Thursday, March 26, 2015

Confidence over Competence

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

At some point nearly everybody has had an experience where they watch someone who seems less qualified than themselves get praised or promoted while you sit bitterly wishing you could have been in their place. It’s a thing that happens in school work or any other organization that you are a part of in your lifetime. What’s the most common reason for this? You may be inclined to jump to conclusions of shady deals and elbow rubbing but the truth is that it comes down to competence vs. confidence. In this battle, confidence generally ends up the successful one.

Obviously to get a job or internship you must be competent. I’m not saying that you can ignore this altogether and still hope to get by. But there is always a chance for learning in this area. Confidence is harder to improve upon if it’s not there. Companies want individuals who can be confident in their decisions to represent them. You wouldn't want to be taken care of by a doctor who was unsure of their diagnosis even if they were considered one of the best in the field or represented by a lawyer who wavered back and forth on their next course of action in court. Of course not! No matter how qualified you may be, if you don’t have confidence in yourself how can you expect someone else to have confidence in you?

Now, that being said, DON’T exaggerate your abilities. Try to examine your skills realistically. If you state on your resume that you are proficient in a program that you maybe only worked with a few times, you could end up in a sticky situation if you have a job where you are expected to use it regularly and don’t know how. That’s not what confidence is about and it’s not the truth either. But it is ok to be proud of your skills and accomplishments. Take pride in your work and yourself and it will show to everyone you interact with. If you show that you like who you are and what you do other people will too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

UShadow Program: A Day in the Life

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Setting up a job shadowing experience can be daunting and confusing, especially if you don’t yet have the connections with employers in your field of interest. Job shadowing is a career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in a person’s career field of interest. Lucky for you, the Toppel Career Center does all this planning and provides a contact and introduction for you! The University of Miami UShadow program provides students the unique opportunity to connect with a knowledgeable alumni/employer hosts and investigate a potential career field in our local community through a typical workday.

I personally, had the chance to participate in the UShadow twice, both this year as well as last. A little background about me, I’m a junior majoring in Health Science Business Administration. Yeah I know, it’s a mouthful and somewhat difficult of an industry to enter without any help. This year, I had the opportunity to shadow the Clinical Resource Coordinator at Jackson Memorial Systems. The day started off with a tour of the building and introductions to her staff. Right as we were about to head to her office, the hospital had a fire drill; prompting more introductions to other hospital administrators my host hadn’t planned on, life takes you in funny directions. Originally the day was supposed to be focused on the administrative aspect of healthcare, but during the 30-minute drill, I had the chance to pick the minds of many practitioners and their thoughts regarding profit versus non-profit institutes. This is one of the many benefits of shadowing, at the end of your experience, you hear more than one story of how people got to where they are – which in my opinion, is the most enriching part of meeting people.

Every now and then, as students, we lose sight of the long-term goal we have post-graduation: a job we love. Having a chance to speak with someone in a position I hope to be in within the next 10 years was a motivation to work towards what I wanted. Through UShadow, not only do you gain insight, but you also gain a mentor to aid you through your journey. My host, an alumni of the university, and I connected while reminiscing about our time at UM which made conversation flow naturally, and I got to learn more about her. The most important advice I took from my experience was that, no matter what industry, networking is what sets candidates apart, and what better way to network than through a day shadowing!  

The UShadow program is open to all University of Miami students who are in good academic standing with the University and are classified as sophomores or juniors at the University of Miami. Students should also review the timeline of events to ensure they can attend one of the Pre-Departure Orientations. Students from all majors are encouraged to participate! Be sure to check out Toppel’s noteworthy program!

Monday, March 16, 2015

So, You’re Really Good at Interviewing? Prove It.

By Kiernan King, Toppel Peer Advisor

Getting to the interview stage is one of the hardest parts in the job process because it means that something about your resume really stuck out to an employer and they’d like to call you in to get to know you better.

This is your time to shine.

The power really is in your own hands at this point because how you perform on interview day will determine whether or not you’re offered the position.

The key is to understand exactly what they’re looking for. Here are some steps to take if you want to improve your chances of success:

Do your homework.
Good preparation demonstrates that you’re serious about landing the role. Get to know as much as you possibly can about the firm and think about what you want to say in the interview. Researching will also bring up questions that you definitely need to be asking at the end.

Set the right tone.
Employers are on the look-out for people who are confident, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. You may be the most qualified and experienced person, but none of that will matter if your attitude is wrong.

Sell yourself.
Before you go into the interview you should draw up a list of key attributes and think about the main points you want to make about yourself. Have an elevator pitch? If not, draft one. If so, practice it; fine tune it. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

It is important to pay attention to the questions they are asking so that you know exactly what you’re responding to. Failing to do so is one of the most common mistakes potential employees make, be unique and don’t do this! Interviewers are asking questions that look for a particular piece of information, and if you fail to present with such than you are simply doing yourself a disservice.

Recruiting is crucial for companies because getting the wrong person can have serious detriments to that company’s culture and overall message. Bosses want people who will fit straight into the existing group with minimum fuss and challenges to overcome. Getting rejected isn’t always a bad thing, it could just mean that the skills you’ve developed may be better suited elsewhere.

Show that you’re a team player who can be relied upon from your first day on the job!

Remember that Toppel conducts Practice and Mini-Mock interviews. Attend an interview workshop, schedule an appointment or simply come for walk-in advising and interview with our peer advisors or graduate assistants! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Spring Break is HERE and you can’t wait to hop onto the plane or cruise and let loose and have fun with your friends, but more importantly, you can update your Facebook/Instragram/Twitter/Snapchat with all the photographic proof that you’re living it up #[insertlocation] #SB15. One of the farthest things from your mind is probably the long-term effect of your postings.

As social media becomes the latest branding strategy, networking technique, job seeking tool and recruitment vehicle, it’s also becoming the latest way for employers to check out the media profiles of applicants to weed out undesirable candidates. So while you may be proud of your 500+ Facebook friends or your 1000+ followers on Twitter and almost all your friends liked the hilarious photo of you wasted at the club from the break, make sure your awesome virtual social life is not killing your promising career paths. Here are some don’ts and mistakes people tend to do when it comes to social media.

Your privacy settings aren’t appropriate – Most social networking sites do offer options to keep your profile private. Use these as much as possible. Avoid posting any controversial content; however, if you absolutely want to share what you did last weekend – or over spring break – limit the view only to your friends. But be aware that anything you post online can become public or viral in no time. If a friend “likes”, tags, or retweets you, a larger audience now has access to you post.

You haven’t Googled yourself – You need to able to see what your potential employer is seeing. Google yourself and check out the results. Is there anything out there that could be costing you your job? While it is important to have an online presence so that employers can learn about you, it is also important to be aware of what they’re looking at.

You have grammatical or spelling errors in posts – You may shrug it off since it’s just one misplaced comma or a common acronym, according to a survey conducted in 2012, 54% of recruiters have a negative reaction to grammar and spelling mistakes, while only 47% of recruiters have negative reactions to alcohol references.

Don’t badmouth your current or previous employer – Just like in an interview, keep your rants about your boss or company to yourself. If hiring managers see that you’re willing to trash a colleague online, they assume you’ll do it to them too.  Past actions speak louder as an indication of future actions. Plus, there’s always the possibility of getting fired if someone sees your negative comment.

Don’t announce interviews, raises or new jobs – How you talk about any of these sensitive topics on your social networking site is key. If you’re just starting off your job search, writing “Interview today, wish me luck!” or “So excited about my new job!” is totally acceptable. If you’re currently employed, you’d be surprised who’s checking and if you write something like “Trying to con my boss into giving me a $5K raise, noob!” I don’t think your future at the company bodes well. As a general rule, don’t post something that has a conflict of interest (i.e. don’t mention your job search if you’re still employed, unless your boss knows you’re on the lookout, that’s fair game) and keep everything positive!

Your professional information is inconsistent – Be consistent with job titles, companies you’ve worked for, and duration. It’s fine if you rework your job descriptions, for example, because targeting your resume is a good practice when applying for jobs, Inconsistency in the top headers of your resume will not sit well with potential employers. Make sure the information you’ve provided in various forums/sites adds up.

On the positive side, companies are also looking for reasons to hire you! So use social media wisely to highlight your skills, expertise, and professional savvy, and get the job you deserve. Have a wonderful, fun spring break and stay safe!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Etiquette After a Career Event

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Job fairs and Meet-Ups provide you with an opportunity to make face-to-face contact with many employers. At some fairs, you also have the opportunity to interview for open positions. Our Toppel Career Center brings over 100 employers and graduate schools every semester to give us students as many opportunities to get our foot in the door with our future potential employees.

A lot of the concerns students have usually concern the preparation prior to the actual career event but a lot of times, students tend to forget to tie up loose ends that really can make a difference in their career goals. So after the event, give yourself a pat on the back, but you’re not done JUST yet!

Stay organized – During the event, employers have a ton of handouts so keep track of business cards and promotional items! The backs of cards are an easy place to write a few notes of your conversations with recruiters while the memory is still fresh in your mind. Review your notes and process what you learned about the different organizations. Some students benefit from creating an Excel sheet to keep their job search organized.

Follow up – Within a week of the event, write thank you notes/emails to recruiters from companies that are of particular interest to you. Hand written notes are a classy touch if you’ve invested in stationary. Regardless of the medium, express your interest in learning more about the company and possible positions. If recruiters ask for you to send a resume or other information, do so as soon as possible. Follow up on leads by calling the recruiter if you haven’t heard from them within two weeks.

Evaluate your experience and plan for the next step – What was positive? Negative? Did your research help you? What questions were difficult to answer? What would you change for future career events? Were you able to articulate your career goals well? How was your elevator pitch received? Take advantage of Toppel’s many handouts and workshops for interviewing or even resumes! The more feedback, the better you’ll get at this.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bored at Work? Try Something New!

By Kiernan King, Toppel Peer Advisor

It just isn’t how it used to be anymore. You were once excited to wake up early, put on that new uniform and make a difference!

Now your alarm howls, you roll out of bed with ten minutes to spare and speed to work hoping you’re not late, or do you even care that you are? You find yourself going through the motions and can’t seem to understand what keeps driving you to come back each day.

Here’s how to get back to your roots and fix it. Let’s try something new:

1. Get To Know the People You Work With Better.

Employees feel positively about expectations and opportunities in a job they apply for yet might feel like they’re alone even in a crowded room of coworkers during lunch break. Contributions need to be recognized, opinions need to be heard, employees need to be cared for.

To do so, start building new relationships with those who have interests similar to yours. Ask them where they are from; geographical questions are some of the easiest way to make a connection with someone you’re meeting for the first time.

2. Change Your Space

Staring at grey cubical walls all day can be rather un-inspirational. Perhaps ask your boss if he or she would consider giving the employees a budget to spruce up the environment to make it more conducive to creativity. Doing so would be a great work activity and would also allow freedom of expression which not only de-stresses but also fills the office with color and can uplift the mood.

3. Incorporate Social Media in Your Workday

If you tweet one good thing that happens every day, soon you’ll have a running log of happy, positive messages. When you’re feeling down, you can go back through these and laugh at the memories they evoke. These little messages can serve as reminders that your office is actually more fun than you think!

4. Stress…Who Needs It?

Exercise has tremendous impacts on mental, emotional and physical well-being and fighting stress proactively involves incorporating exercise in your daily routine. Play sand volleyball, get a game of pickup basketball going, even try yoga! Also, make sure you’re getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Coming to work tired and lethargic will only add to the stress of getting all your work done without a full nights rest.

5. Take on New Challenges

When you began with your company, everything seemed like new challenges that you were excited to take on and enjoyed being a problem solver. After some time there, those obstacles become more commonplace and frustrating. Talk to your boss and see if you can start a new project or cross-train in another department. Volunteer to help a coworker with a difficult task, helping someone else achieve his or her goals may re-instill a sense of purpose. 

So is it possible to love your job again or are you ready to call it quits? If you change the way you think about a given situation you begin to change the way you feel about it. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Impressive Careers Don’t Always Make Impressive People

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

There are certain companies who’s names immediately inspire awe in us; when we hear a friend or a classmate has secured an internship there, we immediately think “wow, he/she is really successful.” And while that may be true to some extent- it was probably very competitive to get that internship and it will probably look great on their resume- it might not necessarily be true in every respect. Everybody wants to put well-known names on their resume, but just because somebody’s had a job or internship at one of those impressive places doesn’t mean they’re an impressive person. Getting the position might be the first step, but making the most out of that experience and becoming a well-rounded person is the second, arguably more important, step.

This past summer I had an internship with the New England Aquarium; in the marine science world, the “NEAq” is a well-known and respected education, research, and conservation organization, great to have on my resume as a marine science student. And while I am proud of being able to put the NEAq on my resume, when I look back on my experience there, I gained so much more than just a few lines and bullet points to fill up a piece of paper. Working with the people there taught me so much; they made me a better, more focused student, educator, leader, and marine conservationist.

So while you should aim to get the best possible internships and jobs you can, don’t do it just for the space it’ll take up on the resume. Do it because of the experience you will gain there, and take full advantage of all the opportunities that arise while you’re there. You will become a more well rounded person taking the time to learn from those around you and learn from your experiences, and that, ultimately, will make you a more impressive candidate in person, instead of just on paper.