Freshman Year: Establishing a Foundation

Freshman year is mostly about getting used to being in college, learning new strategies for managing your time, and figuring out how much you can fit in around your studies.  It’s not too early to start getting familiar with the resources that are available to prepare you for life after graduation, from the job-hunting resources of the Career Center to opportunities for personal growth and exploration.  When you feel ready to take on challenges beyond those presented by your college classes, start finding ways to get involved in the campus community.


  • Create a master resume file on your computer with all possible relevant experience on it.
  • Draft a basic resume that you can customize for particular jobs by drawing on your master file.  Ask for feedback on your resume from at least one person who only knows your professionally (Career Services paraprofessional, networking contact or mentor, professor, academic advisor)
  • Stop by the Career Center
    • pick up a schedule of events.  
    • look over the wall of handouts and grab a couple that are relevant to your interests.
    • identify one helpful Career Services event or workshop and go to it.
  • Walk through a Career Fair, just to get familiar with the basic set-up and structure.
  • Get in the habit of checking the online forums, websites, and bulletin boards where campus opportunities get advertised.  A lot of campus offices and units (as well as many companies in Research Park) hire interns for the following year during the spring semester.  
  • Log on to I-Link and start getting familiar with its many features.  The first time you log on, you will have to answer some questions, but after that you’ll be able to just type in your NetID and password to get on it.


  • Identify two or three provisional career possibilities and locate at least three resources (online job banks, professional associations, mentors) for learning more about the kinds of businesses or organizations you’re drawn to
  • Research ways to get work experience relevant to your career interests, including internships, volunteer work, and undergraduate research opportunities
  • Find a summer job (for the summer before sophomore year) that will expose you to new experiences or help you develop new skills.  It’s a great time to explore things you think you *might* be interested in and to learn to do different things, even if you’re not sure how you will use them later.
  • Take on some extra-curricular activities (an RSO, volunteer work, a part time job), at least one of which may help you develop some professional skills.
  • If your career interests include writing and editing, identify at least one campus or community publication to get involved with.
  • Think about the kind of off-campus experiences you want to have. Look into study abroad programs, or Illinois in Washington, and talk to your academic advisor about how you might work a semester elsewhere into your program of study.


  • Recognize your network and start to cultivate it. If you had meaningful work or volunteer experience in high school, stay in touch with your supervisor. If particular high school teachers influenced your decision to come to Illinois or study a particular area, email them over winter break to let them know how things are going. If family friends or a friend’s family works in a field that interests you, arrange a time to talk to them about their work.
  • Go to office hours and make yourself known to your professors, as well as your TAs.
  • As you develop new contacts (RSO leaders, work supervisors, volunteer coordinators), keep records with full contact information (full name with correct spelling, phone number, email address, name and address of organization).  It will feel a little silly if the list is short, but you will add to it over the next four years and be glad to have all the information in one place.  

Sophomore: Exploring Options

Junior: Gaining Experience

Senior: Getting Real