Working a Career Fair with a Writing Double Major

Filed in Student Experience by on September 3, 2019

A writing major at a WPI Career Fair is about as fair as finding a unicorn in the forest: fascinating and rare. As a writing major, use the rarity of your eye-catching double major to your advantage. It can be complicated to balance your communication skills with technical passions. After four WPI career fairs as a chemical engineering and professional writing double major, I’ve noticed that most conversations about my double major fall into one of three categories.

 

#1: The One Way Street
You tell them “… and Professional Writing Major-” and before you get to the end of your well-rehearsed elevator pitch, the recruit interjects, “Writing? At WPI?” You will nod and start to tell them a brief description of the program, mentioning some of your favorite writing classes. They will start asking if you could work on grant applications for a research lab, or perhaps patent paperwork for new technologies, or even in their marketing department. In that moment, the recruiter is looking at you like a one way street: a direct path to documentation. If you don’t want to be seen as a one way street, you need to drive the conversation to the marriage of your majors. When they ask a question about your writing major, answer but end your response with a question involving your other major; use this strategy to steer the recruiter into another lane.

“Yes, I’m very comfortable writing engineering reports. I’ve had to write quite a few for different classes, both for labs and engineering courses. For your internships, do you find there are more positions open in the laboratory or in engineering positions, at the industrial scale?”

#2: The EngiNERD

After your rehearsed elevator pitch, you have a sound conversation about your technical abilities. You answer questions about the kind of position you are looking for, maybe even ask a few questions about company culture. The recruiter will give you a handout with instructions on how to apply and wish you luck with the rest of the career fair. You will walk away satisfied, until you realize that you never mentioned your writing talents. The recruiter wasn’t phased by your double major, and made no indication that you would have the opportunity to use your writing education if you were hired. They pretended like your double major didn’t exist. It can be hard to identify this type of recruiter in the moment, but if you do make sure to answer questions by connecting both majors. If they treat you as just a technical student, they most likely do not see the versatility of your double major. Use this as your opportunity to make them see it by

answering questions that connect projects, concepts, and courses that involve both majors.

“Yes, I’ve used MathCAD, Polymath, and COMSOL to model different engineering problems with complicated mathematics. In fact, I’m also trained on Adobe Framemaker and comfortable with Microsoft Equation Editor so I can also present results and models in a professional ways, for both engineering reports and company presentations.”

 

#3:  The Bad Communicator
On the rare occasion, a recruiter will go wide eyed at the idea of a Writing major intern. “You mean you can edit my work?” They will lament their own writing skills, and praise the convenience of hiring a writing intern. You will stand there and try to remind them of your technical skills, but they will continue to ask about what kind of documents you are comfortable working with. As much as you try to center the conversation around the duality of your majors, some recruiters will be too in love with the idea of an editing intern to listen. You will probably be annoyed, and even slightly insulted. This is when you need to remember: the career fair is about them learning about you just as much as it is about you learning about them. If the idea of being someone’s personal editor for the summer doesn’t excite you, don’t be afraid to be polite but walk away.

“I am actually looking for a position where I would have my own, independent projects but I will consider applying to work in your office. Thank you for your time, have a great rest of your day”

 

To help drive the conversation about your double major, be prepared with an elevator pitch specifically about how your majors work together. A recruiter will almost certainly ask you “So chemical engineering and professional writing, what’s that like?” Prepare for this question, have a thoughtful answer that highlights important parts of both majors but also your relevant skills and interests. Use this question to steer the conversation about what you can offer the company.

 

If you’re interested in both roles that focus on writing and those that look for technical abilities, prepare two copies of your resume: one concentrated on each major. You can have your resume reviewed at the CDC’s drop in hours, between 10AM-4PM, or by making an appointment with a career counselor at wpi.joinhandshake.com

 

About the Author ()

Katherine Vaz Gomes is a member of the WPI Class of 2020 as a Chemical Engineering and Professional Writing double major. On campus, Katherine works as a tutor in the Writing Center and Academic Resources Center: where she helps students improve their communication skills and understand their resources at WPI.She is passionate about technical writing, environmental research, and scientific communication techniques.

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