Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interviews Are Two-Way Streets!

By Trish Vega, Toppel Peer Advisor

Interviews can be nerve-wracking. There can be so many things to keep in mind in order to help sell yourself to your interviewer:  Am I sitting up straight? I gotta make sure I’m not using too many “ums”! Am I talking too fast?

But we can chill a little bit and take some pressure off. In a way, you are an interviewer too! Interviews are a great way to figure out if a company or position is a great fit for you and your professional development. Here’s how to make sure your potential opportunity can be a place for you to thrive.

It’s a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

Often, an interview can turn out to be a rattling off of questions and answers. Take this opportunity to make your interview time more of a conversation! For example, if your interviewer asks about your experience with writing blog posts, don’t be afraid to follow up with a question about what the company’s goals and aspirations are in terms of audience engagement. This will help you in a few ways: it would give you an insight to the company and how they work so you can discern if it is an environment for you, and it would also show that you have an interest in the company, making you more appealing to the employer. Additionally, this can help establish a rapport between you and your interviewer and leave a good impression.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

As your interview progresses, be on the lookout for any tidbits of information that signal what the work environment of the company is like. Do they mention travel? Overtime? Opportunities for advancement? If so, see if you can ask a question to get more information on those topics! With that in mind, here are some other questions we recommend asking to get a feel for whether a company is the right fit for you.

What qualities are you seeking in a candidate?
How would you describe the organization culture?
What are the best things about the job and the most challenging parts of this position?
What opportunities are there for me to develop?
What does a day in the office look like?
What goals do you have for the person who will serve this job?

Happy interviewing!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Time to Apply for the Summer Internship

By Melissa Wyatt, Toppel Peer Advisor

It’s that time of year again – time to apply for a summer internship. With many application deadlines fast approaching, here’s a quick checklist of how to perfect your applications and find an internship.

1. Visit the Toppel Branding Lab

You can visit the Toppel Branding Lab Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 4:30 PM to help perfect your resume and cover letter. You don’t need an appointment, and can solidify your application materials by critiquing them with a Peer Advisor. When applying for a competitive internship program, you need your application to stand out.

2. Ask for letters of recommendation and references now – don’t wait!

Ask for letters of recommendation today! You won’t be able to get a great recommendation if you wait until the last minute. Whether your application is due December 1st or February 1st, reach out to former employers and professors now about writing you letters of recommendation. Even if an application doesn’t ask for recommendations or references in the first application round, still reach out to potential references now. Stay in touch with them throughout your internship search, and ask their permission to use them as a reference if needed.

3. Practice your interview skills with a practice interview

You can schedule a full practice interview with Toppel’s professional staff at (305) 284-5451. In just one hour, you can have a practice interview specifically tailored to your field, and you will receive detailed feedback about your interview performance. If you’re pressed for time, drop in for a 20-minute mini mock interview and assessment with Toppel’s Peer Advisors. Both options will help you learn how to answer the tricky questions interviewers might ask, and will teach you how to sell yourself to an employers.

4. Use Handshake to look for an internship

Last but not least, log onto Handshake and use Toppel’s job search feature at miami.joinhandshake.com. Through your Handshake account, you have access to the 2,000+ jobs and internships that employers advertise through Toppel. Once your online resume is uploaded and critiqued by our staff (3-5 business days), you can even apply for an internship directly through Handshake.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why you should take an Introduction Business Technology Class

By Madison Bowden, Toppel Peer Advisor

Business Technology is expanding and dominating not only the business world but also playing a role in almost every work field. Learning the basics to hardware infrastructure and network infrastructure is almost a necessity in this day and age. An introduction to Business Technology class allows you to use technology to your benefit. With an introductory background in Business Technology one can access and create information that is vital in this world.

Albert Einstein once said, “ It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” So why not become knowledgeable in one of the dominating forces of today’s society when it comes to news, media, and ethical standards. Technology allows you to express yourself in a way that could be a selling point for employers. Nowadays, technology can be used to create a personal show and tell of skills by creating your own personal website, personal LinkedIn Page, or even creating a new tool such as an application on your smart phone!

However, without the knowledge of how to make your digital footprint it is hard to make a very big impact. The power of search engines and other technological parts of computer software play a big role in how you can display yourself in an efficient, innovative manner. I encourage everyone to take a Business Technology class to expand their horizons.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Do You Belong?

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Each company is defined by it, but not many know it by name and many don’t even know it exists! An important attribute when considering future employment options is the company culture, the DNA, if you will of the organization.

A company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. Products and strategies can always be duplicated. Your company culture defines the way in which your organization interacts with one another and how the team interacts with the outside world. It’s the formula that guides the team, as well as inspires and motivates employees. When companies are going through the recruitment process, they’re not only looking for qualified individuals, but also individuals they want to work with in the future.

It’s not uncommon for job seekers to enter organizations without understanding the culture and come away disappointed. When considering a new prospect, be sure to investigate the institution’s culture! Consider these questions to guide you:

What should I learn? – Understand the organization’s purpose – not just what they said they’re doing, but how their purpose leads to decisions and what makes them proud. Learn how the organization operates. Different purposes and different organizational features can be more or less appealing to different people, and that’s okay! No two people in the job market are the same. When you understand how the potential employer operates, you’ll need to consider how well that matches your goal. Your target organizational culture is an important part of your aspirations.

How should I learn? – Read everything you can about the institution, but read with a critical eye. Read in between the lines, all the formal vision statements are filled with buzz words, but what do they mean? Discuss culture with people in the organization; see what it means to them. You’ll talk to people in the interviewing process. But you may learn different things if you meet others there that aren’t involved in your recruiting process. Their different experience with the institution will affect their views, so ask about situations where they’ve seen the culture in action.

When should I learn? – It’s hard to learn about culture at such an early stage in your search, but your impressions can guide to you your ideal workplace. Culture may come up in job interviews, although it may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to sell yourself. People sometimes worry that discussing culture might make people uncomfortable and put a job offer at risk. The culture topic isn’t entirely off base and it’s necessary to know for future growth in the company.

If this culture concept is hard to grasp, just think back to the time when you were considering which college to attend. Why UM? The strong athletic department? The diversity that defines our campus? The love for the alma mater during this Homecoming season is a good time to reflect on our own school culture so Go Canes and get some soul searching done!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The World is Your Oyster: Deciding Where to Study Abroad

By Monique Beaupre, Toppel Peer Advisor

If you thought deciding where to go to college was fun, then choosing where to study abroad is going to be even more exciting! …More likely, choosing a school was stressful and overwhelming. Given a literal globe of possibilities of study abroad programs, the selection process may be daunting. Here are some things to consider when picking a foreign city to live and study in:

* Are you fascinated by a particular culture?
+ Have you yearned to see Roman ruins? Or are you looking to experience something totally different from the Western world?
+ Can’t decide? Consider a program that takes you around the world, like Semester at Sea (http://www.semesteratsea.org/). There are other multi-city immersion programs to choose from, especially summer programs.

* Where have you traveled before?
+Could you imagine calling one of those places home for a month, semester, or year?
+Do you want something totally different from anything you’ve already experienced?

* How large or small of a city interests you?
+Look at the size of the area you grew up in, or where you go to college. Is that comfortable? Are you looking for something different?

* Do you have foreign language skills? Do you want some new ones? Does that even matter?

* What is your budget?
+Although you can’t put a price on the value of cultural enrichment, some cities cost much more to live in.
+Look into currency exchange rates and cost of living – finding a cheap city to live in could
A) save you money,
B) allow you to ball out a little more than you’re used to, or
C) leave you with money for weekend trips!

* Are there any study abroad programs specific to your major or minor?
+Some programs through UM allow you to complete a minor or take courses specifically for your major. How convenient.

Studying abroad is a potentially life-changing experience. It’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself in a world disconnected from your past. You might find yourself learning new languages. It’s the chance to travel to places you wouldn’t usually have access to on the weekends, and return to your new home base for classes Monday-Friday. You can make friends from places you’ve never heard of, and easily keep in touch for years to come, thanks to Facebook and WhatsApp.

Deciding where to go takes some careful thought, but the experience is more than worth it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hocus Focus

By Alexis Musick, Toppel Peer Advisor

With Halloween so close (and finals looming not too far beyond), career development can often get swept under the rug. Costume parties and chocolate just hold an appeal that can’t be beat by 8:30am interviews. That said, it’s absolutely essential – especially as a student – to focus on your future, even with exciting events just a few days away. So, in celebration of my favorite holiday, here are ten ways that Halloween and career development go hand-in-hand:

1. You can carve your own path. Every October, thousands of carved pumpkins make an appearance outsides homes across the nation, each with its own unique design. Likewise, you have the complete freedom to choose your own career path. You are not limited by the choices of others around you; but you can be inspired by them!  

2. Imagery is important. You can’t have Halloween without black and orange, ghosts, or little skeletons on the front lawn. There are traditional “rules” – or at least expectations – about what this eerie holiday will bring. Similarly, there are a set of guidelines to follow when choosing what to wear for interviews or career fairs. Ensure that you are always wearing business professional attire as opposed to business casual attire. A great resource outlining just what that means can be found in Toppel’s “Dress for Success” guide.

3. Staying current is the name of the game. When it comes to selecting your costume, you never want to be stuck in the past. The days of Snooki and the Jersey Shore crew are long gone, so instead take a look at the latest TV shows, movies, or memes. In the career world, you always want to remain relevant. To succeed in the workplace today, you need to be in a permanent state of reinvention: understand your company’s mission as it evolves, become familiar with new software and social media as it is incorporated into society, and realize that you will need to be ready (and comfortable) to constantly adapt in any position.

4. You should look out for others. Halloween, especially at a University, can get a little dangerous. Don’t hesitate to be a Good Samaritan at any event or party you may attend – if it looks like someone may need some help, offer it. The same principle applies in the workplace (or in any professional environment). As students or as employees, it is best if you act as a team; and that involves answering any questions your colleagues may have, sharing the workload (if possible), or offering to do extra tasks when you can. You never know where your kindness could take you, especially if you’re looking for that internship of your dreams.

5. There are consequences for your actions. Halloween isn’t just physically dangerous: it could also damage your reputation. What you post online can and will affect your future (and, perhaps, your current state), so ensure that what is posted isn’t illegal or disrespectful. With career development, you always want to ensure that you have an online presence in the form of social media profiles like LinkedIn, and you never want to jeopardize any opportunities by having unprofessional past experiences haunt you. 

6. Taking chances can pay off. From a zombie hotdog to a hashtag, Halloween costumes can get totally weird. People push the envelope every year and really put themselves out there. However, that’s what makes this holiday so magical. It’s the risk-taking that makes it so enjoyable and funny, and the people that take those chances are often the ones who make some new friends and get some extra (hopefully positive) attention. The same principle applies with career development. Don’t be afraid to take chances and reach for the stars with any endeavor or project you may have – it shows initiative.

7. Planning ahead is worth it. Generally speaking, you can’t just pull anything out of your closet to use for a costume. If you want to look your best, investing time into planning what you need (and buying it early before it sells out or becomes astronomically expensive) is critical. Investing time into career development pays off, too. If you can build a strong foundation and get started early – by researching internships and employment opportunities early in the year – you will have more opportunities come your way, and be less stressed while you’re at it. The best opportunities go to those who arrive there first.

8. There’s room for change. You aren’t locked into the same Halloween costume from year to year. If you were King Joffrey last year, it doesn’t mean you have to be King Joffrey this year. You could be Daenerys! The same holds for careers: there’s always an opportunity for a career shift. You don’t have to know exactly what you want and then commit to that for the rest of your life. There is room for growth and for change as your interests change and your life progresses.

9. You don’t have to accept every offer. Just like there is room for change, there is room for choice. When every house on 5th Street is offering raisin granola bars or pennies as “treats,” you don’t have to take it. You have the ability to walk down the road to good ol’ 6th Street where the homes are rumored to give out full-sized candy bars. You can also test the waters with your career. With multiple opportunities coming your way, you can wait and see what each has to offer before committing to only one.

10. It’s applicable to everyone. Although Halloween was originally developed as a Western Christian holiday (the eve of All Hallows’ Day) and was inspired by Celtic and Gaelic harvest festivals, nowadays, everyone takes part. Even if you may think that career development doesn’t apply to you, there is always room for improvement. Having a second pair of eyes take a look at your resume wouldn’t hurt, nor would getting some more interview practice in. Don’t forget to make career development a lifelong thing: take some time out of your day and make an appointment for a mock interview or come in for walk-in advising at Toppel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Who is your Mentor?

By Lindsey Shanck, Toppel Peer Advisor

When you think about the journey to who you have become today, who are the people that stand out in a positive way? Maybe your mother stands out in your mind, your grandfather or your neighbor. How have these people influenced decisions you have made and the choices that have brought you to where you are now?

These are questions to consider when self-reflecting on all the aspects that make you who you are today, and who you will become in the future. Having a mentor, whether it is a professor, a boss, or a relative, will become even more important for a multitude of reasons. What are some characteristics of a good mentor?

1. Wisdom.

Your mentor has experienced more of both success and failure than you have. Consulting them about important decisions such as going to grad school or accepting a job offer will help give you a different perspective.

2. Education. 

A good mentor can take life accomplishments they have had and use what they learned to help you. Whether they have multiple degrees, or they own their business, chances are they had to turn many corners to get where they are now.

3. Role Model. 

Just like your mentor may have taught you to mow the lawn, get an A in calculus, or be confident in an interview, they are there to provide you a positive example. Just like their mentors have taught them great advice, they are going to teach you those same values.

4. Selfless.

Mentors are selfless and teach you to be selfless too. They have what is best for you in mind and want you to succeed in what ever it is you are doing.

So think about who your mentor is and what they have taught you. As you think about your next step, whether it is medical school or a summer internship, think of how the things you learn in these experiences will make you a good mentor one day too!