Two of my most rewarding jobs at the University of Illinois are my positions as the Social Media Intern for the History Department and as the Student Public Outreach Employee for the Gender and Women Studies (GWS) Department. Having the opportunity to work with both of my academic departments has been rewarding in so many ways, but I have enjoyed being able to be a part of continuing each department’s dedication to their students the most. But, getting both of these positions did take time and work. Oftentimes work opportunities can be very limited due to funding, as both the History and Gender and Women Studies departments want to ensure that they pay students for their work.
I decided that I wanted to be involved in my two major departments during my freshman year because I enjoyed the courses I had been taking, and I always found the faculty and staff members within both departments to be extremely welcoming and passionate about their work. Having an impact on the future work and events that my departments created was an aspect of working within my departments that I found very valuable. I wanted to be able to influence departmental decisions based on my perspective as a student. Before I knew it, I had a goal to become involved in both departments before I graduated.
But there was just one teeny, tiny problem—there is no handbook that gives you the “10 Guaranteed Steps For Becoming Involved In Your Academic Department!” I had no idea about any sort of protocol to even begin my plan of action to achieve these goals. So with no real guidance, I decided to put myself out there and simply express to both of my advisors that I was interested in getting involved in the department any way possible. This simple step proved to be more beneficial than I could have ever imagined.
There were actually no open work opportunities for students within the History Department my freshman year, and at the time I was unaware of any other ways I could get involved. Yet I figured that just because there weren’t any opportunities at the moment didn’t mean that I couldn’t still express my interest. If I hadn’t told my History advisor that I was willing to work with the department in any way possible, I might not have never been on her mind when a student employment position became available. Simply letting my advisor know that I had a serious interest in getting involved in the department not only put me on her radar, but it also allowed me to form a closer relationship.
As for the GWS Department, expressing my interest in advance also helped me be on the lookout for a position opening up that I was not aware of until I offered to be one of the students to work at Illini Fest for the department.
Regardless of whether an academic department has current jobs available, it never hurts to let faculty and staff members know that you are interested in working with them. By expressing my interest, I was able to form tighter relationships within both my departments. Even if your department doesn’t have work opportunities, you never know what positions are offered that you might have been completely unaware of!