Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Get the Job AND (maybe) the Girl

Written by Thien Van Tran

It’s almost back-to-school time! I know most of you are still on vacation now, but it’s never a bad time brush up on your professional skills. The University of Miami has a very diverse student population originating from all over the world, which may make it very difficult for you to interview for positions back home or in other locations. That’s what makes the phone interview so attractive; it’s a simple solution that’s unaffected by distance. I have had numerous phone interviews throughout this previous semester, and I know that many of my peers have as well. Although I had very little experience as to how to conduct myself during a phone interview, I am very happy to say that I’ve just completed the first part of my internship for this summer using the very tips I am about to share! Once again, I understand that it is summer and you may think you have better things to do, but hey, writing these posts is very involved and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears time goes into them. My witty sense of humor has been known to induce knee-slapping laughs on rare occasions, and almost all the time. You know how many clever remarks I’ve written so far? “Five?” I was going to say three, but you’re trying to be nice to me on my big day, I get it.

The phone interview is much like a date. You want to convince your date that you’re the one he/she wants to take home to his/her parents. You want to look good. In fact, you want to look so good that when he/she does take you home, the parents are the ones who get nervous meeting you.

Phase 1: Research
You need to know what you’re up against. What are his/her hobbies? What does he/she like? As is the case with any interview, you will need to do a little research to know the company or organization. You can never know too much, and being well-informed will give the interviewer the impression that you are genuinely interested. You should obviously know the basic ideals of the company, its industry, projects, etc. If it becomes apparent to the interviewer that you are uninformed, not only will it be considered rude that you did not take the short time to educate yourself while they are putting forth the effort to speak and possibly hire you, it will look downright embarrassing.

Try to find something that really intrigues you. This may come up as a topic of dialogue, especially if they decide to ask you why you are eager to work for their company. If possible, you should also research the specific individual with whom you will be interviewing with. However, there is one minor difference here, between the date and the interview. You should not openly admit that you’ve done your research on her. Will telling her that you’ve stalked her on Facebook make you all the more irresistible? Not a chance. Creep her out? Every time.

Phase 2: The Date
Be punctual. No one likes waiting. Heck, I’ve yet to make a real batch of brownies. I’d rather have a warm chocolate soup than wait 35 minutes for brownies. Your interviewer will call you, whether or not you’re ready. Missing that first call will undoubtedly start things off on a terrible note. If it’s scheduled to begin extremely early in the morning, like 11:00AM or some other ridiculous time, be sure to wake up at least an hour prior. You don’t want to get caught off guard.

“I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public”

Since the interviewer(s) cannot see you, the only aspect upon which they may judge you is your voice. It should be enthusiastic, responsive, and show interest. It’s okay to be a little nervous, but just remember that you were chosen for a reason. Your merits and qualifications have been considered and you were deemed capable. The same goes for the date. She (or he) has decided to accept your invitation, so in the very least you must appear to be a good choice. So be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

Make sure you are in a quiet setting where you receive a strong wireless signal, if you are using a cellular device. I will admit that phone interviews may put you at a slight disadvantage compared to someone participating in a face-to-face interview. You cannot see your interviewer, and some people’s voices are so flat that trying to read them is like trying to decipher the expression of the Sphinx. But, there are also some advantages. For one, you do not have to dress up. Although, some people find that dressing professionally, even when the other person cannot see you, will be beneficial in the sense that it will get you in the right mindset, so you may want to do so anyway. If you are not very comfortable with eye contact, or are unsure of how much eyeball action you should give, you’re in luck! Also, if you are nervous about any material that may be asked of you regarding your resume, you may have that in front of you to use as a referernce. And, FUN FACT, if you bring in your resume to the Toppel Career Center, you will have access to many professonals who will be able to help you make it better by removing all of your words and replacing it with their own. Just kidding.

Phase 3: Wrapping it Up
When the interview is coming to a close, you will be offered a chance to ask questions, if you have any. You do. In the case with your hot date, you never want to appear self-centered and talk only about yourself. Many people love to talk about themselves, and all they need is a willing set of ears to get going. So ask her sincere questions of interest and let her open up. Going back to your potential employer, you may ask about the specific internship/job projections for the summer, or about any developments you may have heard of within the corporation, or other projects that are currently underway that you may be involved in. Just don’t say that you don’t have any questions, or that the interviewer has already answered them in previous statements, as this will make you appear indifferent. However, never ask a question for the sake of having one; like the (awful) movie Battleship, you will sound “incredibly dumb.” But hey, those are Rotten Tomatoes’ words, not mine. Although, mine would have been exactly the same.

Phase 4: The Waiting Game
When the questions are all done, be sure to thank your interviewer for his or her time. If you are interested, you may want to ask what their timeline looks like in regards to making a hiring decision. Try not to seem too pushy though. Be sure to send a 'thank you' letter / email to each interviewer. Now comes the hard part. Waiting for someone who may never call you back can be frustrating, and quite discouraging. Some companies will notify you almost immediately, while others will wait months to let you know. If it turns out that a few opportunities don’t work out the way you had hoped, don’t give up so easily. Keep scheduling those interviews while working to improve and it will pay off eventually. A wise man once said, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.” Never have I heard truer words.

If she never calls you back, hey, there’s nothing you can do about it. From my own experience after the first date, people are either going to hate you, or they’re going to really dislike you. But in all seriousness, don’t let it get to you. “It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out? Ah, but what if it does..?” – Peter McWilliams.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Communication in the Workplace

By Thaimi Fina

For students embarking on their first job or internship, communicating with colleagues and supervisors can be intimidating and uncomfortable.  However, mastering this skill is crucial for building and maintaining lasting professional relationships with your co-workers. Strong communication skills can also help you to stand out as a genuine and confident person at your workplace.  To emphasize this point, here are three situations where it is imperative that you speak up and communicate effectively.

1. When you need help or guidance.
So, you’re currently working on three projects with quickly approaching deadlines when your supervisor stops by your desk and asks you to take on one more.  “Sure!” you say enthusiastically.  Cue panic response.  To make matters worse you have no clue how to accomplish this project and your supervisor provided minimal direction.  OK, now we’re really panicking.  This situation happens more often than you would think and it’s important that you learn how to adapt early on in your career.  To resolve this dilemma I propose the radical solution of (you guessed it) communicating! 

Avoid burning out with a plate full of unfinished projects by talking to your colleagues and seeing if they could help.  Perhaps one of them could assist you in making progress on one project while you diligently work on another (learning to delegate is also a valuable skill to hone in the workplace).  Or maybe they have experience in deciphering your boss’s enigmatic assignments and can provide valuable insights into the project.  If your co-workers are also clueless about what your supervisor expects, I would encourage you to speak with your supervisor and ask for clarification to ensure that you meet and exceed those expectations.  Communicating with colleagues and seeking their assistance in your work shows your team members that you value their input and prevents you from becoming overwhelmed by your workload.  This collaboration could also spark new ideas, promoting innovation and producing even stronger outcomes than if you had attempted the project on your own. 

2. When you’re bored or unsatisfied.

So, the work that you’re doing has become repetitive and boring.  You feel unchallenged and don’t feel that your skills are being utilized to their full potential.  As a result, you’ve become disengaged, cranky, and you dread coming to work every day.  Now, more than ever, it’s important for you to SPEAK UP!  (Perhaps in a more tactful way than Peter Gibbons did in Office Space…)

Whenever I speak with students in our Toppel Internship Program who don’t feel challenged enough by their internships, I always encourage them to ask for more.  If you’ve had your eye on a project your colleagues have been developing, don’t be afraid to ask if there’s any way you can help!  Most people are not going to turn down an extra pair of hands because, let’s face it, we’re all stressed and a little overworked.  Asking to become involved in more challenging assignments also shows initiative and demonstrates that you are a team-player.  As an intern, there may be limitations to the projects in which you may become involved.  The interns that I always find most impressive are the ones who overcome those limitations by creating their own projects.  Brainstorm new initiatives that could benefit the company or identify ways to improve the company’s current way of doing things.  You could pitch these ideas to your supervisor and offer to take the lead on the project.  By communicating with your supervisor and finding challenging projects to keep you motivated, you will begin to feel more engaged and establish yourself as a more valuable employee.

3. When you’ve messed up.

Alright.  So that dreaded moment of imperfection finally happened, showing everyone in your office that you are indeed (GASP) human.  You missed an important deadline, you came in an hour late, or you failed to catch a significant error in a report.  Whatever the mistake was, your response is likely to be consistent: you’re freaking out.  First and foremost, my advice to you is: relax, breathe, and stop beating yourself up for it because trust me it was bound to happen sooner or later.  Once you’ve composed yourself, it’s important to deal with this incident head on.  Avoiding your supervisor or pretending that it didn’t happen will only reflect poorly on you and cause others to perceive you as immature or apathetic. 

Set up a time to meet with your supervisor or colleague in person (a phone call, text, or e-mail can all be perceived as avoidant tactics and make it difficult to deduce your tone).  Be honest.  Tell your supervisor what happened and genuinely apologize for your mistake.  Before you go into this meeting, it’s also important to think about how you can fix or improve the situation or reduce the risk that it will happen again.  Present these ideas to your supervisor to show him or her that you have reflected on your mistake and are developing an action plan.  This also demonstrates that you are learning from your mistakes and are less likely to repeat them. 

After this conversation is complete, that’s when the real communication begins.  Remember that actions always speak louder than words.  Put those words into practice.  Double check your work.  Set three alarms if you have to.  Keep better track of your deadlines by purchasing an agenda.  Whatever action plan you devised, follow through with it!  Everyone makes occasional mistakes at work, but it’s how you recover from them that distinguishes a strong employee from a weak one. 

Communicating with higher-ups will always be somewhat intimidating and uncomfortable.  However, I hope that these examples have shown you the value of speaking up and how it can truly transform your experience in the workplace.  And like any other skill, it’s not going to hone itself.  So start now!  Speak your mind in a tactful and professional way and see the difference it can make in your career.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Your Pink Jeans Are Cute, Just Not Professional

By Veronica Soto

It is summertime and I’m sure that after your internship you are thinking about the beach and catching up with friends home from school for the summer.  The last thing you want to hear about is preparing for Career Expo and on-campus interviews in the fall, but I promise this will not be a lecture.  Today, I just want to talk to you about the importance of your professional appearance when you do come back to campus.  I’m talking about the way you present yourself to a potential employer.  Career Expo will have about 1000 students and alumni in attendance, all vying for internships and full-time opportunities so you want to be sure that you present yourself at your best. 

By now, you should have your social media privacy settings on lock.  Employers should only be able to find your appropriate Facebook profile picture and your LinkedIn profile.  Managing your online profile, that is the easy part.  What do you do when you are in front of the employer?  Does how you are dressed make or break your opportunity with an employer?  In a perfect world, if you are the best person for the job, no.  We live in the real world and competition is fierce, especially for the really cool and really competitive opportunities.  If an employer is going to decide between candidates that have similar backgrounds, do you think they will go for the student dressed in a suit or the student that looks like he slept in his clothes?  While any other day, your wrinkled T’s are an acceptable outfit to wear to class, it is not acceptable for Expo or other career events.  You are not helping yourself by doing this.

The truth is, you need to be able to look your best.  I don’t mean that you have to be dressed in a Hugo Boss suit with Ferragamo shoes sporting your Rolex.   

Truth is, you don’t need an expensive outfit to look put together and professional.  Even discount retailers like Target and JCPenney, carry inexpensive lines of professional clothing.   You can even borrow a suit from a friend, we won’t tell anyone!


So please, do not show up to Career Expo or other career events in mini-skirts, jeans, polo shirts or turquoise pants.  We require professional attire because we want University of Miami students and alumni to continue to stand out to employers and part of standing out is your taking time to make sure you have a professional appearance.  We want you to succeed.  

If you have questions about your Expo attire, feel free to stop by or give us a call.  We have examples the difference between Professional and Business Casual attire on HireACane

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Toppel Stars: Daniela Noguera

Meet Daniela Noguera, a University of Miami senior currently working as a Web Producer at Telemundo Networks/NBC Universal.  Daniela will graduate from UM in May 2013 with majors in Broadcast Journalism and International Relations.  We asked Daniela to share how she found this position and offer any advice for other Canes going through the job search process.

 How did you find out about the position?

I was contacted by my mentor who took care of me while I interned in the Telemundo Digital Media department in fall 2011. The funny thing was that she wrote on my Facebook wall saying "Dani, what are you doing for the next few months?" and the rest is history.

Did you have internships before applying for the job?

Yes, I had an internship with Telemundo's Digital Media Department. Then, I was hired to work for them in May 2012.

What was the interview and recruitment process like? 

Everything was smooth, as if it was meant to be. In fact, I believe it was meant to be. From the moment I set foot in Telemundo's offices, I knew I was in the right place.

What made you choose the company?

NBCUniversal and Telemundo have a special characteristic that no other company/network has. There is a sense of unity, growth and innovation. Telemundo is a family, that wants all of its people to succeed. They encourage you to put your ideas and have a voice. Its pure love for what I have for NBCU and Telemundo. 

If you could give one piece of advice to other job seekers, what would it be?

Just be yourself, show people what you can bring to the table. Remember, you are 1 in 6 billion, we all think and act differently, so everyone has something new to offer. Do not be afraid to think outside the box and express your ideas, but most importantly, always have faith. 


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Heat is On! Calling All Interns

By Frits Bigham

There is no doubt about it – It is Hot!  97 in New York, 106 in Atlanta, 101 in Chicago, the last few weeks of summer have been full of Heat.  Miami has been no different but our Heat hasn’t been coming from the skies.  It was on the court.  Miami is now the proud home of the 2012 NBA Champions - The Miami Heat. Some are saying finally, many are still hating on LeBron, and others could care less about the NBA. Whatever the case may be the Heat was on LeBron James to win a championship.  

Besides the Heat on the courts and coming from the skies, there is another area the temperature is rising: in offices throughout the country and the world.  The Heat I’m referring to is your summer internships (come on – you had to see that coming at some point – this is a Career Services blog!).   Most interns are halfway through their summer internships and this is a critical and crucial time to assess and evaluate your internship experience.

What have you been working on?  What projects have you had the opportunity to be a part of? How have you been able to improve on your skills or what skills have you developed? What aspect (s) of your internship are you proud of? What is something you wish you would have the opportunity to work on that you haven’t?  Who have you not yet been able to work with or what department (s)?  How has this internship affected your personal career development?  Do you want to work for this company after graduation?  Think about and start answering these questions.  It is important that you begin managing your career now because whether you realize it or not The Heat is On.

Now that you have reflected on the first half of your internship, let’s focus on the second half.  Here are some tips as you approach this time.

  • Step up your networking:  You know that person you have been telling yourself to reach out to about their job/career path/story?  Well the time has come to reach out and set up a time to get to know them better.  Ask them to get coffee or request a meeting. Don’t wait until your last week to build this connection.
  • Deliver on your promises: Reflect on what you said you wanted to accomplish at your internship when you first started.  Have you been able to meet your own expectations or will you do so by the end of your internship?  If not, this is the time to make changes so that you will be able to achieve your goals.
  • Exceed expectations: At this point of your internship you are expected to have mastered your everyday tasks and be a productive member of the team.  This is the time to turn up the heat and exceed your supervisor’s expectations.  Remember, the average intern is not one who is offered the full time position.
  • Ask for a new project: If you are finding yourself not being challenged at your internship, ask for more!  Many supervisors aren’t aware that their interns need a new project.   Also, before you ask for a new project it is always good to brainstorm a few projects that would benefit the company and you would enjoy working on.
  • Let the summer heat wave get to you: Rehydrate, Refresh, and Replenish.  Don’t begin to settle or just start going through the motions at your internship.  Just because your boss might be on vacation for a week or so doesn’t mean this is time for you to have your own vacation.  Make sure you have ample work to do and if you feel like you don’t, take the initiative and ask for more!  Organizations love initiative and this will help you set yourself apart.      
  • Forget your career plans: Start thinking about your next career aspiration.  For some it will be another internship and for others it will be looking for your first job after graduation.   Begin lining up your connections and start having conversations about potential opportunities.  Create your LinkedIn profile now!
  • Celebrate before it is over:  Hopefully there will be some sort of celebration at the end of your internship and you should be grateful for this.  However, this should be at the end not the whole last week of your internship.  If you do start celebrating early, more than likely your boss will keep you in check (Just ask Mario Chalmers in Game 5 – must see video).  Don’t be the Mario Chalmers in your office.
  • Fail to thank your supervisor (s), co-workers and office: Write thank you notes or emails to respective parties. 

Hopefully you realize that the Heat is On in terms of your summer internship and are able to rise to the occasion and create a positive reputation for yourself!  Too many interns don’t realize the plethora of opportunities they had at their disposal until their internships are over.   Please don’t be that intern. Time to turn up the Heat because if not I’m sure the intern next to you will. And who doesn’t want to be the MVP?

Further, check out the song that has been stuck in my head for over the last month…The Heat is On.  Thank you Glenn Frey for my inspiration for this blog post.