Career Advice for my Freshman Self – By Shannen Keene

By IUSPH Career Services on April 4, 2016


With graduation slowly approaching, I have found myself reflecting over my past four years at IU. More specifically, I deem my freshman year as the most memorable because I was so disconnected from career development. We all know that the first year of college is more about adapting to the fast-paced environment and just getting by. Thankfully, I became more career-oriented during the spring semester of my sophomore year. I accredit this motivation to my professional writing course where I was forced to create a resume. It was a wake-up call that I desperately needed. Now as a senior, I wish someone would have told the freshman me the following things:

Reach out to teachers
Introduce yourself during the first week AND actually go to their office hours! You can even talk to them after class every so often. Aside from academic support, your professors and instructors can help decipher your career interests. They have incredible experiences and would be more than willing to share them with you. Basically, treat office hours as a networking opportunity. Plus, it’s always a great feeling when an instructor calls you by your first name in class instead of just pointing to you. They are an invaluable part of your career development and can write you a killer recommendation letter. Also, if you are hesitant about taking a specific class, e-mail the instructor and kindly ask for last year’s syllabus. I have done this in the past and they always responded!

Volunteer in the community
College is overwhelming but finding your niche within the community can keep you grounded. It’s also important to realize that there is more to Bloomington than just IU. Expand your bubble because there are nonprofits that need your help! Volunteering a couple of hours of your time each week is an easy way to strengthen your resume. It can also supplement what you’re learning in class, giving coursework more meaning. You will learn about yourself, the community, and the individuals you help. Lucky for you, Bloomington Volunteer Network compiles all the various opportunities here.

Get involved in at least one student organization
IU has SO many interesting student groups you can join. It makes sense to join one! At the beginning of each semester, there is usually a student organization fair- GO TO IT. You might like the Public Health Student Association, the Beekeeping Club, the Caving Club, or HealthNow! Once you go to the call-out meeting, you will most likely befriend a couple of people who will keep you committed throughout the years. Eventually, you could land an executive position! Being a part of campus life will make college less stressful and it will boost your resume!

Seek out research opportunities
Having research experience will make you a competitive candidate for whatever you’re applying for. Depending on your major, research opportunities might not be heavily advertised. This means that you could rely on Google OR you can actually talk to your professors. If they aren’t currently looking for assistants, they can probably direct you to one of their colleagues who does. Your academic adviser or graduate students can also assist you in the hunt.

Take on a summer internship
In high school, summer is often a time to do nothing. Now that you’re in college, get rid of that mentality. Summer is now the perfect time to be productive! After spring break, start searching for internship opportunities. They don’t have to be too strenuous… or paid. Internships are a great way to gain real world experience, network, and explore your interests. Most organizations like to hire within too!

This is a fairly ambitious task list for a freshman but it’s important to keep them in mind throughout your college career. Also remember, do not over-commit yourself. In addition to staying healthy, doing well academically should be a priority. Realize your limits: it’s okay to admit that you can’t do everything! Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a junior, these career reminders can set you on track!

Keene is a senior from Ellettsville, IN pursuing a degree in Community Health. Bloomington has taught her the value of diversity, culture, and good food. After graduation, she hopes to venture out West to serve for AmeriCorps then apply to an MPH program.


By Kim Ecenbarger
Kim Ecenbarger SPH Senior Associate Director Kim Ecenbarger