Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Art of Interviewing, from a Career Advisor’s point of view…

By Ali Rodriguez, Director, Employer Relations

Over the years, I have interviewed many candidates for full time jobs, student internships, and professional positions. While working in higher education. I've learned a few things about what works, behaviors to avoid, and how to make a lasting positive impression.

Step 1: The initial contact
When the recruiter calls you to offer an interview, make sure you have your list of applications close-by. I’m always surprised when a candidate doesn’t remember applying to the job I am calling about. Also, demonstrate enthusiasm. I'm not implying you want to scream with joy over the phone, but be thankful and let that person know you are looking forward to the opportunity. If the organization reaches out by email, this can be more challenging, but it’s nice when a candidate is excited about an opportunity and shows it.

Step 2: The interview prep
If the interview is longer than an hour, ask for an itinerary. This will allow you to see who you'll meet with and plan accordingly. Research every person you will meet with, as you may discover helpful information. Prepare different questions for each person you meet with, and show specific interest in his/her job and background. I'm always impressed when a candidate knows where I went to college or specifics about my job. This shows that time and effort went into preparing for the big day.

Step 3: The interview is here
You've probably read about behavioral based interviewing, which interviewers use to determine how your past behaviors indicate future performance. What’s the best way to get a handle on these questions? Preparing examples in advance is important, and you should have many scenarios to discuss at the top of your head. Most importantly, you also want to research how recruiters in your field conduct interviews. Will there be a case study? What are some of those brain teasers? Should you bring a portfolio?

This goes without saying, but be professional. Dressing the part is easy, but how you interact with team members is critical to a successful interview. With that being said, don't get too comfortable during the interview. If you get a sense that the office culture is warm and welcoming, that’s wonderful; remember you are still auditioning for the part. Don’t act like you’re a part of the team just yet, but demonstrate that you are a good fit and would work well with others.

Step 4: The follow-up
Please, write a thank you note.  This seems so basic, yet so many candidates don't do it. Sending an email is fine, and it's important to demonstrate why you are the best fit for the job and reiterate what skills you bring to the table. I've had candidates interview with a group of 3-4 people, and then follow up with a group thank you email. This doesn't allow you to personalize the note in any way.  Take the time to connect with each person and that really will go a a long way.

Step 4: The offer

We all know that it’s a candidate’s market right now. Don’t take advantage of this. Be polite, follow up on all requests to interview, and evaluate all opportunities fairly. In an ideal world, you will have multiple offers (this is a whole different blog).  Negotiating the process can be tricky, and I highly recommend you talk to an advisor at the Toppel Career Center about the process. We are here to help as you secure that job or internship and have valuable resources as you work to achieve your career goals.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Marine Corps Educator Workshop

By Betty Zambrano, Assistant Director, Career Events

This week I had the absolute honor to spend a week in Marine Corps Headquarters for the Educator and Key Leader Workshop. Located in beautiful Quantico, VA, about 45 minutes south of DC, Marine Corps Headquarters is the training ground for the future leaders of America's elite fighting forces.

As part of an effort to educate others on the challenges and rewards of joining a military, the U.S. Marine Corps invited groups of educators from around the country to participate in lectures, listen to panels and even perform training exercises!

The U.S. Marine Corps recruit students who embody the virtues and values of great soldiers and great citizens. Those interested in joining the ranks as an officer have several options to serve, either through the Platoon Leaders Course (undergraduate students) or the Officer Candidates Course (college graduates). Each option gives candidates the opportunity to prove their mental agility, physical fitness and above all, their ability to lead in times of uncertainty.

This is done through a combination of physical training, mental preparation and studying the logistics and techniques that govern a specialized arm of the military. As a guest of the USMC workshop, I had the opportunity to simulate some of the physical activities like the Leadership Reaction Course and a brief session at the Martial Arts Center for Excellence. We were also treated to a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride with HMX-1 pilots (those who pilot the POTUS helicopter) and a simulated infantry patrolling mission. As a civilian, I felt honored and inspired by the sense of purpose displayed by each and every one of our Marine escorts.

To learn more about the benefits of a career in the U.S. Marine Corps, please reach out to our University of Miami Officer Recruitment Officer, Capt. Cipriano Rivera. He is reachable at or at Fall Career Expo on Friday, September 18th! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Bilingual Advantage

By Betty Zambrano, Assistant Director, Career Events

Living in South Florida is a constant reminder of how crucial it is to be open to other cultures and especially other languages.  Miami serves as the most important commercial and cultural link to Latin America and as a UM student, all you have to do is walk down to the local bakery or make your way to the beach to hear a flurry of foreign languages.  If you were not able to learn or practice another language in your childhood, living in Miami during your college career is the perfect place to pick up at least the basics of Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc.
The advantage of knowing the basics of a foreign language stretches far beyond cultural appreciation.  In fact, this could have a significant effect on the rest of your career. In an increasingly interconnected global market, this skill could be the spark that catapults you above the rest.  Check out some of the added benefits of sticking to your Mandarin minor!

1. Makes you a more marketable candidate:  Bilingual employees are widely sought after by every industry, from engineering to communications.  And not only in major cities like Miami, but across the U.S. and abroad!  I remember a friend who did Peace Corps in Tanzania found a job in Kansas working with African refugees in the area.  You can bet that his resume was at the top of the list when the employer realized he was fluent in Swahili!

2. You can negotiate higher pay:  Not only will you be more qualified to land a job in a highly competitive job market, but you can leverage your knowledge to negotiate an increase in pay.  As a bilingual employee, you are able to offer not only language skills, but often times a cultural competency that other candidates are not equipped with.  The right employer will recognize, value and be willing to offer higher compensation for that.

3. More employment opportunities.  Depending on your proficiency, you can use your language skills to take on a second job or create your own freelance business.  If you are a college student looking for extra cash, what better way than charging for tutoring and translation services?  These non-traditional options can help you make money while giving you the freedom to create a schedule around your classes and activities. 

Taking on a second language can be time-consuming and require concentrated effort on your part, but it is one of the most valuable skills you can offer over the course of your career.  Take advantage of living in a multicultural city and explore the world of languages available through UM or community classes!

Have you ever been in a situation where you were grateful to be bilingual? Share your experiences in the comments!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Welcome to Handshake - Toppel’s New Way to Find Jobs and Internships!

By Jordan Adams, Assistant Director of On-Campus Recruiting

At the Toppel Career Center, we are always searching for innovative ways to provide the best experience to all of our students and employers. As a result of this mindset, we are excited to announce our transition to a new career management system beginning on Monday, June 29, 2015, powered by Handshake. The new system is a modern career services management platform that empowers you to efficiently connect with employers and search for jobs and internships to launch your career. 

Handshake is a modern and intuitive career platform that resembles many common social media websites.  Through social networking technology you will be able to quickly connect to classmates, career resources and events on the go and be connected to recruiters from around the country. 

Just by signing on to Handshake you will have already made some great steps towards finding your dream job or internship.  You can make yourself viewable to employers so that they can reach out to you directly and you can use the system to search for opportunities on your own.  You can also request an appointment with a Toppel Career Advisor, upload important documents like resumes, and checkout upcoming events.  

Make sure to check back regularly over the next few months as our UM career community grows and the system gets into full swing!  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Living Your Passion Even When You’re Not Sure What It Is

By Brian Reece, Associate Director, Assessment & Communication

When I was younger, I remember being told all sorts of things about what I should be (and who I should be, for that matter) when I “grow up.” Now that I’m all grown up, I still don’t really have a concrete answer to this question. It gives me anxiety from time to time—maybe I’m just in denial--but I’m slowly coming to the realization that I don’t have to be just one thing. It’s okay not to know what I want to be when I grow up. As I move ever closer toward my 30s, I can see how all of this education, regardless of the name of the field of study, the major, or the framework, influences me in countless ways.

I wound up in a job doing assessment and communication for a career center. To many of my colleagues, this is an odd sort of mix. But then again, I’m an odd sort of mix. I have degrees, minors, and certificates in English, Spanish, Music, Higher Education, Nonprofit Management, Prevention Science, and Counseling. In other words, I’m a writer, a translator, a musician, an educator, an organizational manager, a data analyst, and a helper by training, and this is exactly what I now do as my full-time job. Interesting how it works out.

I ended up where I am today not because I chose a straight and narrow path toward a specific career, but instead because I explored a variety of options, developed expertise in multiple areas, and was open to the possibilities, including those that didn’t yet exist or that I didn’t yet understand. Whether you’re an incoming student, a senior getting ready to graduate, or an alum with years of experience, here are some tips for living your passion even if you don’t know what it is yet:

Explore anything and everything. If it excites you, learn about it, practice it, and get good at it. If it scares you, dive right on in anyway. If you think you’ll hate it, find out if you’re right! Your experiences define who you are and your attitude about engaging in new opportunities defines who you’ll become.

Don’t make a decision (yet). It’s okay to be unsure! You may be unsure because you don’t have enough information—so do whatever you can do learn and gain experience. You may be unsure because you have too much information—so take time to reflect and digest it all. You may also be unsure because all the options sound great—so think creatively about ways you can have both/all instead of just one or the other.

Prepare for change. Things don’t always go as we planned. In fact, they rarely go exactly as we planned. Preparing for uncertainty means having contingency plans, but it doesn’t mean you can’t commit wholeheartedly to Plan A. It just means that you’re ready to go with Plan B or C or D if the original plan falls through. Or if you’re really creative and you like Plan B enough, you might find ways to merge the two. Now that’s innovation!

Be open to living your passion outside of work. Each of us lives and operates differently. Some of us want our work to be a calling. Others of us want our work to support our calling. No matter how you live your passion and no matter what your passion is, remember that your work is or will be a huge part of it in one way or another. And be open to having many passions—enjoy life to its fullest!

You’re not alone. At the Toppel Career Center, we offer many different ways to explore your interests, values, skills, abilities—to learn what your passion is. We also have highly trained and motivated staff who can help you as you do. Take advantage of your network: friends, colleagues, mentors, professors, supervisors. And if you want help doing so, Toppel can help with that too!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Get on Board with Informational Interviews!

By Adela Ghadimi, Assistant Director, Employer Development -Washington, D.C.

Informational Interviews: something that you hear mentioned more often these days, but do you really know what they are? How can you use them to benefit you in your own life, and what do you need to know?

I consider informational interviews to be one of the most valuable tools and by far one of the most underutilized opportunities available to you when evaluating a field you want to work or intern in, and in mapping out a course to get you to your desired career destination.

What is an informational Interview?

An informational interview is a meeting between you and a professional or hiring manager who works in a career field that you are interested in joining. It is a chance for you ask an industry insider about the journey that got them to their current position, specifics regarding the industry they work in and their particular office culture, and a chance to get advice from them about how to make yourself a competitive candidate for jobs in the future.

How to start and continue setting up informational interviews:

It might seem like a daunting task starting out, but setting up informational interviews will get easier the more practice you get. Start by searching your personal and professional networks now – have you connected with a professor that might be able to provide you some contacts or introductions? Do you have a previous boss or internship supervisor who you remain in touch with? Does a relative or family friend know people in your desired career field?

Be bold and approach people in your current network, and explain why you are interested in setting up informational interviews – ask for introductions to individuals you can approach for a 20-30 minute phone call or in-person meeting over coffee to have a career-based conversation.

As you begin to reach out to professionals, make sure you are formal and appreciative in all your correspondence with them – address them with formal salutations, sign off your emails with appreciation, and dress professionally for any in-person meetings.

Tips to make the most of your informational interviews:

1. Create a list of questions

Based on your interests and the research you have conducted into the career field you may want to enter, think about what types of questions you would most benefit from asking someone currently working in your desired field. Be specific, targeted, and make sure to individually tailor the types of questions you want to ask each person you meet with. For example, if you are broadly interested in broadcast journalism, broad questions about the industry can apply to anyone you meet with, but for more specialized questions you would ask a content developer something different from someone whose job is post production or on-air talent. Make sure you are asking the appropriate questions of the appropriate parties.

2. Do your research ahead of your meeting

The person you are meeting with is taking time from their day to speak with you and offer their insight on their experiences and the journey that got them to where they are today – make sure you are well researched before you meet or speak with them. Look into their specific company or organization. That research will make your list of questions begin to seem clearer. If they work at an organization you can see yourself employed with one day, learn what you can from their website and ask about new initiatives they may be working on, and don’t be afraid to ask how you can more specifically prepare yourself to be a competitive candidate within their organization down the road.

3. Be respectful of your contact’s time

Be mindful that the person you are meeting with is taking time to speak with you, so I suggest keeping your time frame to about 30 minutes for a coffee meeting or phone chat, unless they specify that they can be available for longer. If they suggest meeting for lunch or in-office meeting, you can typically plan to have the meeting last between 30 minutes and one hour.

4. Ask for additional introductions

As you end the meeting be polite and ask your contact if they have any additional individuals they can connect you with for new informational interviews. Also ask if you can “link in” with them on LinkedIn to keep in touch in the future. You want to use informational interviews as a way to grow your personal network in addition to gaining valuable information from industry insiders.  

5. Follow up with a thank you

In addition to the attitude of gratitude you will display during your meeting, make sure that after you follow up with an email or written note thanking your contact for their time and for sharing their valuable insight and expertise with you.

Hopefully after reading this, you will feel motivated to be proactive and begin to set up informational interviews today!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Why Finding A Job Is A Little Like Dating

By Samantha Haimes, Associate Director, Career Readiness

In my role here at the Toppel Career Center, I find myself talking with students and recent grads about the job search on a daily basis. Especially for first time job seekers, the job search process can seem very foreign and daunting. And what else can seem pretty daunting? Between my friends, famiy, and the occasional RomCom, I know the answer to this can definitely be DATING. While I am no expert in the dating department, I do consider myself savvy in the job search process (thanks, Toppel!) so I am hoping to make some connections between these two seemingly separate ideas. Single, married, taken... Whatever! No matter where you find yourself these days I hope you can relate.

So many "fish in the sea"
There are sooooo many jobs out there! It might not always seem like it (especially to those actively searching) but there really are. So many different industries, job titles and levels, responsibilities, and to to mention, innumerable places to live while doing these jobs. But with that, many find themselves confused about where to begin. Just like determining who you want to go on a date with, you need to narrow down your options in terms of a job. You have the outdoorsy type, the movie-goer, and the animal lover; similarly you have the job in the swanky new office, the family-run company, or the job with high-impact responsibilities. And just like dating, you need to weigh your options that may have all, parts of, or none of these sample characteristics. Ultimately you just need to decide what it is you're looking for in a significant other job!

Put yourself out there
Gone are the days where Prince Charming shows up at your house to kiss you from your peaceful sleep and start a life with you (ok did that ever really happen to anyone but Sleeping Beauty?!). So what does that mean? It means you've got to get out there and find your very own Prince or Princess Charmings of the Job Search. Putting yourself out there also means doing more than only applying to jobs online. While this is a necessary step in the process, if you stop there your job search will be slow and unexciting. I found myself searching for a job a few years back in a brand new city, knowing no one. The amount of time I spent at random coffee and lunch dates may surprise you. I went from place to place meeting up with professionals to conduct informational interviews, connect with alumni, and learn about the industry and open job opportunities. It was that effort that actually landed me my first job out of grad school. You should do the same- connect with people on LinkedIn, reach out to alumni from UM, former supervisors/colleagues, etc. What do you have to lose? A bad date? It's worth the risk!

The first date
We have all done it - you have a date coming up and you suddenly have NOTHING in your closet to wear. A trip to Dadeland Mall and [too much] money later, you have a brand new outfit that is going to make you look your best!  While it is wonderful to look your best on a first date, it is equally, if not more important, to look that good on your next job interview. You're probably saying, "Samantha I have heard this a million!" but I can't stress this point enough. You want a company to remember you for everything you bring to the table, not for what you are or are not wearing. So splurge for a nice new suit, work appropriate shoes, and ease up on things like cologne or jewelry - less is more.

How many days should you wait to call?
There's nothing like having a great time on a date and then not hearing from the other person for a few weeks! You're likely on pins and needles, checking your texts and voicemails, just in case you might have missed them. "But whyyyyy haven't they called?!" Nine times out of ten, active job seekers go through this exact same slew of emotions. You have this great interview, you write a stellar thank you note, and then.... crickets. "Did they not like me! But we had such great conversation. Maybe there is someone else?"

Here's a little secret: the hiring process takes [far too much] time. For many companies and organizations, there are many stakeholders and steps in the process of bringing in a new employee. So while they may think you are a perfect fit for their company, there maybe be external factors that contribute to their limited (or lack of) communication. You have a few options here:
1. Pester them constantly until they listen to you and offer you the job.
2. Simply wait to hear from them.
3. Follow up in a professional and timely manner

If I was hiring for an open position, had 20 resumes sitting on my desk, and three of those individuals followed up with me to check on the status of their application and process, permitting they are qualified, I would likely focus on those three applications first. Why? Because they seem the most interested in the position and I want someone working for me who wants to work at my company, not just work anywhere. So wait about two weeks after applying for a job and then follow up with them expressing your interest and reminding them why you're a good fit. If you've recently interviewed, ask about the timeline and respect it. Send updates on things you've been doing and offer to provide additional info or references if need be.  It takes strong organizational skills to follow up with every company you apply to in a professional, timely manner but it can be a game changer. Instead of waiting for a call from your dream date (or in this case, a job) pick up the phone and call them!

The perfect match
They say when you know, you know. Throughout this whole job search process, you should be learning what you Iike and don't like in a job or company. Ideally, the job that you offer and accept is an excellent match for your knowledge, skill sets, and professional goals. Your new "relationship" will take work and putting in time and effort to a new job is going to give you the best experience. So get out there and start applying!