Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

As kids we always get asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Although that is important to figure out it seems to slip people’s minds that where you are affects your success and happiness as much as what you do does. A lot of students currently searching for jobs are happy to go anywhere just as long as they have a job. However, the idea of searching across the entire country and possibly world is just a bit daunting. A great place to start is to research which cities have the best opportunities in your field. Some cities, for instance New York, are practically limitless to the types of jobs found there. But this doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect place for everyone. If the crowded city isn’t your scene don’t lose hope! For many industries, the best job markets are actually not where you’d expect. It just takes a bit of research to find it.

It also helps to keep in mind that even in a city that may not have your career’s ideal opportunities a little extra effort searching may be worth it. If you’re a person who can’t stand the idea of going back to the cold after spending so many years in Miami, even if you find out Gnome, Alaska has the most opportunities it may not be worth it. currently has a list of the top ten happiest and least happy cities to work in across the US. And for anyone who has fallen in love with the sunshine and palm trees of Florida, Miami ranks number one with Orlando not far behind at number 4. These opinions may not exactly align with your own but it’s definitely good to keep in mind that where you are is going to impact your life as much if not more than what company you work for.

Monday, January 26, 2015

College Is More Than Your Books

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

It’s a new year and a new semester, and possibly, even a new you. Now that you’ve gotten a better hold on the academic pace college has, it’s time to explore your interests and have fun at the same time. There are so many opportunities for you to get involved; you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your four years here at the University of Miami.

Learning New Things – Every experience you have builds on what you already know. You get a chance to put yourself into problem-solving situations or try something “hands on”, lessons learned from projects or working with others stick with us much longer than those theoretical scenarios we learn in class. There are so many ways to get involved and each has something different that it brings to the table. In the university environment, there is a myriad of student organizations that cater to individuals’ interest niche.

Build Your Resume – Your resume is something that should constantly be improved by the diverse things you do in life, hence why we call it your “working resume” here at Toppel. Students have a preconceived notion that only paid positions or internships are allowed in their required Experience section; although work is one way to build the resume, activities or organizations that showcase student leadership can also demonstrate what you have to offer to future employers.

Increase Scholarship Opportunities – Scholarships can play an important part in paying for college. The more prospects you have for scholarships, the higher probability of earning a type of financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. Clubs, organizations, and activities sometimes have scholarships tied into them. If not, activities will be helpful when completing scholarship applications.

Develop Stronger Personal Skills – A person changes and grows with each new experience. Getting involved might provide the chance to take a leadership role in an organization or club. That would be a way for you to learn more about how to lead people and groups. Even if you don’t have a leadership position, you would learn key teamwork strategies seen in your future workplace.

Meet New People – This is one of the most important reasons to get involved, in my opinion. You have the chance to meet so many new people from various cultures and with different perspectives. All the people you encounter in activities and organizations have traits you can learn from. More importantly, it creates a sense of community, especially since college is usually a foreign environment.

Getting involved helps discover new friends with similar interests. Who know, you may meet someone who will be your friend for life. Getting involved has so many benefits. Some you see right away and others that build with time. I know I enjoyed all the activities and clubs I’m involved in so close your books and take a trip to the Student Activities Center (SAC)!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

To Travel or to Work? Maybe We Can Have Both

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

Four years ago as a senior in high school going through the college application process I heard the same question over and over- where are you going to school next year? Now as a second semester senior in college, I hear a similar question repeated constantly- where are you working after graduation? When I was applying to colleges, at least I could give a list of the schools I had applied to or the schools I was deciding between. But now that the real world is just around the corner in May, I don’t really have a bunch of options I can list off to satisfy people’s questions. While some of my friends are lucky enough to know where they’ll be going post graduation, it seems a large majority of us don’t, and it’s a constant source of stress among us because of course after you graduate, you have to immediately figure out your life and get a job… right?

While studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, I met countless Europeans around my age, who were travelling for a year after graduating from college, or “uni” as they call it. And what struck me about this was that this was apparently completely normal, and they also said that there were always Australian students travelling all over Europe for the year after their graduation. Americans are somewhat notorious for not venturing outside of our borders- only 30% of our population have passports, compared to Canada’s 60% and the UK’s 75%- and that stems from a lot of different things. But this experience abroad really opened my eyes to how different our view of the way we “should” live our life is compared to many other places in the world.

While it’s common, and realistically somewhat encouraged, to travel for a gap year either before or after university in other countries, in the United States it’s often looked down upon. One of my best friends in high school took a gap year before starting college, and she received a lot of skeptical questions and comments about it, but ultimately it was one of the best things she’s ever done. In a world that is unbelievably interconnected and only becoming increasingly so, you’d think we would encourage young people to travel more. Arguably just in my 4.5 months living abroad, I learned more things about myself and life in general than I did in the previous 4 semesters of college. Travelling abroad you learn so many life skills- meeting new people, facing unexpected challenges, adapting to new environments and cultures- all of which are realistically incredibly important life skills, even for the workplace.

So I’m not saying we should all just drop everything and go travel (though I wish I could). But maybe soon to be graduates like myself shouldn’t be putting so much pressure on ourselves to figure everything out before that looming graduation date in May. The rest of the world seems to have figured out that a little bit of exploring can ultimately help you become a more well rounded person, more focused, and ready for a job, so maybe we should follow their example.


Monday, December 29, 2014

An entrepreneurial path right after college

Today's special post comes from Alum Rafael De Armas and details an exciting opportunity for UM students and alumni.

Some people (including me) dream of making an impact on the world and creating something of value. We come to school to prepare for the “working world,” but some of us want to take it a step further; we want to start companies of our own. I came to college to do just that, but found it was hard. Getting access to training, mentorship and resources at this age can be next to impossible.

Luckily, I heard about Venture for America (VFA).

In 2011, serial entrepreneur and VFA founder Andrew Yang started this nonprofit fellowship program with the goal of creating a path for college students who want to become entrepreneurs. And recently, I was selected as one of Venture for America’s Fellows for the Class of 2015.

As VFA Fellows, we get training and join a startup in an emerging US city, where we’ll live and work for two years at one of hundreds of partner companies. We’ll learn hands-on what it takes to build a company, while getting mentorship, a network, and ongoing support to prepare us to become successful entrepreneurs. For me, I hope this gets me one step closer to my goal of starting my own venture.

In November, I traveled to New York for the last round of the VFA application process. Meeting the other applicants, along with the Fellows, team, and supporters, confirmed what I already knew: joining Venture for America was definitely what I wanted to do right after college. I couldn’t believe it a few days later when I got the call from Andrew Yang to tell me I had been accepted!

I’ll get to meet my fellow Fellows this summer at our 5-week training program at Brown University and will begin to find my job in March. At this point, I still don’t know in which city I am going to work or in what field, but whether it’s software development or business, I’m excited for whatever comes. Throughout the year, VFA finds great high-growth companies across the US with founders who are excited to have a VFA Fellow join them. By working at one of these ventures, I know I am going to get the experience I need to be an entrepreneur.

Even though I’m the first VFA Fellow from University of Miami, I know I’m not the only Cane with the goal of becoming a company founder. If you feel you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, I encourage you to apply to be a Venture for America Fellow.

There are still two more deadlines left on January 12thand March 2nd.

If you have questions or want to hear about my experience feel free to reach out to me. Let’s get more University of Miami students building things!


Rafael De Armas

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Stress Epidemic

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

As students, we tend to feel like we’re expected to balance so much in a college atmosphere. Between class projects, term papers, studying, day jobs, clubs, leadership, applying for grad schools or jobs, and wanting to be able to sleep occasionally there just doesn’t seem time to fit everything in. Unfortunately, trying to handle everything may cause stress in many students. Small amounts of stress are actually helpful. It stimulates productivity and motivates people to get things done in order to experience that relief after finishing a big project or final. Think about it this way, if you weren’t at all concerned about what grade you’ll get would you have any motivation to study? However, excessive amounts can cause detrimental symptoms such as muscle tension, colds and sickness, and fatigue as well as more drastic ones such as depression, high blood pressure, and ulcers.

There are four main sources that cause stress. The first cause is the environment, which includes stressors such as noise, pollution, traffic, crowds, and weather. The second is physiological stresses which come from illness/injury, and poor sleep or nutrition. The third is self-induced stress which comes from things such as negative thoughts and perfectionism. The last is social stressors. These include financial problems, work demands, school work, and social events. It is easier to deal with and reduce stresses in our lives if we can figure out the cause.

One of the most important steps to avoiding excessive stress levels is to try to maintain your overall health. This may be a struggle for many busy college students, but simply eating well and sleeping enough hours a night does wonders for your ability to cope in stressful situations. Many students feel that they don’t have time for sleep especially around finals week because of all of the exams and projects they have. Lack of sleep decreases your ability to retain information, and that plus your heightened stress level will make it difficult to concentrate. So keep this in mind for the next test you have to study for.

So, use winter break to actually take a break. Take the time to get back into your workout routine (don’t wait for the post-new year’s crowds), read the novels you’ve replaced with textbooks during the semester, cook some recipes now that you’re not confined to the dining hall, or ask you parents to get you the massage you’ve been dreaming about for the past month for Christmas. Find your happy place and plan ways to keep yourself there through the stresses of next semester.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Is the Dream Job a Real Possibility?

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

Last night during an outreach presentation I was giving for Toppel, I was asked a very interesting question. The girl asked me how to deal with the “issue” that even though she was a psychology major, every summer she had interned for a fashion or magazine company because it was something she was really interested in. She was concerned that her resume didn’t look like the resume of someone studying psychology and she was preparing to apply to grad school for psychology.

This question made me sad in a way; this girl was concerned that by pursuing something she was really passionate about she was maybe short changing another aspect of her life that she also cared about. My first response was that despite the fact that interning at a magazine or in the fashion industry may not seem directly relatable to psychology, at the end of the day, any internship or job experience teaches you invaluable skills that are applicable anywhere. So on your resume, even if you have a lot of experiences that may not seem to relate to your field of study on the surface, think about everything you learned at those experiences and you are bound to find skills that are universally applicable.

But the question continued to stick in my head. Since thinking about it more, I think I would add to that response. This girl was clearly passionate about the fashion industry, but also passionate about her studies in psychology as she was hoping to apply to grad school to pursue it. I would encourage her to think about those passions and how she can find a way to make them intersect.

I recently read an article on LinkedIn about a woman who had been in the marketing field as VP for a long time. But eventually, with the help of a career counselor, she reassessed what she was really passionate about, things that had occurred in her personal life, and realized she wanted a change, and ended up working for a non-profit for widows and widowers. She herself had become a widow 5 years prior, and felt a strong drive to helping others like herself, and as she now declares, she has her “dream job”.

I think we often worry too much about what we should be studying and what jobs we should get, when we should really think about what we want. If you’re doing something you actually care about, you will inevitably be happier. I think everyone has a dream job, we just often think it’s not attainable because we don’t have the right degree, or the right qualifications. But if you really assess your experiences, and combine those with your passion, it’s worth pursuing that dream job. You never know, you might just find it.


Monday, December 8, 2014

To Accept or Not to Accept

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

The hardest part is over, the hiring manager called with great news: the job is yours! It’s smooth sailing from here, right? Maybe not. Determining whether to take a job offer can – and should – be a difficult decision. If you’re eager to get out of your current job or if it’s the job of your dreams, then it can be tempting to accept the offer; but before you take the job, you need to evaluate the situation carefully. Experts say that people switch jobs on average every three to four years, which means that being able to evaluate a job offer is a critical skill for today’s college grad and aspiring professional.

Shape the offer along the way When the hiring manager or recruiter calls you with the offer, it shouldn’t be the first time you discuss specifics. People should have a conversation about their aspirations for the job way before the point of the offer. Answering questions like, “what are you looking for in your next role?” honestly will increase the likelihood that the offer that’s extended includes things on your wish list. Deciding whether or not to take a job usually isn’t a simple yes or no choice, so prepare for the offer conversation as a negotiation. Rarely should you accept something at face value, if you don’t ask for anything you’re missing an opportunity.

More Research – One of the biggest mistakes that people make is not finding out enough about their potential employer. Dig around for as much information as you can about the organization, the culture, and your future co-workers. There’s a surprising amount of material people can sift through nowadays. Finding out what you can about the organization’s future prospects is crucial as well, determining the company’s future can help you ascertain the industry as well as your future job security.

Interrupted Timeline – But what if you receive your first offer when you’re still interviewing with or have just sent your resume to other employers? The job searching process for each company almost never syncs so you need to be realistic about your prospects. Look at the applications you have under way and reasonably assess which are likely to get to offer. Compare the offer in hand against a wish list of what you really want in a job. You’ll have to accept that sometimes, good enough will have to do.

If you decide to say no – Saying no to a job offer can be complicated. You’ve sent in your resume, shown up for a series of interviews, and the employer likely assumes you want the job. The LAST thing you want is for the company to think you played them. Don’t string them along. If you realize during the interview process that there’s a high chance you won’t accept the offer, let the hiring manager know out of courtesy so they can focus on more viable candidates. If you say no, remember that a lot goes into generating an offer. People have invested time and may have gone to bat for you. Never imply that the job or salary was to blame. Instead, focus on what’s not a good fit. This will keep the door open for the future.

I’m not saying this is an easy decision, but being smart can go a long way.