Professional development is participating in an opportunity that gives you professional work experience, skills, competencies, or networking opportunities.  Some common forms of professional development are internships, co-ops, practicums, student employment, workshops, trainings, or conferences. These are all opportunities that will help give you workplace experience before you graduate.

Why is professional development important?

Professional development will help you grow as a young professional and develop competencies for your future career. In all of your professional development experiences, you will learn various competencies, some of which may be directly related to your career path, and others that may be useful in any workplace, such as communication, time management, or organization. Professional development also provides you with an opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships with others. Talking with and getting to know your colleagues or peers can be a great way to learn about new opportunities as well as develop contacts for references.

Where can I find these opportunities?

For help finding internships, co-ops, or other career specific opportunities, you can book an appointment through MyUI with the Pomerantz Career Center or Engineering Career Services. You can also start the search yourself online by looking at databases like Handshake, LinkedIn,, or Idealist. Both the Pomerantz Career Center and Engineering Career Services also offer job and internship fairs during the spring and fall semesters. 

UI STEP and Iowa GROW are two programs that UI offers to help you understand how to best make your job work for you. Both are designed to prepare you for employment and teach you how to optimize your time to best acquire and improve transferable skills.

Volunteering can be another great avenue to build skills. You can learn more about volunteering on the Civic Engagement page. If you aren’t sure where to start, set up an appointment with a volunteering advisor who can help you find a good opportunity. 

You can also look for developmental workshops about mindfulness and health, student leadership training, diversity and inclusion, peer mentoring, bystander interventions, and more.

How do you prepare?

Every professional development opportunity will be different.  If you need to apply to the opportunity, here are some steps you can take to prepare: 

  • Build your resume. When applying for an internship, co-op, practicum, or on-campus job, it is always helpful to have a resume handy. If you already have one, make sure it is up to date. If not, check out some resume tips to help you create one. 
  • Look for opportunities. Look for professional opportunities that will give you work experience. Even if a job isn’t in your immediate field, it can be valuable to future employers to see you have work ethic, communication skills, and time management – all of which are required for most jobs. A great place to start looking for internships or jobs both on campus and across the rest of the country is Handshake
  • Prepare to apply. Once you have identified an opportunity, you should look at the requirements to apply and start checking things off the list. You will likely need to polish your resume and write a cover letter. You may also need references, a writing sample, or a portfolio. The Pomerantz Career Center or Engineering Career Services can help you create or tailor all these things for your specific opportunity. You can also schedule a mock interview to help you iron out those pre-interview jitters.

Who can help?

There are tons of great resources available to help you identify professional development opportunities. You can book an appointment through MyUI with a career coach or career peer advisor to help you look for opportunities, refine your resume or cover letter, or prepare for an interview. Professors, academic advisors, peer mentors, or other classmates, friends, and family can also be great resources for networking and learning about opportunities.

Fall Job & Internship Fair Iowa Memorial Union


Internships are a great way to get workplace experience before graduation. Internships can help you build your network and help you gain experience that you can use further down your career path. Browse Handshake to see what opportunities are available or meet with a Career Peer Advisor to identify what opportunities are right for you. 

Students studying outdoors at Iowa Memorial Union

Engineering Co-ops

A co-op can be an opportunity for you to experience a full-time job in your career field. Co-ops are usually full-time work over the course of 3 to 6 months and sometimes a year. If you want to know more about opportunities like this in your field, speak with an Engineering Career Peer Advisor. 

two students standing behind cash register

Student Employment

Working on campus is an excellent way to develop transferrable skills you can use while on campus and throughout your career. On-campus jobs are posted on Handshake, but you can also keep an eye out for ‘hiring’ signs around campus! The UI STEP and UI GROW programs can also help you make the most out of your job by supporting connections between academics, student employment, and your future career.