English/CW Majors and the Spring 2019 Campus Career Fairs

Not all career paths involve career fairs, but campus career fairs provide all students with low-stakes opportunities to explore potential jobs and practice vital networking skills. Here’s what’s coming up this spring:

January 29:  Gies Spring Business Career Fair.   If you’ve never been to a career fair before and plan to go to the April 11 Illini career fair, then a practice run at the Gies fair is a good idea. Use the link above to research a couple of employers you can talk to, revise your resume and print out a bunch of copies (as many employers as you want to talk to X 2, plus a few extra, and put together an appropriate business professional outfit (doesn’t have to be a black suit!).

February 8: Arts and Culture Career Fair in Chicago.  Email Julia Rundell of the College of Fine and Applied Arts (jrundell@illinois.edu) to reserve a spot on the bus to Chicago for this event at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Talk to representatives from performing arts and cultural organizations about full-time jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Bring multiple copies of your resume and dress business “smart” with some creative flair.

March 4:  Educators’ Job Fair at Eastern Illinois UniversityLots of great opportunities here for seniors completing their secondary ed teaching certification.

March 12:  Research Park Career Fair. Small fair at the I-Hotel for employers based in Research Park. Lots of internships (full-time in summer, part-time during school year) and some full-time jobs. The demand is mostly for STEM students, but there will be non-technical opportunities.

April 11:  Illini Career & Internship Fair. A wide array of nonprofit and business employers show up for this fair, many of them eager to find employees as the campus recruiting cycle comes to an end. Bring lots of resumes and dress “business professional.”

You can find more advice about having a successful experience at a career fair in these blog posts:

How should you dress? It’s easy to overthink it. NOT wearing the wrong thing is much more important (and easier) than choosing the right thing. Here’s some accurate, no-nonsense advice from the Career Fair Plus app. 

Need to add to your wardrobe? The Career Closet in The Career Center is a free resource for students.

Wondering about the “elevator pitch” you keep hearing about? People use the term to refer to a brief summary of your experience and interests that you can throw at potential employers at career fairs. Chances are you don’t need one (at least not the way they are usually understood). As an English or CW major, one of your strengths is your communication skills, and an elevator pitch can be a lousy way to convey it. If having a full-blown elevator pitch cued up will help you feel more confident, here’s some excellent advice about how to craft it. You may have more success, though, if you plan in terms of having a conversation with the recruiter rather than “pitching.” Take the time to learn about the employers you want to talk to and have some smart questions in mind to ask about the company or the openings you want to apply for. Listen carefully to the answers you get, and look for ways to use them to talk about the strengths you would bring to that specific role.

Need help with your resume? Start with the Illinois Template. It’s a resume format that career fair recruiters are used to seeing, and it helps make you seem familiar and prepared. You can get advice on revising your resume from Kirstin Wilcox, Director of Internships by calling 333-4346 to set up an appointment. The Career Center (715 S. Wright St.) has walk-in hours for resume review Monday through Friday from 2:00 to 4:30.



Teaching without Secondary Ed Certification?

We’ve added a page to this site dedicated to Alternative Pathways to Teaching. English majors can get a minor in secondary education, which certifies them to teach middle or high school in Illinois. However, not everyone discovers their desire to teach in a timeframe that accommodates that program, and some people are curious about teaching but unwilling to commit to a time-intensive minor. There are other ways to embark on a teaching career, and Alamgir Hossain has gathered them into a single resource for you.

Make an appointment with Anna Ivy if you are interested in learning more about the secondary ed minor; make an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox if you’d like to explore other career paths. Stop by EB 200 or call 333-4346, either way.

Surviving the Winter Holidays: A Guide for English/CW Majors (updated for 2018)

The holidays bring with them many opportunities to connect with loved ones. And chances are, those loved ones are going to ask you how college is going and what you’re going to do when you graduate.

The flexibility and open-endedness that makes majoring in English or Creative Writing a joy can seem less so when you’re being quizzed by a family member who doesn’t quite see how that amazing class in critical theory or modernist literature or poetry writing is going to help you cope with life after graduation.

Some preparation can make those holiday conversations less daunting.

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 thisthis, this, or this.

“So you’re going to teach, right? Or maybe go into publishing? What else do people do with an English (or Creative Writing) degree?”

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 managementdata researchmanagement 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 advanced degrees in bioinformatics, business, education administration, human resources, information/library science, medicine, nursing, social work.

“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 — tell them about some concrete steps that you’re taking now that will help you get a job when you graduate.

  • 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 – E, 1:00 – 1:50pm MWF, Prof. Hapke, CRN: 53975)
    • Self-Publishing and Digital Branding (ENGL 380, 11am -11:50am MWF, Prof. Gallagher)
    • Environmental Writing for Publication (ENGL 498, 12:30 – 1:50pm TR,   Prof. Wood)
  • apply for a spring or summer internship.
  • find a part-time job that will help build your skills.
  • create or update your resume
  • sign up for alumni mentoring and start scheduling some informational interviews to help you build your network.
  • 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 14 – Mar. 8)
    • Career Planning for Humanities Majors — freshmen and sophomores (ENGL 199 – FS, 4:00 – 5:30pm M, Prof. Wilcox, eight weeks, one credit, Mar. 11 – May 1)
    • Career Planning for Humanities Majors — juniors and seniors (ENGL 199 – JS, 4:00 – 5:30 Tm Prof. Wilcox, eight weeks, one credit, Mar. 11 – May 1)
  • 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.
  • practice your elevator pitch, get your professional attire, and research employers to get ready for the Gies 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. 

Using Your Creativity after College: Will Hubbs, Data Researcher (Guest Post)

Will Hubbs (English ’14), Data Researcher, Bank Director

I am a researcher for a financial education company, which means I spend most of my time looking at data. When I graduated from the University of Illinois with a BA in English in 2014, that is not the job that I thought I would have. Instead, I had this idealistic image of supporting myself by writing full time. However, once I got out of school and began looking for a job, I quickly found out that finding a full-time salaried position in writing was difficult, to say the least. This was in large part due to the amount of experience that most writing jobs expect applicants to have before they will even consider them. I was not quite ready to give up on the idea of writing for a living, therefore I turned to freelancing.  What I quickly found out from freelancing is that it is extremely hard to make ends meet. So, with a heavy heart, I decided to take a dive into the corporate world.

My current job does not require a lot of writing. In fact, the only time I write for my job is when I am sending an email. At first, this didn’t bother me because I was preoccupied with getting adjusted to a new environment. Once I had settled in, I began to really miss the creative process that I had grown accustomed to in my time at the university. This lack of creativity in my life started to eat away me. So, like a good English major, I thought about it, and then I thought some more. Eventually, I came to two important realizations.

  1. Just because my job didn’t involve a lot of writing didn’t mean that I couldn’t still use the creative and analytical processes that I had cultivated in college. Once I had this realization, I began to look for ways to apply these processes to my job. I found was that just because I couldn’t use my written words to tell a story, didn’t mean that I couldn’t use my storytelling ability. Instead of using the written word, I simply had to use the data that I work with to craft a story. When I used my storytelling ability in this way, people responded much more positively to the information that I presented. Being more creative improved my job performance.
  2. I had been neglecting my creative side when I was not at work. So, I started writing again. I discovered that I enjoyed writing more because I no longer had to worry about the audience that I was writing for. I could write just to write. For me, it has been a great experience because there is no pressure. I also have complete creative freedom over my work because I don’t need to get anything published. I don’t have to worry about deadlines or writing something that can sell. Instead, I am free to create whatever I want to create.

My advice to those who want a career using their writing skills? You can always find ways to apply your creative process to your job. And once you don’t have to worry about making money, you are free to write about anything that interests you. So, don’t limit yourself to just looking at jobs that involve a lot of writing because you feel like you won’t be able to use your creativity. Instead, go out there and see what all the world has to offer.