Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gap is Synonymous with Breach, but the Results can be Quite the Contrary

By Lili Jimenez, Career Concierge 

A well planned Gap Year either during your college years, after High School graduation, before graduate school, or before you jump into that brand new career or full time job can be a very exciting and enriching opportunity.

While on an international flight on American Airlines I read an article in the airline’s magazine AMERICAN WAY written by Sarah Zobel called CREATING A GAP that I found really insightful. In the article, Ms. Zobel describes how students returning from a Gap Year are eager, ready to learn, and well equipped to go back to school. In the case of persons taking part in the program before they embark in a career, she describes how fulfilled they come back, because the year is not focused on earnings at all, but on goals, experiences, and on the pleasure of learning.

Ms. Zobel cites studies which show that college students returning from Gap Year do better in school and obtain higher GPAs. In addition, post graduate students that have completed Gap Year are more satisfied with their careers. It is believed that the reason for this is because of the exploratory nature of Gap.  Colleges and Universities are very supportive of this program, and enjoy welcoming back their “gappers”. According to Harvard College 80 to 110 freshmen defer enrollment each year to do a Gap Year. Princeton’s Bridge Year Program sends incoming freshmen for 9 months to India, China, Senegal, Peru or Brazil tuition free, funded by alumni donations and university resources. Elon University in North Carolina offers a service-learning Gap semester for credit.

Before you take a year off and enroll in Gap Year think of the reasons why you are doing it. Is it that you what to explore your choices? Want to consider your options? Enrich your life? Help other humans? Volunteer your time for a cause? Some examples cited in the article are, working in a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, caring for children at an orphanage in Ghana, or helping Buddhist monks create a middle school curriculum. You can stay in The United States and may join Habitat for Humanity, help migrant workers, teach English to non-English speaking children or adults. 

Besides exploration, additional awesome benefits can emerge from Gap Year. You can travel, learn a new language, experience a different culture , help the needy, find yourself, set goals for your future, focus and discover  what you really like, and do service-learning.

At the Toppel Career Center, Samantha Haimes is the advisor that assists with Gap Year. Ms. Haimes helps students that have questions on identifying what options best suit them. Students can go on our website to make an appointment with her, as well as checking out resources such as GoinGlobal, and our guide

Others companies to reach out to:
American Gap association
The Center for Interim Programs
EnRoute Consulting
National Outdoor Leadership School
Pacific Discovery
Princeton University Bridge Year Program (for incoming Princeton students only)
Thinking Beyond Borders
Where There Be Dragons

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Perfect Job does not Exist

By Esther Lamarre, Assistant Director, Alumni Career Programs

I remember being a bright eyed fresh out of graduate school job seeker with a list of expectations for what I wanted in a position.  Confident in my list, I could rattle off my requirements in thirty seconds or less.  I was looking for the perfect job.  I wanted a position that would meet most of the requirements on my checklist and give me a reason to brag to family, friends, and maybe even the occasional stranger.  

After rejecting numerous job descriptions (for what now seemed like trivial reasons), the thought crossed my mind that maybe the perfect job did not exist. Although things like location, salary, and people were important, it did not put me in the right frame of mind when it came to critically reviewing potential job leads.  In fact, it moved me further away from my goal of finding a position that would be a stepping stone for future opportunities.  Once I accepted this unpleasant thought, I began to examine positions for the professional story it would allow me to tell and the opportunities I would be afforded.  

So if you are still searching for that ‘perfect’ first, second, or third job, I encourage you to pick up those job descriptions you’ve been analyzing and explore the following three questions to make sure you are choosing a position for the right reasons:  

1. What new skills will I add to my professional toolkit? What narrative will be added to my current portfolio that is different from past experience?
Consider the measurable skills you will gain if you accept an offer from company X.  This can include things like supervisory skills, budget management, or opportunities to engage different populations or clientele. Focus on items that might make you stand out in future positions or give you something different to talk about on your resume.  Using the job description, identify tangible skills you will walk away with if you choose company X. Then, even if things do not work out exactly as you imagined, your time at company X will still result in invaluable experiences.  

2. How will I leave my mark? OR Will I be able to leave my mark?
Think about whether you are being hired to maintain the status quo or if you will have the autonomy to influence systems, decisions, and processes.  While maintaining the status quo is not always a negative thing, you want to be sure the position will allow you to earn some notable achievements.  Future employers will want to know how you advanced the mission of your former organization.  Having significant accomplishments to talk about will always be important in the job search process.  Make sure your potential position will afford you the opportunity to contribute to the overall success of the organization.

3. What is the work versus the job?
Although used interchangeably, there is a difference between your work and your job.  Work is the warm and fuzzy.  Assuming you are passionate about your field, work is the difference you are able to make – no matter how small.  In sum, the work is the greater purpose.  On the other hand, the job is the day to day.  The job is the tedious and sometimes daunting tasks you have to complete in order to be successful in the work.  The job is the endless emails requiring a response or the stack of paperwork that has to get filed. If the work is the reason you get up in the morning, than the job is the reason you count down the minutes until you can escape.  Make sure the work is meaningful enough to get you through the job.

Although the perfect job may not exist, the perfect opportunity for where you are in your career does exist.  A position may not offer every single thing you want but there are key things you can take away from every experience.  The reality is your future employer won’t care if your last job was in a really cool location or if you had a super cool boss.  Your future employer will care about the impact you made and how well you made it. As you continue your search, make sure you are focusing on the right things: a position that will give you a great professional story to tell – that is what will stand out to your next employer!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Secret to Delivering the Perfect PITCH

By Megan Morini, Assistant Director, Business Consultant

First impressions are everything.  In today’s world, it is all about being able to articulate and sell or “pitch” your idea, product or yourself.  Students and candidates in an interview often find it hard to sell themselves and answered the dreaded “Tell me about yourself?” question. When will be the next time you are stuck in an elevator with the CEO for your dream job? The idea of talking about yourself may be uncomfortable, but it really sets the tone for an interview and can make or break your offer.  Follow these four steps for delivering the perfect pitch.

State your first and last name, confidentially. Many people panic with where to start thus stumble over his/her own name! You should be able to plan several different “pitches” and include an element of relevance within your introduction.  For example, a skill, your major, your industry experience. Keep it short and concrete. 

Briefly talk about relevant experience that may include coursework, training, or your current job or internship.  Have passion, be natural, and find a common ground to phase into the next step. 

State a fact about the company, such as recent news, trends in their industry, or a trait that exceeds their competition.  This will show you have done your research and will increase your credibility. 

Talk about your strength and abilities, interest in the company or position, and leave the person wanting more.  Elevator pitches should be no longer than 30-60 seconds; do not try and pack too much in. The goal is to confidently communicate that you know what you are doing and where you want to go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Do I Choose a Favorite?!?!?!

By Ali Rodriguez, Director of Employer Relations

My favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip. But I also really love Cherry Garcia. No...wait, chocolate chip cookie dough is delicious and makes a wonderful milkshake. What I've learned over the years is that you don't have to just have one favorite.

Think about how you can apply this notion to finding a career you will find satisfying. Have you ever worried about finding a career you will love? I know I did. Having family members who enjoyed the work they did, I remember being in college and trying to find that one thing that would resonate with me. We all have different interests at various points in our life, depending on experiences and life circumstances.

Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to figure it all out in too short of a time frame. Instead, open your mind to the variety of possibilities that exist. Look carefully at the companies who recruit at the Toppel Career Center for full-time jobs and internships. Consider things that are also a good fit: is part-time work, freelancing, or starting your own business a better choice? Don't judge an opportunity by the organization and/or job title alone. Often times, at smaller organizations, you have the chance to get exposure and experience in a variety of capacities.

Let me share an example to illustrate my point. For the past several years, UM students have consistently rated Google as the #1 company to work for.* It used to be that Google did not recruit on campus (now they do), but the brand recognition was so strong and company culture transparent that students ranked the company highly. Now I will challenge you to think about the fact that for every Google, there's a Jazwares. You may never have heard of Jazwares, (they invent toys and related products that are new to the marketplace, featuring the licenses that kids want) but we have UM alumni working there and the workspace fosters creativity.  And what about the Miami Dolphins?  The organization has provided internships for numerous UM students over the years, and they have rated the experience positively. 

So, the next question is, how do I get engaged? Of course, I am biased, but attending Toppel events (such as career fairs, industry nights, and career programs hosted by employers) is a great way to build connections.  I challenge you again to think of other ways to do that. Attend a Launch Pad event. Talk to faculty and discover if any of them work in your industry. Talk to family members. Try to get as much info as you can that will help you make an informed decision and find your “fit.”

One important aspect of my job is to bring companies and organizations to campus to recruit at the U for jobs and internships. This keeps me busy! In my role, I help expose students to the variety of options that exist. Google is like my mint chocolate chip, Jazwares resonates with me like Cherry Garcia does, and I can liken the Miami Dolphins to chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t/can’t have a favorite, there are just too many options!

Do you have a company that you've always wanted to work for who doesn't recruit at UM? Please don't hesitate to let me know by emailing me at

*Source: Universum survey

Monday, June 16, 2014

Creative Careers

By Carsyn Crane, Events and Marketing Intern 

Every student’s wish after graduating college is to get that ideal job. “Make the big bucks”, you may have heard this expression before.  Majoring in marketing, political science, philosophy, or studio art makes you wonder what you actually can do with $50,000 degree. You’ve learned various skills throughout your undergraduate career and still are not sure about your career path.

My undergraduate major was media studies. I know what you are thinking. What does that even mean? My dad continued to ask me this question until the day I graduated. 

I had no idea what I wanted to do once I graduated. I figured I would go into marketing or advertising but I never really explored my options.

I didn’t know how I was going to take my degree and transfer it into career. As a student you may be feeling the same way. The pressure of deciding your career path may be a frightening, but it is good to take a few steps before you make a decision. Some helpful tips when it comes to finding a career:

BE OPEN-MINDED. The first job you get after college may not be your dream job but it could open doors into a direction that works for you.

EXPLORE. Do the research and look for jobs you may not have thought of before.

PASSION: Figure out what you’re passionate about then narrow down your job options based on your desire.

You can always transfer the skills you’ve learned from your past experience and articulate why it would be good fit for that specific new job. The major you may be in might not be the exactly fit for the career you choose and it’s OKAY :)

You have skills. Prove it. Make us proud at the Toppel Career Center.