Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Who'da Thunk?

By Thien Van Tran

Did you know?

So you’re a student at the University of Miami, or maybe even a recent graduate. Obviously, you decided to come here to place yourself in a position near South Beach to obtain a desirable job. But the journey is a perilous one, with many, many routes. And much like encountering the massive gum and candy smorgasbord presented to you while waiting in line at the grocery store, you ask yourself, “There are so many choices, but which is the right one for me?” Without guidance, it’s very difficult to get to where you want to be, or to even know where you want to go. But I bet you didn’t know, this is exactly (probably) what the Toppel Career Center was created for.

The Toppel Career Center, located inconspicuously on the corner of Stanford Circle, provides all the resources that can help you secure the position you want. Advisors are available to answer any questions, workshops are presented to provide tips to improve various aspects of professional life, and endless networking opportunities are available with numerous companies. So, think you’re giving yourself the best possible chance at landing that coveted position without taking advantage of what the Toppel Career Center has to offer? (Spoiler: no).

Cave of Wonders

Picture somewhat unrelated

Now you may or may yes be pondering how I myself was able to discover this cave of wonders. Well I happen to be the newest Toppel Peer Advisor, and only recently have I been able to realize the vast amount opportunities that I’ve been neglecting every time I’ve walked passed this building without so much as a glance. Let me break it down for you.

Resumes, Cover Letters, and Personal Statements

Whether you have a resume created or not, we can help. For those who have no idea where to begin, there are free guides to writing the ideal document to market your experiences. These contain formatting tips, specific “rules,” as well as numerous examples to help you create your own. For those who have already completed a draft, you are welcome to bring it in and get it critiqued one-on-one. No appointments necessary! The same applies to cover letters and personal statements.

Interviewing Skills

Remember the last time you walked into an interview utterly unprepared and completely uninformed, but somehow managed to secure the position? Me neither. One doesn't simply walk into Mordor land a job by chance. If you’ve never had a professional interview before, it can be an understandably nervous experience. That’s where we come in. Not only do we provide an interviewing skills handbook, we also conduct mock interviews! There are mini-mocks, which are approximately 30-minute sessions, and are done on a walk-in basis. Full-mocks are about an hour long, and an appointment is required. Both of these are tailored to fit your needs, whether it is a graduate school interview, or a business internship. You know you’ve got the skills and talent that the interviewer is looking for in a candidate, so all you have to do is make sure they know it as well. We can help you exude that confidence!

Hi my name’s Thien, but you can call me later

Internships and Jobs

Now I’ve always heard that having internship experience is critical if I want to be able to find a job upon graduation, but how do I go about getting one of these things? The hardest step is usually getting your information out there in the real world for employers to see. Fortunately, we have a website dedicated to showing you positions employers are wishing to fill. Not only can you view these jobs, but once you make an account on this website and upload a resume, you can directly apply to these jobs instantly! The website is, and is completely free!

But let’s say you don’t find any openings that pique your interest online. In this case, I’d recommend that you go to the Career Expo that is held every semester. There, you’ll be able to meet directly with recruiters and give out resumes like candy. If nothing else, this is a great opportunity to network and get to know your prospective employers on a personal level. Talking to someone in person will always give you an advantage over simply applying on a website, and much like Peter Pan, being ahead never gets old.

Act Now!

Who would have thought all these resources were available to students right here on campus? I have barely skimmed the surface of what the Toppel Career Center has to offer, but rather than read my superficial descriptions and somewhat irrelevant analogies of everything we have to offer, make like a baby and head out to our office and see for yourself! And unlike reading the Twilight books, you won’t regret it, nor be embarrassed to tell your friends about it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Get Accredited: Acing the Med School Interview

Written By: Priyanka Surio
The most common misconception is that you don’t have to prepare for your medical school interview, but that’s the difference between those students that get their foot in the door and those that can actually walk through it to the other side, the medical student side.

How to prepare for the medical school interview? Includes tips, preparation, answers, ambiguous questions, ethical questions, and other elements as created by experienced interviewer and author Dr. B Ferdinand of the Gold Standard MCAT-US.

What’s the point?
The admissions committee has already seen your credentials, now they are simply ensuring your maturity and let’s be honest: they want to make sure you aren’t the antisocial psychopath genius who may crack at the slightest bit of pressure. Being a doctor requires outstanding interpersonal and communication skills. You will have to communicate with nurses and other health professionals. You will need to be able to relate to patients in a way that is clear, convincing, and sympathetic to their needs. By getting to know you, the admissions committee can determine whether you are able to effectively relate to others. They conduct their investigation by asking you questions that shed light on your interests, goals, beliefs, and experiences.

The table of traits
Medical school admissions committees are looking for the following traits observable by your interaction with them throughout the interview.
  • Maturity 
  • Communication Skills 
  • Honesty 
  • Motivation 
  • Energy 
  • Confidence 
  • Humility 
  • Compassion 
  • Listening Skills 
  • Sense of Humor 
  • Analytical Skills 
  • Leadership Potential

First impressions are lasting
You are receiving this interview because you have already demonstrated that you are a strong applicant for medical school. You are still being strongly considered, and as such, you should not take the interview lightly. Set the tone for your interview because you have full control over that part of the process. Make sure to show the admissions committee that you are serious about the interview and don’t take this opportunity for granted. Dress the part in full business professional attire, erring on the conservative side. Bring a folder or portfolio with several resumes or CV’s to hand out to each interviewer; it shows preparedness on your behalf. BE ON TIME, and remember fifteen minutes early is on time and on time is late. Look them in the eye with confidence not arrogance. You don’t have the seat in the incoming class yet, so make sure you don’t overstep boundaries by acting like you do. Firm handshakes are a must as they show the key to success: confidence.Once you are in the interview, never forget that a smile goes a long way. Being positive and enthusiastic shows your passion for the field and demonstrates like-ability which is what you need when a group of professionals are staring you down. It shows you cannot be fazed or intimidated, which is an asset for any future doctor who is faced with challenging decisions daily.

The key to success is confidence.
We’ve heard this over and over, but how does one handle curveball questions or those designed to test your potential weaknesses in the application? The secret is to be able to answer each question with confidence giving the impression of a well poised individual under pressure. You have to be able to talk about your weaknesses in a manner where you acknowledge them and demonstrate how you have learned and improved since then. Don’t think of your weakness as a burden, think of it more like a way to show how you overcame, conquered, and learned.  

You know you’re winning when...
The interview shifts from interrogation to dialogue. You want the interview to be a give and take, which means you need to know your stuff. Asking intuitive questions, not only about current healthcare issues, but about the medical school’s specific trends is the key to impressing the committee and breaking the ice. It also creates a more comfortable atmosphere and shows an intellectual adeptness that surpasses the rigid conduct of the interviewer and gets them to loosen their bit and engage in your conversation. It’s about showing your personality and getting the admissions committee to like you. One of my role models, Dr. Benjamin Carson, the youngest pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University and its affiliated hospital, tried this method when interviewing for a one spot residency position within the prestigious institution. He looked for and found a commonality between himself and the interviewer: classical music. The interview ended up being a discussion on classical composers which shifted into a general conversation about Dr. Carson’s life and how he began listening to that type of music. At the end of the “interview” (about an hour later) the interviewer states, “well I suppose I have to carry on with interviewing the other candidates, but let me say it has been an immense pleasure having such an enlightening conversation with you." The next day, Dr. Carson received notification that he had been selected for this extremely competitive residency position. While this may not be a common occurrence, the moral of the story is to find that common thread and expound upon it, really engaging the admissions committee.
Dissecting the Group Interview
The group interview means the committee will be asking questions from more than one candidate. This is an atmosphere that can easily foster cutthroat competition, but it is important to remember that trying to be a know-it-all will not help you in this situation. You will not only be observed on how you answer questions, you will also be observed for how you react when your fellow applicants are speaking. This is where you put your pride aside and hide that scheming jealous face for a more natural, attentive, and most importantly, respectful look. Remember, these applicants are just as intimidated by you and maintaining that mutual respect for them is important. They have had to go through a symmetrical process, with long stressful hours of studying and preparation. Being sympathetic and respectful of your fellow peers shows that you are the bigger man/woman, which to an admissions committee speaks volumes on your character. Being alert also provides you an opportunity to learn. You can always learn something from someone and you may be surprised at what you can use in another interview that a fellow applicant brought up in the group setting. Most importantly, speak up! Just as being respectful of others’ opinions is vital, you also can’t take the route of being so polite that you surpass the opportunity to make your thoughts heard. Making a presence within the group interview is important and can set you apart from the other applicants, which is why when you say something it needs to be insightful or profound, not simply speaking for the sake of being heard. To an admissions committee and the other applicants, talking out of turn or too much can hurt you because it looks unrefined, disrespectful, and is even downright annoying. Overall, look at the group interview as an opportunity to engage with other future doctors and potential classmates.

Toppel can remedy your stress.
At the Toppel Career Center we host mini-mock interviews which typically last 15-20 minutes where we ask you a handful of questions that may be asked in a real interview. Students who have utilized our services before have walked away with more confidence because they know they have received the much needed feedback and suggestions on what to focus on during their interview. Peer advisors go over the interview questions and answers and refer to a rating sheet to explain how you performed under mock settings. You can also schedule mock interviews with advisors that last an hour and require business professional attire, resumes, and have a recording option. In order to schedule a mock interview, you must have attended at least one interview skills workshop. Our website HireACane also has print materials from that workshop. The peer advisors also present on interviewing skills to different student groups or at the career center during various days in the semester. Last but not least, it is important to create, utilize and update your HireACane account that every student at the U has access to via their C number. On the main webpage of your account, a helpful icon titled Optimal Resume has mock interview software and thousands of questions that you have access to.

Check out these websites for more tips

Good Luck!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Toppel Stars: Marlo Wyant

Written By: Priyanka Surio

An Engineer with a Bright Future

Marlo Wyant, originally from Newport, Rhode Island, is on a fast track towards accomplishment, astounding us with her achievement much like a shooting star. She obtained a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and recently graduated in December 2011.

She aspires to be a practicing engineer with a technical career path. She is well on her way with the 4 internships she held throughout her undergraduate career. BMW Manufacturing, GE Engineering, and the Naval Research Laboratory are a few of the big names she has worked for. Currently, she work for Solar Turbines, a company where she started as an intern with. She employed all of the techniques that lead to success upon the culmination of one's undergraduate years:

  • Networking
  • Gaining professional experience
  • Holding more than 1 internship
  • Attending professional conferences that can lead to further opportunities
  • Applying to various opportunities
  • Keeping a handful of options
  • Visiting the Toppel Career Center

But don't just take my word for it. She is also a dazzling star among engineering students, especially when she worked as a Toppel Peer Advisor, reaching out to her fellow engineering peers. Watch the video below to witness how she utilized her years here at UM and how she plans on continuing the pathway towards her blazing future!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Orchestrating your Life in B Major and C Minor

Majors and Minors Fair

Written By: Priyanka Surio

So you want to compose the Soundtrack to Your Life, but you are in need of instruction. You have to take on the challenge of making a decision about your career. The first step to orchestrating your future is finding your calling.

The Orchestra is hosting auditions Wednesday, February 15, from 1-4 p.m. at the UC Rock Plaza and your up. You have your College of Arts and Sciences housing a plethora of the majors and minors at this University, the School of Education, boasting of it's early on hands on immersion in teaching, the Nursing School where real students see real patients, School of Business where your entrepreneurial mind is fostered, and many more that all come together like the players in an orchestra. You just have to find which niche expounds upon your natural talent and passion.

What are the qualifications? It isn't true that you have to be a freshman in order to be allowed in. People find they have multiple interests or discover hidden talents and maybe you are a first semester junior who just had an epiphany. Either way it never hurts to try and the Majors and Minors Fair is just the right place to start organizing, prioritizing, and making headway with your interests.

What if I have stage-fright? Breathe deeply and remember that although you can speak to your adviser, the occasional upperclassmen who has changed their major 5X, or your Mom, nothing can give you a better feel other than speaking with the representatives in each department yourself.

Sing your heart out about what your interests and goals are. When you do this, each department will understand what you are trying to achieve and be able to better identify what major or minor would be most applicable for you.

While some notes may look foreign, you will be amazed at how much you learn about each Department and how this can help you identify what your role is in this greater orchestra. Therefore, it is important to peruse each option with careful consideration, as does the violinist, who uses painstaking effort to clean his bow and tune his strings.

Create your own masterpiece. By the end of the Majors and Minors Fair you should have a clear idea of what your first masterpiece will revolve around. Sure you will have a few hiccups in G minor, but even Mozart didn't play ingeniously at first. He discovered his passion and became a prodigy through dedication to his love for music. You too can become a prodigy within whatever department you choose. Like the famous adage says, "To truly live, you must commit to a cause that you believe in.  Once you find it, do not commit yourself half way; dedicate yourself wholeheartedly"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Freshman Year Tip 1: Create your Resume

By Marissa Bell

Let’s face it, being a freshman is hard. After 4 years, you’re once again at the bottom of the barrel, you don’t know where you’re going, and you occasionally, and accidentally, throw your keys into the lake and have to go in to retrieve them (or maybe that’s just me). And we can all admit it: being on your own for the first time is quite possibly the most exciting experience of your adult life thus far. It’s easy to sit back and say, “Hey, I’m just a freshman; I’ve got all the time in the world, I don’t have to worry about jobs until at least junior year. And besides, where would I even start?” But it’s important to not let yourself think that way. There is always something that can be done, and it’s never too early to start.

So that’s where I come in. As a freshmen working amongst the exponentially more put together upperclassmen at the Toppel Career Center, I’ve been thrown into the world of how to better prepare yourself for life after college before I was even ready to start thinking about it. And after working here for a semester, I’m realizing that it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I’ve had the special privilege of working alongside people who have taken pity of my frazzled freshman self and taught me things that some people don’t start doing until second semester senior year. First bit of advice: Do not start second semester senior year, it is a recipe for disaster and sadness. It seems only fair to pass the knowledge on to my peers to try to avoid said disaster and sadness.

The scariest thing you can do is look at the picture as a whole right now because, quite frankly, it’s overwhelming, and as freshmen, we have an excuse to admit openly that we have absolutely no idea what we want to do with our lives. So to try to figure it out, and to transition smoothly into calm and prepared upperclassmen, over the course of the semester, you can read here for simple tips to achieve just that. Here we go:

Official Tip #1: Create a Resume.

First thing anyone says is, “But I don’t have any experience, what would I put on there?” As a freshman, it’s OK to have things from high school, to put that you were a babysitter or a life guard, or to mention that you were president of the school Ecology Club. While it might seem embarrassing now, the important thing is to beef up your resume so you can get more professional experience to eliminate those high school bullet points.

Easiest way to make one of these? Come into Toppel and get one of our resume guides or click here to download from our website. All you have to do is pick a format you like, and then put your information in. It’s better to put as much as you can think of and then edit down later.

Once you have your resume rough draft, you can come to the career center Monday through Thursday 10:00-4:30, and we’ll help you edit it, no appointment necessary. The reason writing a resume needs to be your first step is because once you have a resume online at our website,, you can apply to internships, part time and full time jobs, get 250 business cards for only 10 dollars (which, let me tell you, make you feel pretty awesome), and so many other things.

So, there’s the first official Toppel Tip, stay tuned to find out more ways that you can become a prepared and put together freshman!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Using your Greek ties to network | USA TODAY College

Toppel's Executive Director, Christian Garcia, and Assistant Director for Recruiting Services, Natalie de Rojas, are in USA Today College, written by Nancy Oben, UM Student:

Using your Greek ties to network | USA TODAY College