DECATUR -- Millikin senior Christina Wilke wants to be as prepared and polished as she can be before she heads into the professional world.
And with roughly 500 other applicants aiming for the same teaching positions, a little interview practice and networking can go a long way.
Wilke was among more than 70 juniors and seniors from the Millikin School of Education to take part in the Fourth Annual Interview Boot Camp on Tuesday afternoon on campus.
Along with a meet-and-greet to connect with alumni, students were also presented with a panel discussion on topics as varied as what to expect as a first-year teacher and how to stand out among a crowded profession.
For the more than 30 seniors though, the highlight was the chance to conduct upward of three interviews with alumni who are superintendents and principals throughout Illinois.
And while the interviews did give students a chance receive constructive critiques about their interviewing techniques and ways to improve themselves, the day was not just meant for practice.
“The alumni are looking to hire,” said Steffanie Seegmiller, coordinator of clinical practice for the School of Education, “If they find a good fit, the alumni may tell the student to reach out to them or the principal at a later time to further discuss a position.”
The idea for the camp came together as a chance for some former students to give back in their own way to the university.
Tom Mahoney, superintendent Oregon, Ill., and a 1990 alumnus of Millikin, said he was at a conference several years ago when he struck up a conversation with two other Millikin grads, Jamie Craven and Dan Bridges, who went on to become school superintendents. The conversation soon went from reflecting on fellow alumni who became school administrators to what they could do to give back to Millikin.
“We just said, ‘What have we done to give back to the university to thank them for this?’” Mahoney said. “
In an increasingly competitive career, Mahoney said the opportunity for students to learn how to network or "make small talk" with potential employers helps them stand out.
Wilke, a native of Wheaton who hopes to return to the a suburban school district after graduation, said she had a better understanding of how to highlight one’s achievements during an interview and how to condense points without rambling.
“I think after going through today, it really helps boost my confidence in knowing those areas that I’m strong, but also looking at those areas where I could use improvement,” she said. “So when I go into actual interviews, I know that I’ll be on the top of my game in all of those areas and diminish those weaknesses.”