University of Illinois graduate students recently took part in online informational interviews with nine alumni working in a diversity of fields in local public programs, the government, museums, NGOs, the private sector, and universities. Students and alumni discussed everything from job searches and interviews to developing careers in particular fields. “I benefited from my interviewee’s suggestions in terms of networking, general knowledge of UIUC’s ongoing programs, and potential research opportunities,” said Cassie Pontone, a first-year graduate student in Italian Studies.
Thirteen graduate students and recent alumni from eleven departments including Linguistics, Educational Psychology, and Computer Science, took up the opportunity to talk with alumni. Some students selected alumni with particular interests in order to learn more about specific fields. One recent graduate, with a Master’s degree in Economics, chose to interview with both Annie Contractor (Executive Director of Africa’s Tomorrow) and Noriyasu Li (Program Manager for Alexa International at Amazon) because they had a similar work experience background and areas of academic interest. Dealing with the job market during the pandemic was also an important discussion topic for students. “I appreciated the advice to network during quarantine by reaching out to others in my field and asking for informational conferences,” said a student in the M.A. Law program.
The interviews were originally scheduled to take place in-person as part of the Illinois Global Institute Career Day on March 27. The first IGI Career Day, the event was designed to highlight using foreign languages, area studies expertise, and thematic studies skills on the job market and to connect current graduate students and alumni. REEEC-affiliated alumni participating in the event included Elana Jakel (Ph.D. 2014, History), who is the Program Manager of the Initiative for the Study of the Ukrainian Jewry at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Nellie Manis (M.A. 2013, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies), who is the Program Manager for the Critical Language Scholarship Program at American Councils for International Education; and Matt Rosenstein (Ph.D. 2002, Slavic Languages and Literatures), who is the Director of Global Education and Training (GET) at the University of Illinois. “When we had to cancel their visits due to COVID-19, our alumni immediately volunteered to conduct the interviews online,” said Maureen Marshall, Associate Director at REEEC. “Our alumni are fabulous! Not only do they have amazing careers, but they are enthusiastic to share their knowledge and give back to the international and area studies community at Illinois.”
“Although we had to postpone the full career day, we thought it was important to go ahead and offer the informational interviews for those who are graduating or on the job market now,” said Sydney Lazarus, Outreach and Programming Coordinator at the EU Center. For students the online informational interviews led to additional networking contacts and provided them with insights into how to approach the job market outside of academia
An in-person Career Diversity Day event is tentatively scheduled to take place in the Fall. In addition to informational interviews, the full program will include alumni panel discussions, a resume workshop organized by the Graduate College, and a networking reception.