Skip to main content

Career ambassador explains the keys to academic and career success

Taylor Denby helps students state their career

Career ambassador Taylor Denby helps fellow students find academic and career success.

As a new Redbird, you’re probably adjusting to classes, bonding with your peers, and getting to know your Redbird family. Welcome to the nest! You’ve officially started your academic and career journey.

On your journey to academic and career success, you will need to go through four stages: explore, expand, execute, and embark. If you are a freshman, you should start by exploring and embarking.

What does it mean to explore? Get out there, start figuring out what you’re interested in! This can be figuring out what you want to major in, joining a student organization, or even meeting professionals in your fields of interest.

After you explore your interests, begin your experiences and expand on them. This means that once you decide on a major, start aligning it with career options. Apply for leadership positions in your Registered Student Organization and reach out to professionals, and seek opportunities to learn about your interests, like job shadowing or interning. Each of these will allow you to explore careers and expand your skills through actual experiences.

Keys to academic and career success

As you explore and expand, utilize the four keys to academic and career success. They are:

  • Academic achievement
  • Experiences and involvement
  • Transferable skills
  • Networking

Academic achievement

Academic success goes beyond just showing up to class. Being physically present is great, but while your body is there, make sure your head is with you. Participate! Don’t be afraid to engage with your professor, their number one job is to assist the students that they’re teaching.  Strive for success academically, engage in your courses, meet with your academic advisor, and attend tutoring sessions and workshops as you need them. Even if you don’t need help, you never know when you’re going to in the future. Create a connection with university faculty and staff now, so you can begin building those relationships and can utilize their support throughout your journey, which will benefit you later.

Transferable skills

Transferable skills go beyond textbook knowledge. They are skills that you will take with you throughout your academic and professional career. Examples of this can be teamwork, critical thinking, communication, and leadership. You don’t have to be overwhelmed by a term like “transferable skills.” They are simple things you can do to develop them, like completing your coursework, participating in an internship or a part-time job, and getting involved on campus. These are things you should be already be preparing to do, just make sure you’re maximizing all of your opportunities.

Experiences and involvement

Imagine that your whole graduating class applies for the same job at the same time. The employer would see that every single person would have a degree from Illinois State University. So what makes you different? Your experiences and involvement are what help you to stand out. The University has about 400 Registered Student Organizations for students to get involved. No matter what your interest may be, there is probably an organization that interests you. If not, you can create your own! There are ample opportunities to volunteer, engage civically, and to lead. Participate in student organizations, internships, research opportunities, leadership, volunteer opportunities, and part-time jobs. Attend academic, career, and campus events.


Networking does not have to be anything intimidating or elaborate. As a freshman, you can network by simply getting to know your professors or academic and career advisors, peers, and colleagues, or by attending academic and career events. There are many opportunities for you to engage with people who can help you.

Another thing you can do to network is to get active online. Join LinkedIn, which is the “professional Facebook.” It functions almost like a Facebook account. The difference is that you’re only posting about achievements that advance you professionally, not your social experiences. You can also use Hire-A-Redbird. This tool is one that allows employers to post their open positions. Using Hire-A-Redbird will allow you to connect with them by applying for internships and jobs, posting your resume, and letting them know when you will be attending an upcoming career event.

Establishing yourself as a new professional isn’t easy, but it can be a lot easier for you if you take advantage of the keys to academic and career success now as a new student. Your time at Illinois State will fly by quickly. So get out there and explore your interests and careers, and expand yourself by participating in a variety of experiences. Your journey to academic and career success is bright and there is no greater time to embark on your new journey.

Taylor Denby is a Career Center career ambassador and a junior studying human resource management. Connect with her on LinkedIn.