Future over Spring Break

Crystal_ball_by_Ron_BodohYour future after graduating with an English/CW major: you can’t foretell it, but you can take steps to shape it.  Spring break is a good time to take care of some of the career-planning details that get shoved aside during the semester.

First thing EVERYONE can do is put our upcoming career-planning events on their calendars. After that…

Graduating Seniors:

If you’re not headed to grad school and you haven’t yet gone to talk to Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships, about your job-search strategy, email her to set up an appointment!  Even if you’re terrified and have no resume, much less a plan, come see her anyway.  Doing something works better than doing nothing, and it’s a place to start.


  • Create or tidy up your LinkedIn profile.  Employers will stalk you online, so give them something to find that shows off your strengths.  Be sure to upload a professionally appropriate photo and try to devise a headline that showcases your work experience or talents (NOT “Student at the University of Illinois”).
  • Line up your writing samples.  Many jobs that English/CW majors excel at require a writing sample.  What that means, specifically, varies from job to job.  Some employers just want to know that you can write a graceful sentence, some want evidence that you can write for a non-academic audience, yet others want to know that you can tell a story or craft believable dialogue.  Depending on what you’re applying for, consider using a short, well-argued academic paper, the strongest piece you’ve written for a CW class, links to online writing you’ve done, or pieces that you’ve created for an organization you’re part of (flyers, instructions, press releases, etc.
  • Try out some different formats for your resume.  Your resume should NOT be a static, one-size-fits-all document. Every opening you apply for should elicit a different resume, one that advertises the specific background and experience you have that qualifies you for the particular job.
  • Spend some time on I-Link and other jobs databases finding what’s out there.  Some others that English/CW majors find helpful are,, and


  • Start networking. “Networking” is an intimidating concept, but it doesn’t have to be. Who do you know who would be willing to talk to you about what they do for a living and whether it might be something you want to do?  Start there!  Not sure how to contact someone you’d like to speak to?  Use our template to get started.
  • 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.
  • Look and apply for a summer internship.
  • Select a campus publication or an RSO to get involved in, preferably one that can give you leadership experience.
  • Plan to sign up for the Alumni Mentoring Network and find an alumni mentor when you get back to campus.



What to Expect at a Career Fair (and Why You Should Go)

The Research Park Career Fair is still ahead of us (March 15), but much of the spring career fair season is winding down.  If you went to a career fair this year, well done!  Career fairs are a great way to meet potential employers, explore career paths, and practice your interviewing and networking skills.  If you didn’t go to one, definitely plan to take advantage of them next year!  While some fairs (e.g., the Engineering Career Fair, the Urban Planning Fair) are intended for students with specific technical skills, many fairs feature recruiters seeking students from a variety of programs. Fairs are also targeted towards particular fields of relevance to department of English majors.  The Design+ Job Fair, the Arts and Culture Fair in Chicago, the Educators Fair, and the Illini Career and Internship Fair are particularly oriented towards the interests and skills of people who study English and Creative Writing.

Two English majors who attended the recent Arts and Culture Career Fair in Chicago were willing to share their experiences.  Meghan McCoy (a sophomore) and Henry Yeary (a freshman, who also attended the Business Career Fair last month) independently offered the same two pieces of advice based on their experience:

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Why English and Creative Writing Majors Should Be in DC this Fall

  1. The deadline for the fall illinois in dc capitolsemester Illinois in Washington program is April 1, and you don’t need to have your internship lined up in advance. In fact, many employers don’t even start advertising internships until May, so you’ll have plenty of time over the summer to find the right internship for you.
  2. Once you express interest in the program by emailing Prof. Susan Dimock, you dimockwill start getting announcements of internship openings. You’ll get even more once you officially apply.
  3. Prof. Dimock, who lives in DC and has been running this program for years, knows everything there is to know about getting a job in Washington.  She will help you craft a first-rate resume and cover letter to get the internship you want. (She’s also really nice and approachable!
  4. There are a LOT more opportunities in DC in the fall than there are in the summer.  Most are unpaid, but everyone has a better shot at the available paid internships simply because there is less competition.
  5. The cost is similar to spending a semester living in the dorms, particularly if you budget to account for the higher cost of living in DC.
  6. You don’t have to find your own housing and social life comes ready-made. You’ll share a studio apartment with a fellow student in a building housing student interns from all over the country.
  7. You’ll take 12 credits, 3 of which can be an online course of your choosing.
  8. Contrary to popular belief, government agencies and non-profits in DC aren’t looking for political science majors, econ majors, or hard-core politics junkies. They want people who can communicate well. They like the sound of “English major”–that sounds like a person who can write. They want that and don’t see enough of it. 
  9. International students can’t get internships in the federal government, and paid internships can be complicated, but they ARE eligible for jobs in congressional offices, think-tanks, not-for-profit organizations, and the embassies/consulates of their home countries.  Organizations that have an international focus are particularly open to hiring international students, regardless of home country.



From the other side of the table: Why those in positions to hire people should NOT agree to informational interviews (and why you should ask for them anyway).

Today in Slate, associate editor L. V. Anderson, describes her own experiences with giving informational interviews and makes the case for why people in positions to make hiring decisions should NOT agree to take part in them.  Her bottom line?

It’s anti-meritocratic. It’s impossible for everyone who’s searching for a job to land an informational interview with a helpful candidate…The people who get informational interviews—and the benefits they confer—tend to be people who have something in common with their target: a mutual friend, a family connection, an alma mater in common. Informational interviews are like unpaid internships and hiring for “cultural fit”—they encourage bosses to hire and promote people from the same background as their own, which effectively cuts off job opportunities for minorities. Put another way, informational interviews give a leg up to people who don’t need a leg up.

Anderson’s advice is disconcerting for anyone entering a daunting job market and, quite reasonably, seeking any “leg up” they can find (however much one wants to see the 21st Continue reading