Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Combine My Passions or Focus on Just One?

By Kristi Brownlee, Toppel Peer Advisor 

See, the trouble with being multi-passionate is that rather than having a blank canvas, and an open and clear mind your canvas is completely filled with every color in the rainbow, numerous colliding illustrations, creating this beautiful mess. But, it’s still a mess! How can one channel all of their creativities and talents into one profession? The honest answer, if you have fourteen specific passions that you want to pursue as a career, you may have to narrow just a tad, but it is possible!

In trying to figure out what you want to be doing within the next 10 years, you need to grab a new canvas and start fresh. I’m pretty sure you have been thinking a lot about all of the different professions you could see yourself fulfilling. I’m also sure, in the midst of all those thoughts have come some confusion and indecisiveness. Now’s the time to stop thinking, and do! “Clarity comes through engagement, not thought.” So, in order to make good decisions you have to tap into each of those passions, and determine whether it’s something that truly suites you. So, take that dance class. Participate in that marketing internship. Join that health care advocacy club.

By engaging in those activities, you will begin to get a glimpse of just how much effort is required to fulfill that passion for a lifetime. And, you’ll see how those passions begin to narrow themselves, naturally.

Once you’ve limited your list of passions from fourteen to about seven, it’s time to prioritize. Rank your passions by asking yourself this question:  “Are my passions going to allow the life I want to live?” Be realistic with yourself, and make that decision based on what outcomes you want to see in the future. If you want to interact with children, but don’t want to be in a high stress environment, then maybe being a pediatrician is not the best avenue. Through research and networking, you will see what professions exist and what avenues will allow you to explore as many of your passions as possible.

Through this process, another important thing to remember is that failure is imminent, but suffering is optional. Embracing your failures is the quickest way to recuperate from a mistake. Knowing that life is fluid and has twist and turns will open your eyes and mind to what life lies ahead. If one thing doesn’t work out, you have so many other options. As long as happiness and comfort is sought after, and you are not pursuing professions for the wrong reasons, you can never truly make a mistake.

The last thing to recognize is that your life doesn’t have to consist of one career, day in and day out. Purpose can change. Passions can grow. New doors can open. And, different stages of life bring different goals. So, maybe after being a public health professional, you want to branch out and start your own bakery. As crazy as it may sound, people go through changes everyday, but the important thing is to adapt and prepare for what comes next.  Essentially, you can do whatever you want.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

GIVE A LITTLE, GET A LOT: Leveraging your Volunteer Experience

By Alexis Musick, Toppel Peer Advisor

Bright and early on Saturday, August 29th, more than 300 students met at the Rock to take part in the first service day of the school year: Orientation Outreach. According to the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, Orientation Outreach is a day to “introduce first-year students to volunteerism within the Miami community” and allow them to broaden their horizons, strengthen their ideas about the world, and connect with upperclassmen who are passionate about service.

This year, students worked with North East 2nd Avenue Partnership, a nonprofit organization committed to revitalizing Little Haiti to preserve the community’s cultural identity and encourage economic growth through development. Volunteers traveled to the Little Haiti Cultural Center in groups of various sizes, each led by at least two student Site Leaders. Individual groups of students then went to work on a different project, including painting oil drums with the Haitian flag, creating a mural for MACtown with artist Renda Writer, painting over graffiti, and spreading mulch.

Description: Student Site Leaders for Orientation Outreach 2015 prepare for UM’s first day of service.

Like most volunteer experiences, it was fun, rewarding, and something worthwhile to do on a weekend day. But that’s not all that volunteerism is, and that’s not all that it can be.

Far too often, the majority of students shy away from days like Orientation Outreach – and, in some cases, from volunteering in general. The reasons behind it are numerous: some simply don’t want to wake up before 8:00am or think that their skills and experiences render them unsuitable for volunteer work. Others think that they should instead put energy into securing only what they believe to be “marketable” endeavors like internships or paid employment. Others yet don’t see how volunteering could help with career development at all.

Kara Montermoso, a content manager at Idealist.org (a site that connects people, organizations, ideas, and resources) addressed the misconceptions by stating, “Volunteer work, whether in addition to a current job or an activity in between jobs, shows an employer that you are willing to try new experiences, be involved in your community, and generally demonstrates a willingness to make things happen.” Career development isn’t just all about employment – it too can be about the totality of your experiences, including philanthropy.

Here are a few ways that your volunteer experiences can be leveraged for success in career development: 

1.      Through volunteering, you can learn a lot about the local community.
From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem that – with all of the other volunteers – your efforts might not make that much of an impact. However, volunteering gives you an inside look at just what resources are available to solve a community’s needs. Each person has their own unique perspective molded by circumstances that are entirely their own, so who knows! You may be the person who sees an unmet need in the community and, using your experiences, is the one to start a movement toward change. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and speak up when you see an opportunity. Remember that potential employers are increasingly looking to take on those who show a demonstrated commitment to their community, so making efforts toward community development through innovation is never a bad idea.

2.      It shows you are interested in personal development and can take initiative.
Finding a job or internship can take time even if you take an hour or two out of every day to make phone calls and submit applications. Making time to volunteer while you’re in that limbo period shows potential employers that you’re committed to continually educating and bettering yourself, even when the situation might not be as bright as you’d like it to be. Plus, it’s useful to have a few strong experiences up your sleeve to explain any gaps between your last Federal Work Study position eight months ago, other than the fact that you slept a lot and went to the beach.

3.      It makes you different.
With so many people in the market for the same set of opportunities – especially in a University setting – it’s critical to highlight what makes you different and the best person for a position. Having significant volunteer experiences would not only help you stand out, but it would give you something unique to talk about in any interviews you may have. For example, if you were a visual arts student looking for an internship, talking about how you were a Site Leader at Orientation Outreach for the group who worked on painting the oil drum barrels would differentiate you from the crowd of other applicants. An experience like that demonstrates your leadership skills and you’d easily be able to talk about what you learned in your interview, which puts you far above applicants who have never had any comparable direct experience.

4.      It gives you relevant experiences and skills to add to your resume.
As students, it can be pretty difficult to juggle classes, organizational involvements, and jobs, so we tend not to have an overwhelming amount of work experience, if any at all. It’s entirely normal (given that our job is, after all, to be a student) but it can pose an issue when trying to develop a professional resume. Fortunately enough, in lieu of professional experience, volunteer work can be emphasized and made the central focus of your resume. Highlighting recent and credible volunteer experiences is entirely appropriate and said experiences should be treated just as seriously as any part of your resume, meaning it’s necessary to list the organization’s name, location, your functional title, dates involved, and accomplishments. Mentioning volunteerism-related skills or writing your experiences in a skills-oriented manner is one of the best ways to position yourself in the job market, so make sure to record the details.

5.      It helps with networking.
Most people think of volunteering as a one-time thing where you show up, do whatever you’re assigned, and leave. However, making volunteering an active and regular thing can introduce you to a wide network of people. When you’re volunteering, ensure that you are the best that you can be. Take time to listen to the organization, to understand why the need for volunteering exists, and to treat your experience as a learning opportunity. If you donate your time and skills well, you may be able to secure a reference from the volunteer coordinator (or anyone else you have been in contact with). Moreover, by sharing your history and your career ambitions with other volunteers or the organization with whom you’re working, someone may be able to introduce you to the opportunity that you’ve been waiting for. Say, for example, you’re interested in a job curating art exhibits. You volunteer at Orientation Outreach and are placed on a site that involves painting the MACtown mural. You go out of your way to really talk with the artist and you have conversations with NE 2nd Avenue Partnership staff about how you’re passionate about community development and cultural preservation through art. Not everyone you cross paths with will have an opportunity in their pocket, but if you show them how devoted you are to your interests, you’re likely to get leads you wouldn’t have otherwise found.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thinking About Changing Your Major?

By Lindsey Shanck, Toppel Peer Advisor

As an incoming freshman, it seems like students are on one of two sides of a spectrum. They either know exactly what they want their major to be and will not waiver, or they have absolutely no idea what they want to do, and they chose a major because it sounded like a good option. No matter what the case is, studies show that most students end up changing their major at least once in their college career.

When I was a freshman, I thought biology was the only subject I was interested in, and I would never stray from the pre-med track. I believed that if I dropped pre-med, I would stumble into a deep depression and never achieve my dreams. But what I did not realize is that there are so many factors in deciding what major is right for an individual. These include lifestyle choice, if grad school is a possibility, maintaining a strong GPA, and ultimately doing something that makes you happy. Almost everyone I know has changed their majors at least once, some from biology to psychology, like me, or some making a bigger jump from chemistry to journalism.

Although changing majors is very common, and it is possible to change them more than once, it is still important to put some thought behind the decision. Some people I know have switched majors simply because their other major was hard and they wanted an easy out. As a result, they are now very confused about what they want to do after graduation, and are no longer passionate about what they are studying. In order to make an educated decision about whether one should change their major, there are some things that should be done first.

1. Picture yourself in 5 or 10 years. Is what you are doing/ your dream job, related at all to the major you are thinking about switching to? If not, you may not be making a decision for the right reasons. While one should be happy in their major, college is for gaining experience to enter the workforce, and gaining a degree that could help with that. Changing a major simply because it is easier would be a good decision for the rest of your college career, but not for life after college.

2. Take a career assessment. Toppel offers lots of resources to help students find what career might be right for them.  Students can either come into Toppel to take an assessment, or take an assessment online. Sokanu is a new, free assessment that produces top job matches based on a variety of factors. For me, Sokanu produced very accurate results. These assessments may confirm the career you have always been thinking about, or give you new career ideas that may have been off your radar.

3. Talk to an advisor. Make an appointment at Toppel to meet with an advisor. They can talk to you about different career options within your major, offer advice for how to achieve your new goal, and discuss if changing your major is needed. Furthermore, your academic advisor is very knowledgeable about the field you want to go into and how to get there.

4. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. While a career might interest you, it is very important to consider the lifestyle you want, if you are compatible with the job, and if you would be utilizing your best skills. The career assessments can help you determine certain personality traits you have and how those traits could help you or hurt you in a job.

The beginning of the school year can be hectic, and with classes starting, it is often overwhelming to think about making changes to your schedule or major. However, with all the resources Toppel has to offer, these decisions can be a little less daunting. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Established Professionals: They Were Once in Our Shoes!

By Trish Vega, Toppel Peer Advisor

Have you ever come across a successful individual and thought to yourself, “Man, they work so hard and are doing so well! They must have superpowers or something.” Well, I’ve definitely been there. But even though someone’s current position may be awe-inspiring, it’s important to remember that they too were once in our shoes!

I had the chance to interview Mary Anne Viegelmann, the Global Employee Experience Manager within the Human Resources department at LinkedIn, and she shared with me her best career advice for college students like us.

Ready? Let’s go!

Mary Anne Viegelmann/via LinkedIn

What can college students do to prepare for their careers while they are in school?
"You don’t really know exactly what you’re gonna do in life, but you generally know the things you like doing. Be aware of those passions and skills that you have and try to find the intersection between those two." 

"Talk to as many people as possible no matter what they do! Learn about people from all different backgrounds, it doesn’t even have to be “formal networking”. You never know what those conversations might bring. Most people don’t have a figured out plan for their work but a lot of times it
starts with a simple conversation. People are so willing to talk to college students because they want to help you succeed. Take advantage of that now!"

What qualities do you believe makes a career-ready individual?
"Especially with college students, it’s so important that you are coming into the workplace with fresh new eyes. Your viewpoints and actions are not jaded, you’re not stuck in the mentality of 'that’s the way we’ve always done it'. You’re more open and willing to see things differently and you should use that to your advantage. Employers like people who are positive and willing to take on anything. Saying yes to almost anything and trying almost anything will get you pretty far. And when I mean 'saying yes' I mean being willing to take on projects you may not even know a lot about, because it is all a learning experience. Also, be willing to ask a lot of questions! All this helps build new skills too."

"This is huge especially in the tech world. In the four years that I’ve been in Silicon Valley, I’ve seen constant change. So adapting to that and figuring out how to change your programs quickly is so important."

Shift happens throughout careers and throughout life. How have you learned to deal with unanticipated changes in your career journey?
"When I deal with change, I try not to dwell on it too long. As long as the change does not interfere with my values, I think, 'Okay, there is probably a change for a reason.' Some change you obviously can’t control, like when a company is growing, but I try to look at the pros and cons of the change and work with it. If there’s a change that you think is bad, you should still question it and bring your opinion to the table but do it with an open mind. And I think that comes with a certain attitude of positivity and
openness. It’s better to do it with a positive attitude than with a negative attitude, because you have to do it anyway! So why be a grump about it?"

Any other advice?
"One of the biggest reasons of why I’ve been able to be successful in my work is because I’ve taken to heart one of our core values at LinkedIn, which is that relationships matter. And so the way I always approach every situation is to always think about the people first. It doesn’t matter what my motive is, they’re people first. Usually people are more willing to help you out if you have a strong relationship, so by focusing on the person, I almost won’t even have to ask if I need something because they already want to help you. That’s been hugely important for me, building on the relationships without any expectations, because it’s important to know the people you are affecting. And even if there’s nothing they can do for you, that’s okay. You’ve built a relationship and maybe you’ll get to work with them later on. If you can adopt that trait in college, your network will be huge."

"I think college is such a great time to explore and see what’s out there. I don’t think you have to have it figured out. I’ve been working for 15 years in different kinds of roles, and I’m still learning a bunch of different things. Always be learning, always find different opportunities to build your skills. Volunteering is such a huge part of that. You create such great relationships. And showing your skills in something other than schoolwork will help you too. Employers like to see that you are well-rounded, and they especially like to see volunteer experience, especially good employers. Those companies who care about people first will ask those types of questions and notice that type of thing on your resume or LinkedIn profile.

"Lastly, just have fun!"
Thanks Mary Anne! So what do you think? In what ways have you experienced that relationships matter?

The Importance of Marketing Yourself

By Madison Bowden, Toppel Peer Advisor

Marketing is a vital skill you need to face the business world, because you need to create your own unique personal brand. You may be wondering how you can set yourself apart from other individuals and enhance your own personal brand. You need to commit yourself to the three P’s of Marketing: Preparation, Packaging, and Presentation.

  1. Know what you bring to the table (Skills, Talents, and Experiences).
  2. Career Readiness which can be done through research at the Toppel Career Center
  3. Network by:
    1. Joining LinkedIn, a professional networking website.
    2. Joining an Organization or Charity that resembles your core values/beliefs. For instance, you can join a Sorority/ Fraternity to enhance your philanthropy involvement; or a Business Fraternity to showcase your professional side, etc.
    3. Use Social Media to your advantage. For example, you can join Twitter and follow companies and their recent trends.

  1. Make sure your resume has been picked apart and perfected to portray your uniqueness.
  2. Practice interviews are critical to getting your interview skills right.
  3. Keep track of your past interviews and job experiences (know what went right and what went wrong). 
  4. Always keep a list of References.

  1. Public Speaking practice is a key portrait of your Communication Skills and Confidence. Make sure to practice speaking in front of those who intimidate you whether it be higher authority or speaking in front of classmates. Practice makes perfect! 
  2. BE WELL-DRESSED. Remember it is better to be overdressed rather than underdressed.
  3. Strategize before presenting yourself whether it is for your first organization meeting, career expo, job interview, or simply meeting a potential network; it is important to make the right first impression. Make a plan of how you are going to approach the activity and what you want to take away from the experience. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On Finding a Career Path You Know You Will Love

By Jenn Mori, Toppel Peer Advisor

Here’s the thing – finding something you like and liking it for a decent amount of time isn’t as easy as you think for some people, myself included. I arrived in Miami with an intense desire to study physics, quantum mechanics, all those hard-core, highly theoretical, math-based fields. Now, several years later, I can only see myself doing game or software development or anthropology fieldwork after college and it’s not even that I stopped liking physics (despite taking PHY205).

I just realized: I can’t possibly see myself in the job environment that a degree in physics would lead to or taking a good 7+ years learning only quantum physics and related topics to even get to that job. I understood I only really chose that because everyone else was, I was pretty good at it, and I knew I could get great pay.

That’s what you need to keep in mind as you’re looking towards the future – Can you see yourself loving this a few years down the road? And it’s okay if you end up switching career paths somewhere during those years; people change, so do interests and the most you can do is predict.

The thing is, whether you know what you want to do later in life or not, keep your mind open and be able to understand yourself, what you’re good at, and what you really want from a job.

Below is a motivational Ted Talk I found recently on this topic that I believe more people should see. The first few minutes applies mainly to those who already in the midst of their career, but even college students – especially college students – can find something to take from the other 14 minutes where he helps to motivate you to how you can fine and stay on the track of doing what you love. 

Enjoy it!

If you want more definite help on what you should major in/what you should do after college, you can find several career surveys on the Toppel Website, under Online Resources.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

You’ve moved into your new house, but the water’s not working, your storage is nowhere to be found, and your food is mysteriously disappearing from the refrigerator although your roommate swears they haven’t touched any of your food. All you want is for it to be the weekend, where you have enough time to play catch up. Job-hunting may be the furthest thing on your mind; you might want to think again and re-prioritize.

In the ideal world, every candidate who applies for a job has the same likelihood of landing the opportunity based on qualifications; sadly, that’s not the case in reality. According to recent research, more than one-fourth of jobs are filled with candidates who applied early within the first few days of posting. So what’s the moral of the story painted by this research? Apply early! Most hiring managers want to hire right away since it’s fresh in their minds so getting your application in early greatly increases your chances of being chosen.

Here are some tips to get you on top of your game AND your resume to the top of the hiring managers’ list:

Network, network, network – Career centers have been tossing around this buzz word throughout your entire college career, but it’s true! When possible, seek out an internal contact within the company of interest who can put in a good word for you. As a referral, you get priority as someone who is already recommended by a staffer.

Tune in for daily updates – Many job sites, including HireACane.com have the option to automatically send out lists of newly posted job opportunities within your field of interest. When waiting for the professor to start class, maybe browse these postings rather than liking yet another Instagram post your friends recently posted.

Not all jobs are posted – Despite all the wonderful job search websites out there, some companies may not be publicly announcing positions available. If the company of interest doesn’t have any positions posted on HireACane.com (or even on their company website), don’t be afraid to shoot them a letter of inquiry indicating your interest in joining the company.

If you’ve deemed this post more stressful than helpful, BREATHE! It’s okay! As interesting as what the research factoids show, it may not apply to every situation and it definitely doesn’t show a cause and effect between being early to apply and getting hired. Go ahead and apply! If you’re lost and don’t know where to start, Toppel is always here to help.