By sophomore year, you know how college works and have become used to the workload for your classes. Focus on exploring. The University of Illinois offers abundant opportunities to try new things, from RSOs to part-time jobs and internships to volunteering to study abroad. Every activity or involvement gives you an opportunity to learn more about what you’re good at, the kinds of problems you enjoy solving, the issues that move you, and the value you add to a group or team. They also give you opportunities to take risks, fail, and try other things — a crucial part of learning.
Sophomore year is also a good time to start getting to know the professional fields that need your particular skills and the kinds of businesses or organizations you would like to work for.
- Bring your resume up to date with your freshman year and summer experiences.
- Prepare for, and attend at least one campus career fair (on-site or virtual). Focus on talking to employers about summer internship opportunities. Even if you can’t really see yourself at the kind of company that recruits at career fairs, it’s good practice for future networking and interviewing opportunities.
- Create a LinkedIn profile, complete with a professionally appropriate photo and a compelling headline (NOT “Student at…” or “…major” — aim for a headline that defines you by your skills, interests, or aspirations). Customize your URL. Write yourself a reminder to update it in six months.
- Get an email account (NOT your illinois.edu email) that will stay with you post-graduation and has an address that is as close to your actual name as possible.
- If your part-time job isn’t giving you professional experience related to things you might want to do after you graduate, look for one that does.
- If you haven’t yet gotten involved in any extracurricular activities, seek out RSOs or volunteer work that will develop your leadership skills and expand your range of interests. If you have been involved, think about how and whether you want that involvement to grow. It’s great to do an activity just because you enjoy it, but RSOs can also be an avenue for developing skills and gainint leadership experience.
- Now is a great time to start exploring research opportunities if research may be relevant to your goals. Talk to professors doing work that interests you and get to know the resources of the Office for Undergraduate Research.
- On-campus internships can be a great way to expand your skills. Put in an application with the ATLAS internship program and keep an eye on opportunities that come up on the Virtual Job Board, the Research Park Job Board, and Handshake.
- Expand the list of resources you identified in your freshman year and start to:
- learn relevant job titles and descriptions
- get familiar with professional vocabulary for fields that interest you
- identify potential contacts (Linked In is useful for this!
- Reach out to people doing work that interests you. Whether you call it an “informational interview” or just “getting coffee,” talking to strangers will be a key part of future job searches, so the sooner you can get comfortable doing it, the better.
- Continue to add people to your network: go to your professors’ office hours, get to know work/internship supervisors and other people you work with, and reach out to community members that you meet through volunteer or RSO involvement.
- Follow up with people who have helped you.
- Drop by the office hours of professors you’ve had in previous semesters to let them know how you’re building on the material you learned or using their advice.
- Get in the habit of writing thank-you notes when people commit time or energy to advance your career (writing recommendations, connecting you to people they know personally, giving advice or feedback beyond their designated professional role).
Freshman: Establishing a Foundation