Freshman: 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 get familiar with the resources that are available to prepare you for life after graduation, from campus career fairs 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 more deeply 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 you professionally (Humanities Professional Resource Center staff, Career Services paraprofessional, networking contact or mentor, professor, academic advisor)

  • Log on to Handshake and start getting filling out your profile.

  • Stop by the Humanities Professional Resource Center (105 Gregory Hall) and 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 event or workshop and go to it. Walk through a Career Fair and chat with at least one recruiter, just to get familiar with the basic set-up and structure.

  • Will you need to work while you’re in college? Get in the habit of regularly checking the places where part-time jobs and paid internships get posted: the Virtual Job Board, the Research Park Job BoardHandshake,  and this very website. ALL work experience counts, but opportunities come up on these sites that will help you build professional skills.


  • Try out some extracurricular activities. Go to Quad Day and see the range available to you. Think about the activities that were most meaningful and enjoyable to you in high school and think about ways to find those sources of satisfaction in college, while giving yourself time to explore new possibilities.

  • Visit the Life & Career Design Lab. It’s a great way to begin the conversation about what happens after you graduate, even if you don’t yet have a destination or a plan.  

  • Look into 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. Summer work can help you explore fields you might be interested in and to learn some new skills, even if you’re not sure how you will use them later.

  • If your career interests include writing and editing, identify at least one campus or community publication to get involved with.

  • Consider 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