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.

Sometimes You Will Fall Short.

Illinois alumna Ramona Sullivan (BA, Rhetoric, ’93) told the following story on Facebook about a formative moment she had in the Department of English:

You will have occasions when you fall short. No matter how much you achieve or how well you prepare, you will come up against those moments when you have to turn a bird into a refrigerator, and you just can’t do it. It doesn’t stop you moving forward. Not only did Ramona ultimately ace the class — she went on to the University of Illinois law school and became a public defender. Most recently, she ran for 6th Circuit Judge here in east central Illinois. You may have seen the yard signs around town. That bird didn’t turn into a refrigerator either.

And it was okay. Such moments will be for you, too. Learn more about Ramona here and here. If you’d like to contact her for advice (about law school, finding meaning and purpose in a legal career,working as a public defender, running for office…). make an appointment with Kirstin Wilcox (kwilcox@illinois.edu) to join the Department of English alumni mentoring network.

Networking with Professors

Find office numbers for English/CW faculty on this bulletin board outside the mailboxes, 2nd floor English Building.

 If the thought has crossed your might that you should seek out advice from a faculty member (professor, instructor, TA), then you should probably do so. Talking to students outside of class is part of the job, and faculty know a lot of things. Whether the topic is grad school, the upcoming paper assignment, or confusing course material, these conversations require some of the same skills you would use in an informational interview or networking situations, so it’s a good way to practice. Here are some suggestions for how to make it happen.

  • Go to their office hours. Faculty are required to hold a certain number of office hours for every class they teach. Those are times when they are available to talk to anyone who shows up. You don’t generally need an appointment. Office hours exist entirely so that professors can have conversations with students, and few students take advantage of them. So really — just go.
  • Office hours > email. Most professors get a lot of email, and answering it takes time away from the things they’d rather be doing (teaching, research, preparing classes). Talking to interested students is (for many) NOT a tedious chore. So you are more likely to establish a friendly connection if you can make contact by coming directly to office hours rather than adding to their email mountain.
  • Not sure when a professor’s office hours are? Find out!
    • If it’s a professor for a class you’re currently taking, look for information about office hours in the syllabus. If you look hard and can’t find it, ask at the next class meeting.
    • Some professors hold office hours by appointment only. If you encounter such a professor then ignore the advice above and go ahead and email them to set up an appointment.
    • If it’s a professor who isn’t teaching a class you’re currently taking, there are several ways to find out when their office hours are.
      • Walk by their office door. Office hours are often posted there. (if you don’t know where their office is, look them up in the U of I directory)
      • If you can’t find office hour information on their office door, then go to the main office for the department they’re in, and ask the clerical staff there. (If you don’t know where the department office is, use the search function on the U of I website — the office location will usually be at the bottom of the webpage for the department)
      • (last resort) Use Course Explorer to find out when they’re teaching, and lie in wait in the hallway when the class gets out — then ask (politely) when they hold office hours. Be prepared to explain your business (briefly) and set up an appointment on the spot if for whatever reason they’d prefer to set up a time to talk outside their office hours.
    • If none of these strategies work or if the professor tells you to email them to set up an appointment, then email is the way to go.
  • Is the faculty member on leave? If he or she is not teaching a class you’re currently taking AND does not appear to be holding office hours at all, they may be on leave, a fact you should acknowledge in your email. The whole point of leave is to give professors time away from their teaching responsibilities — so asking for their advice is something of an intrusion — but if you’ve done enough legwork to know that they’re on leave, you’ve already differentiated yourself from other students.
  • Not sure how to start a conversation in office hours? Use the library website to look up research the professor has published (just type their name into the “easy search”). Spending some time with that material should give you a question or two to ask to break the ice. It probably will be easier than you think, though — many college instructors are nice people who enjoy getting to know their students.