Senior Year: Getting Real

By senior year, graduation looms and with it the pressure to have a plan.  The contrast between majors that point students in a straight arrow to a career and majors (like English) that don’t may seem overwhelming.  Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed.  Recognize the wealth of transferable skills that you’re acquiring through your studies and start practicing ways to market those skills to employers.  Keep exploring!  Your major gives you choices about the shape your career will take.


  • Map out a five-year post-graduation plan, complete with fall-back positions.  At this point, paying off student loans and not having to move back home may be priorities, but don’t let them overshadow all other considerations.  You’ll be able to market yourself more effectively for jobs that you can feel authentically passionate about, so it’s worth taking the time to figure out what those jobs might be and to seek them out.
  • Set up a schedule for searching job websites every few days.  Even if you won’t be able to start a job until June, the sooner you get familiar with the kinds of positions that are out there, the professional terminology used in fields that interest you, and the companies that are hiring, the more effectively you’ll be able to respond when you are in a position to fill an immediate opening.
  • If you haven’t yet joined the Alumni Mentoring Network or contacted any alumni in fields that interest you, do so.
  • Identify some jobs you can see yourself applying for, draft cover letters and resumes for them, and then have honest and knowledgeable people critique them vigorously.
  • For each job you apply for
    • Identify the requirements for the position and the specific language used to describe them
    • Write a cover letter (where required) that matches your qualifications to those particular requirements
    • Revise your resume to demonstrate the way your qualifications match those requirements
    • Do this for every job you apply for
    • Keep a log of your job applications and copies of the listings you respond to and the resume/letter you send in application for each job
    • If called for an interview, review your job application documents for that position
  • If you see yourself doing a lot of in-person networking (attending industry events for a field that interests you, going to conferences, and the like), make business cards.  What goes on them?  Anything that makes it easy for people to remember who you are, find out more about you, and contact you.  Your email signature line is a great place to start.  
  • Schedule a mock interview at the Career Center.
  • Prepare for and attend the Business Career Fairs (one each in fall and spring) and the Illini Career and Internship Fair in the spring.  Keep an eye out for other Career Fairs that may be relevant to your interests (e.g., the Arts Administration Career Fair, held in Chicago with UIC).


  • Don’t panic if you don’t yet have a career plan locked down.  The path to a successful and meaningful life is rarely linear.  You will figure it out.  
  • Don’t get locked in if you DO have a career plan.  College is a time to explore and experiment.  If a little voice inside your head is telling you that the things you thought you wanted to do don’t seem as appealing as they once did, listen to that voice and try something different.  
  • Get leadership/managerial/organizational experience in at least one of your paid or unpaid activities (if you haven’t already)
  • Complete an internship related to your career path if you haven’t already or if you haven’t been gaining professional experience by other means.  


  • Contact the people you’ll be asking to serve as references and confirm their willingness to speak for you.
  • Prepare information that will help to jog their memory of references that you haven’t been in contact with recently (the dates you worked for them or took their class, projects you were involved with, copies of the papers you wrote for their classes, your resume so they’ll know what you’ve been doing in the meantime)
  • Keep making new connections.  Identifying people who can answer questions about a potential career path and getting in touch with them is a great way to build your professional network.  
  • Make contact with one or more participants in the Department of English Alumni Mentoring Network if you haven’t already.
  • Stay in touch with the connections you already have (asking someone to review your resume or cover letter is a great way to revive a connection).
  • Make use of the Career Center, which is an excellent resource for the finer points of the job search: negotiating salary offers, coping with illegal interview questions, learning the etiquette of business meals.
  • When you accept a job offer, let your references, your network, and the Advising Office know about your success!  

After graduation

  • Remember that the resources of the U of I Career Center and the English Department Advising Office and the Department of English Alumni Mentoring Network remain available to you as an alum.  
  • Look into the networking and job-hunting resources available to alumni through the University of Illinois Alumni Association.
  • Consider joining the Alumni Mentoring Network as a Mentor.
  • Don’t feel ready to be an official Alumni Mentor yet?  Pass along your insights about the job search process or your area of work in more informal ways by contacting the Advising Office.  We want to know how you’re doing and how we can better serve our students!

Freshman: Establishing a Foundation

Sophomore: Exploring Options

Junior: Gaining Experience