Senior: 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 yours) 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.


SUCCEED

  • 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 May, 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 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 (use their words and phrasing)

    • Write a cover letter (where required) that matches your qualifications to those particular requirements (use their words and phrasing)

    • Revise your resume to demonstrate the way your qualifications match those requirements (make this about how your skills match their needs, let them see how well you fit their organization)

    • 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

  • Schedule a mock interview at the Career Center.

  • Prepare for and attend the Business Career Fairs (one each in fall and spring), the LAS & ACES Career Fair (in the fall), 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 and Culture Career Fair, held in Chicago, the Educator’s Fair, the Research Park Job Fair).

EXPLORE

  • 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.  

CONNECT

  • 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.  

  • 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).

  • Draw on the Humanities Professional Resource Center for the finer points of the job search: handling different kinds of interview situations, negotiating salary offers, coping with illegal interview questions.

  • When you accept a job offer, let your references, your network, and the people you’ve worked with on campus know about your success!  

Freshman: Establishing a Foundation

Sophomore: Exploring Options

Junior: Gaining Experience