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.

What about Grad School? (Updated for 2018)

“Grad school” can mean a lot of things. Your English or Creative Degree prepares you to succeed in a lot of different kinds of grad programs.

The upcoming University of Illinois Graduate and Professional School Fair on October 17 can help you explore some of your options. It’s in the Illini Union, from 11am to 4pm.

When English and Creative Writing majors ask about grad school, they are often asking,

“What about additional education after I graduate from college? Everyone says I’ll need a graduate degree to succeed in the world. How should I get started on that?”

Let’s start with the premise behind the question: that you will NEED a grad degree to get ahead.

#WOCintech Chat

Do you?

In some fields, yes.

Continue reading “What about Grad School? (Updated for 2018)”

PSA: Election Day is Approaching (UPDATED AND CORRECTED)

Voter registration has closed in Illinois, and early voting for the November midterm elections has begun. 

If you have not yet registered to vote in Illinois, you can do so, even though we are past the Oct. 9 deadline for mail-in voter registration. You can no longer register by moter-voter registration, but you can register online until October 21, and you CAN register in person at an early voting location and vote at the same time.

Yes, you should vote. Your vote counts whether you cast it or not. Every politician, party, and PAC makes decisions based on what they think young people and college students will do on election day. The only way to make your vote say what you mean is to to fill out a ballot.

Feeling too uninformed to vote? The Champaign County Voters Alliance has put together a guide to the election here. Continue reading “PSA: Election Day is Approaching (UPDATED AND CORRECTED)”