Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you the very best for your holiday season! Hope your finals went well and you come back safe and sound from winter break!

Monday, December 19, 2011

‘Tis the Season! Holiday Guide to Top Interview Tips

Written By Pallavi Pal

It is the season for enjoying the holidays, gifts galore, amazing home cooked meals, holiday parties, and all things merry! Everyone is usually excited about the holiday season for the festivities and fun but as a college student the holidays can be a time for interviews and applying for jobs or internships. But don’t let these interviews ruin your holiday cheer! Here are a few tips that most don’t know (or do) for an interview!

1. Do your research before going to the interview
Just as you prepare before a holiday party or celebration, you want to make sure you have prepared before the interview. Having done your research you appear a more knowledgeable and eager candidate. You can start off by doing informational interviews with current employees so you can get the inside scoop on the company, position and/or department for which you are interviewing.

2. Know how to sell yourself
When interviewers sit through 20-50 interviews for a particular position, the answers they get start to become generic. To set yourself apart from others strategize on how you want to market yourself. (Look for our blog entry on Jan. 12 about Personal Branding). There are many different sides to a person and if you are cognizant of the type of person you want to portray to the interviewer, you can tailor the experiences and skills that you highlight during the interview to reflect that specific persona.

3. Practice before the real deal
Just as the famous saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” rehearsing possible questions and answers can make you less nervous for the interview and can also be a great way to avoid those awful filler words such as “er” or “um.” Also, some difficult questions may require you to think carefully to answer the question. If you practice beforehand, the interview process becomes smoother and you won’t need to have awkward pauses anytime you are faced with a difficult question. If you want to get a list of general interview questions so you know what to prepare for, please check out Interview Preparation page on

4. Chat up the Receptionist to get the inside scoop
So what can the receptionist really do for you? Well, the receptionist sits at the front desk everyday and they hear all the latest news and updates about what goes on in the office. Receptionists are a particularly good source of information mainly because they are willing and excited to talk to those who walk in to the office but also because they can be an untapped source of information. Moreover, the impression you leave on the receptionist can be passed along to the hiring managers through casual conversation. Some hiring managers would like to learn about how interviewees interact with others when they are not interviewing. Thus, hiring managers may ask receptionists about the behavior and attitude of the interviewees after the interview is over.

5. Have several questions prepared
Many disregard this piece of advice because they don’t think that their questions are being evaluated or have an impact. Questions should always be asked towards the end of the interview in order to not only show that you’re genuinely interested in the position but also to demonstrate the amount of research you’ve done. Stay away from questions that can be answered by simply looking at their website, questions regarding pay and compensation, and questions in which you ask them to tell you what type of candidate they are looking for. You want to ask them thought-provoking questions regarding recent trends in the industry, questions relating to strategy changes that the company is making or the department for which you are applying, and questions about the interviewer’s past experiences.

6. Bring several copies of your resume and thank the interviewer
This is a simple thing to do prior to the interview but it can leave a resounding impact on the interviewer(s). The reason we recommend to bring several copies is because sometimes interviews are held in a panel style or can be with more than one person. Bringing several copies of your resume can allow you to look prepared to handle anything. Moreover, you are supplying each of your interviewers with a copy of your resume without them having to share with another. Thanking them in person with a firm handshake towards the end of the interview can demonstrate your genuine appreciation for their time. These may seem like minute details, but these minute details can make you stand apart from your competition.

7. Send a thank you note
If you send your interviewer a thank you note, you may not automatically get the job offer but you will leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. It is a great gesture of appreciation for the time and energy they invested to interview you. Sometimes sending a handwritten note can mean a lot more to the interviewer than a typed, rather impersonal note.

To get more information on interviewing, please check on our Interviewing Skills Handbook and more blog entries on interviewing. Or you can stop in to Toppel for a Mini-Mock Interview that we offer to students on a walk-in basis!

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Work Your Way Up the Corporate Ladder

Written By Pallavi Pal

So let us assume you’re a recent graduate and you have a job lined up. You’re excited and apprehensive about what the future holds but mostly you’re ready to get out into the workforce and make some hard earned dinero (especially in this economy). What do you have in life to worry about apart from getting the most of your penny pitcher Wednesdays and GroveThursdays?

How do you make sure a job that you’ve been preparing almost twenty-some years for lasts more than three days? Well, believe it or not even if you have just landed a job don’t think that you are out of the frying pan yet. There’s still a lot that you can do to be proactive about the keeping the position you have and moving up the corporate ladder.

Here are some tips to help you maneuver the corporate world and make the best of the opportunities in which you are placed.

1. Sweat the small stuff
Although it may not seem like it, the little things in life really do matter and make a difference. If you go above and beyond with the small things then you set in stone a great reputation for yourself. The small things can include double and triple checking a project or presentation to delivering it, wishing those in your office happy birthdays and anniversaries, and simply by paying attention to the details of daily interactions within your office.

2. Network within the company
Everyone always talks about the power of networking, and believe me it is not overrated. Networking may sound painful and time-consuming without a direct reward but in the long-run these networks and schmoozing tactics will get you those elusive positions that you would never have known without developing relationships within your office. A great way to start would be by having lunch with a different person in a different office per week. You can reach out to them via email about their work or through others within your department. Always remember to reflect a positive image of yourself by building relationships instead of pretentious simpering and scheming. If you need more advice and tips take a look at these previous Toppel networking blogs for more info: Get Your Game Face On and How to Network

3. Be passionate about what you do
You want to give off the impression that you care deeply about what you do. You want your enthusiasm and dedication to shine through your work. The best way to show your passion for the work is by 1) asking for more work when you have little to do and 2) take an initiative to learn about the industry and your job in your own spare time. Even though it means taking more time out of your personal life for work, learning more about your industry can make it easier to network with individuals higher up in your company by having more common ground to talk about and also can give you an edge in terms of coming up with new, profound ideas based on market behavior.

4. Be a leader
Be someone to take charge when the situation calls for it. Leaders are responsible, headstrong, mature, knowledgeable about the job and, most importantly, know how to generate creative, out-of-the-box ideas. If you act like a leader, everyone in your office will look to you for advice, support and help. When your superiors see that you are the go-to person, they will put you in a position of leadership as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Travel as a Student

By Marlo Wyant

All students should take advantage of travel opportunities while they are still in college. There are myriads of travel opportunities for college students that will never be encountered quite the same way again once they graduate. Unless you are like George Clooney in Up in the Air, once work begins and you are limited to just two to three weeks’ vacation time, your travel prospects become minimized. Traveling can broaden one’s cultural perspective, help learn a new language and discover interests not previously known. Whether traveling abroad or staying within the United States, there are many modes of participating in enriching experiences, many of which have scholarship and funding opportunities.

1.) Study Abroad

One of the best and more practical ways to gain extensive foreign travel experience is to participate in the study abroad program at the University of Miami or other partnering institutions of higher learning.
The University of Miami has an excellent study abroad program for students of all majors and varying language proficiencies. The U has partnerships with over 80 universities in 32 countries around the world, including Spain, the Galapagos Islands, and China. You have the option of studying abroad for a semester or up to one full year, all while gaining college credits towards your UM degree. With the world at your feet, why would you not take advantage of this opportunity? Check out the University of Miami Study Abroad Program at

Another program to consider is the Semester at Sea program by the University of Virginia. Semester at Sea is one very unique opportunity that allows college students of any major take university courses while living aboard a ship and traveling around the world. The trips can last as long as 111 days during the semester or as short as 20 days in the summer. Most recently, the Fall 2011 semester trip lasted 111 days and traveled to 14 different countries including Canada, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, Panama, Vietnam and more. Check out the Semester at Sea program at

2.) Participate in a University of Miami Intersession Trip

The University of Miami is fortunate enough to offer international travel opportunities for students during its winter and spring breaks, while providing academic credit. Accessed through the UM Study Abroad office, intersession travels have several programs open to a variety of majors. This coming semester, there are sessions held in countries like Argentina, Italy, Panama, Peru, Spain, and England. Typically these sessions only last one to two weeks but expose students to the cultural diversity of the world and also provide them with three academic credits. Check it out at

3.) Travel with a Club or Competition

With nearly 180 clubs and organization at the University of Miami, there are ample opportunities to travel for competitions, community service projects, conferences, and sometimes for free. UM Alternative Breaks participates in community service trips each fall and spring semester to places like New Orleans, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Engineers Without Borders has had several major service project trips to Peru that were fully funded. The UM fencing club recently traveled to Philadelphia to compete in a national competition. Members of the Society of Women Engineers traveled to Chicago, Illinois for the national conference at nearly no cost and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers traveled to Anaheim, California at nearly no cost to the students.

With these eye-opening cultural experiences available, there is no reason why students should not be able to take at least one trip away from their home and the University of Miami during their student careers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Creating an Online Presence

Written By Monica Page

When many people think of creating an online presence their mind automatically goes to creating a Facebook or LinkedIn page. Although social media can be a beneficial addition to your job search, it is also important to use other outlets to expand your reach. Whether it is creating a personal website or ensuring that employers are able to look at your complete employment history, using online components can simplify your job search and make it easier for recruiters to find you.

Online and Offline Components
It is important that what you present online and what you present in person are the same. Resumes have a certain amount of available space to fill with information. With an online version, it may be possible to extend the document to more than a standard page. Your print resume, which should not be longer than a page, can be tailored to a specific position. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position the resume you present should touch on your experience relevant to that position. If you have an excess amount of non-relevant experience, have the information readily available on your LinkedIn profile with a link to the page on your resume. This way, you are presenting the employer with the relevant experience first and if they want to know more about you everything is readily available to look through.

Central Hub/ Official Website
An easier and more creative way to develop an online presence is to create a simple online “landing page” for recruiters to access with links to all your various social networking websites and webpages. Free websites such as and allow you to create and edit websites that contain all of your social media channels and any additional information you would like to have. The benefit of using these channels is that they are both free and require no HTML or web design experience to manage. In the simplest terms, your personal website should act as an RSS feed for yourself. Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and any other relevant websites you may be a part of should be linked to your personal website. Recruiters don’t want to sit and type in every single social media URL you have, it is best to just provide them with a simple link that they can click through for all your information.

Visual Resume
This may be more along the lines of creative careers, but visual-based resumes are becoming more popular. Whether you create an infographic or chart chronicling your employment experience and skills, it is best if they are accessible online in addition to paper versions. The reason for this is to ensure that all the colors and graphical quality are seen in their best representation on a computer screen. Depending on the employer (or your own) printer, quality may be lost which could look bad on your part especially if you are applying for a position in advertising or graphic design.

Social Media
A simple Google search can reveal the content you post on social media, so it may be wise to just provide the links to the recruiters, especially if you are applying for a position in either marketing or communications. Social media is the double-edged sword where you are made to believe that what you post is private, but it actually isn’t. The best advice would be to either keep your social media channels clean enough that if an employer finds them and searches through them, they won’t be discouraged from hiring you or to just not have them at all. It may be heartbreaking to close your Facebook, but one misplaced photo from South Beach could make or break your job search.

It is possible to begin your job search without a proper online presence, but it will make you look a little dated. For careers in communications it may be expected to have personal websites and social media channels versus those looking for careers in the field of law and medicine. The benefit of the Internet and technology is that you can create and delete what you feel is and is not relevant to your job search. When deciding on what you feel you need, put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter and think of the best way to search for and obtain information on multiple candidates.