Setting Career Goals

Want to avoid living in your parent’s basement? Setting goals is a key component to ensure you are taking steps in the right direction. When setting your personal goals, consider keeping them S.M.A.R.T. :

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

If you don't have a clear vision for what you want to do long-term, start with short-term wins such as securing an internship to explore future opportunities.

Many students think of careers as a one-time decision – but in reality finding a career path is an ongoing process. Responding to changes in life, as jobs change and new jobs are developed, the "right" career will change as well.

Career Outlook

Graduate School

Did you know that 30% of ACES graduates continue their education beyond undergrad and onto graduate school immediately upon graduation? If you're looking to explore the different types of graduate degrees, visit the University of Illinois Career Center website. Common graduate school programs include:

Cover Letters & Resumes

We have years of experience working with with employers and recruiters to place our graduates. Rest assured you are in good hands to make your strengths stand out and get noticed by hiring managers.

If you have questions or would like your resume reviewed, attend drop-in hours or contact ACES Career Services.


Best practices:

  • Keep resume to one page with experience, education, and leadership in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest). 
  • Use one color and font throughout the document. To differentiate titles and headers, use different type treatments, but keep these to a minimum. Suggested fonts are Times New Roman, Georgia, Garamond, Calibri, Arial, or Bookman Old Style. Font size will vary depending on font and size of your margin.
  • Keep indents and tabs to a minimum so your resume will better translate to document readers that employers use for online submissions.
  • Start each bullet with an action verb such as researched, compared, planned, led. Bullet points are not complete sentences, so periods are not needed. If you do choose to use them, be consistent throughout the document.
  • Most likely you should include your GPA. It’s not required, but recruiters often ask for it and will assume it’s not stellar if not included. It is fine to use your cumulative or major GPAs as you wish, but be clear about what the number represents.
  • Quantify your information when you can. Talk about the results of your actions rather than listing tasks. Use numbers, dollar amounts, and concrete examples to illustrate specific accomplishments.
  • Numbers tend to stand out. Generally write out numbers ten and under. Use numerals only for larger numbers.
  • Highlight skills that are critical in the field/position position you are seeking – for example in research it is essential to be able to analyze data.
  • Emphasize your leadership skills. Show how you took initiative or influenced others through work experience or extracurricular activities – events you’ve planned, money you’ve raised, or teammates you’ve motivated.
  • If you are an international student, include your work-authorization status to reduce confusion with prospective employers.
  • Ask several people to proofread your document. Be aware that Microsoft Word spellcheck does not recognize words in all caps.
  • Don’t include content that dates back to high school UNLESS you are a freshman/sophomore or you have earned a distinction such as Eagle Scout.
  • Don’t include an “objective” – instead, consider a summary of qualifications or personal profile. Write in third person and highlight accomplishments that set you apart, for example:
    • Personable and motivated entry-level technical systems management professional with experience in both union and nonunion environments. Skilled in project design and implementation. Efficient presentation and communication skills acquired through student leadership positions.
  • Don’t dedicate too much space for your degrees and honors. Combine where possible. If both degrees are from Illinois, combine as our examples above do. If you have a number of honors, include that under the appropriate degree. It’s more important to show accomplishments than lists of accolades.
  • Don’t use acronyms for terms your reader may not know. If you worked at the ARC, spell out Activities and Recreation Center.
  • Don’t use abbreviations or characters such as “etc.” and “&.” Spell the word instead.
  • Don’t list basic software/technology skills such as Microsoft Office – it is assumed you have these skills.

    If you are stuck and need some help, please visit ACES Career Services. You can make an appointment with ACES Career Services or join us during drop-in hours.

Cover Letters

In many cases, you will have the opportunity to submit a cover letter when applying for a position.

  • Write a separate cover letter for each employer, addressing its specific needs, culture, and the position for which you are applying.
  • Don’t use the cover letter as an opportunity to rehash your resume. Highlight your specific competitive advantages relative to what you have learned about the company through your research.
  • Don’t start each paragraph with “I.”
  • Address the letter to a specific person, not “To Whom it May Concern” or “Human Resources Department.” Research or network to find the appropriate contact when possible.
  • If sending a hard copy, match font styles and paper type to your resume.
  • Edit carefully for grammar and punctuation.

This letter is a direct reflection of you and your skills, attitude, personality, and ability. Make it action-oriented and enthusiastic.

Helpful Resources


Handshake @ Illinois

This is your one-stop online location for all job postings, on-campus interviews, and career development events hosted by ACES Career Services. 

Handshake @ Illinois is the online system that connects you to job opportunities, job shadow programs, internships, interviews, career fair information, and recruiting events hosted by ACES Career Services. You can see a limited number of postings on our Twitter feed.

Check ACES + LAS Career Fair for more information.

Handshake login

ACES student use Handshake policy

The use of Handshake @ Illinois is a privilege for our students. Students are required to be honest with their information. If their status changes (GPA, major, seeking employment, etc.) they should take steps to correct the information. If any student is found in breach of the student code, they may be disciplined. This can include losing Handshake privileges.


Big Interview

Big Interview is an online platform for interview practice. 

Big Interview

Missing an Interview

Any student who is interviewing on the U of I campus must abide by the host office interviewing policy. For our office, if you need to cancel an interview due to an emergency, contact the recruiter immediately and follow up with an apology email. The appropriate career service office must be copied (cc’d) on the email. If you have questions, contact your career services office during business hours.

Reneging an Offer

Reneging is to refuse to do something you promised to do. For example, if you accept a job or internship offer and later decide not to take the offer, you are reneging. Reneging is professionally damaging in several ways. First, the employer you initially accepted the offer from will not likely want to hire you in the future. Second, when you renege on an offer to accept another one, you are taking the opportunity away from another student. Third, you have damaged your integrity which is indispensable for a good career. Fourth, your actions reflect negatively on the university which may make an employer reconsider recruiting at our school. At the University of Illinois, the career services team takes the subject of reneging very seriously. Repercussions include, but are not limited to, losing Handshake access and potentially career services assistance.

LinkedIn Jobs

Three ways LinkedIn Jobs is helpful for job seekers:

  • Identify alumni and personal connections in each job posting
  • Know if a company has a history of hiring people like you
  • Find out with whom you will work if you get the job

Career Resource Websites

Agricultural industry

Business and finance

Food industry

General job boards

Green jobs

Government jobs

Natural resources and conservation


ATTRA Sustainable Farming

Nonprofit sector

Online networking

PSM programs

Zoos and aquariums

Interest profiler

International opportunities