Q&A with Sparkle Sanders

By Brooke Eberle, Special Sections Editor

Sparkle Sanders is the associate director of marketing and communications for the University’s career center. She has worked there for the past two years and specializes in letting students know about all of the tools that the Career Center offers when looking for a job.


Daily Illini: What is your favorite part of working at the Career Center?

Sparkle Sanders: I would have to say the students. I mean that sincerely because we’ve been here all summer and it’s been kind of quiet. During school, students want to be prepared for career fairs and classes and just want to take that next step. So I really enjoy meeting with the students and learning about their goals and figuring out how I can help them achieve those goals.


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DI: What should students do to prepare before going to a career fair?

SS: The first that I would tell them to do is make sure that they have their resume and their LinkedIn profiles updated. They need to make sure that that is up to date, make sure that it is reflecting the areas that they have gotten; also I would make sure that they have their elevator pitch ready. An elevator pitch is a one to two-minute pitch about yourself for that question when employers ask you ‘tell me about yourself.’


DI: What kind of services does the career center have to help out with that?

SS: We offer a wide array of services. Most commonly what we are known for is our resume reviews. So we do resume reviews, we do cover letter reviews, and more recently we do LinkedIn profile reviews. LinkedIn is now just as popular as a resume, it’s pretty much your online resume. So we do those reviews, we have hours where you can drop into our office, no appointment required, and we can have somebody review those three things. In addition to that, you can schedule an appointment with a career counselor or coach and we will talk to you about a wide variety of things.


DI: Recently the University just changed from I-Link to Handshake, can you explain what is different about it?

SS: Yes, Handshake has now replaced I-Link. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with I-Link, but I-Link was a recruiting platform here at Illinois, so it was the way that employers basically sought out and recruited Illinois students. We switched platforms and now we’re on Handshake and we decided to do that because Handshake is really better for our students. Handshake is basically like a LinkedIn, it has that feel, that customizable feature. It’s very personalized; students are able to fill out a profile that talks about their interests and their major, and so they get specialized jobs and updates through their homepage and you weren’t able to that in I-Link.


DI: Do a lot of students know that this is a tool that they can use?

SS: So the Career Center is the main career services center on campus because we serve as students across the board, but each college also has career services representative within their college. So the Career Center has been working with all of the career services offices to make sure that students know about Handshake. We are doing a promotion. There’s some cool things to be coming on campus still. I don’t want to reveal too much, but we are working together to get the word out.


DI: Does the Career Center have any workshops coming up to help students through career fair season?

SS: Yes, we do. Students can absolutely go to our website that gives you the full list of events. We have workshops about creating a powerful resume and cover letter. We have workshops about navigating the job search. We a have whole new workshop about developing your own brand and how you’re able to sell that to employers. We have a career fair prep workshop and it’s about getting students prepared for the career fair. We actually are going to have 3-4 workshops this fall about how to utilize Handshake and how to make the most of it for the upcoming career fairs.


DI: Does the Career Center get a lot busier during career fair season?

SS: We definitely see an uptick, but I think that speaks very well of our students. They want to be prepared. We have very ambitious students. We have very well-prepared students and want students that are going to make a great impression on our employers.


DI: What would you say is the most underutilized tool at the career center?

SS: The first one I would say is graduate school. A lot of students don’t realize that we help with graduate school. I feel like it’s just starting to get out there, but they don’t realize there’s a (center on) campus that can help you apply and get ready and take you step by step. I also think our mock interview program is one that is underutilized, to be honest. You schedule it online and it is an hour long. The first 30 minutes is you in an interview and then we give you 30 minutes of feedback.


DI: If you could give any advice to a student that has never been to a career fair, what would it be?

SS: I would say get prepared and do not go in there cold turkey. Obviously I’m from the Career Center so I would say see a career coach. Other than that, do some research. Employers really like to know that you’re interested and that you’re not just going down the line of tables or booths. They want to hire students that want to be there.


DI: Are underclassmen too young to go to the career fair?

SS: No, you’re never too early. I think one of the myths that I am working to debunk is ‘oh I have to wait until junior or senior year.’ Actually, the earlier you start, the better. Why? Because you get more comfortable with it. Imagine being a senior and it is August and you are hoping to find a job in May and you’ve never been to a Career Fair. How intimidating would that be? How scary? That’s why I tell my students; ‘Start early. When you start getting out there, you get comfortable.’


Brooke is a Junior in Media.

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