On Friday, November 4th, the 9th annual English Career Connections fair was held in Hillcrest and Shanks Halls. It provided an opportunity for current VT English majors to meet with former VT English majors, who are members of the Distinguished Alumni Board (DAB). Over 50 students and 20 DAB members attended. Distinguished alumni members held a variety of professions, including attorney, marketing director, technical writer, judge, teacher, and many others.
The event kicked off with a luncheon in the Hillcrest Hall dining room at 12:30 p.m. The dress code was business casual, and students had a chance to practice their dining etiquette in a formal setting. Students were seated at assigned tables next to other students and two or three distinguished alumni, so they could talk briefly about their career aspirations and ask distinguished alumni about their career paths and how they became successful.
After a keynote address by Donna Mitchell, a former English major who went on to become vice president of wealth management at a financial services company, students participated in roundtable discussions with members of the DAB. Students were separated into groups of three or four to chat with their assigned DAB member. This gave them a chance to learn what it takes to be successful from someone who was previously where they are. Through a series of questions asked by distinguished alumni, students also had a chance to reflect on their own goals and definitions of success in a more intimate setting.
Around 2:30 p.m., everyone made the long walk to Shanks Hall for a series of panels led by English department faculty. While the luncheon required pre-registration, these panels were open to all English majors who wanted to attend. The sessions were each 30 minutes long and focused on a more specific aspect of the career search or college life. There were individualized sessions on careers in literature & language, education, creative writing, and professional & technical writing, as well as searching for internships and preparing for graduate school. During this time, registered students also either had a resume review or a practice interview with a DAB member to further prepare them for upcoming job or internship searches.
The event concluded with a Q&A session with DAB members, led by officers of Virginia Tech’s English Club. Distinguished alumni talked about what essential skills prepare English majors for a plethora of careers and how they successfully transitioned from college to career.
The English Career Connections fair helped form a tight-knit community between English majors, faculty, and alumni, providing students who may be scared or overwhelmed by post-graduation life with people to talk to who truly understand what it’s like. It gave students reassurance that English majors can be successful and that no, just because you’re majoring in English doesn’t mean you have to teach (although that’s certainly one of many possibilities).