Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who Says Your Career Can't Be a Vacation?

By Christian Garcia

As I pondered what to write about for my blog entry, I found myself thinking back to my summer vacation last month. A group of my friends and I traveled to San Francisco, enjoyed a few days in Sonoma, and capped off the trip with a visit to Hawaii. Needless to say, it was an amazing trip! Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel and that I love what I do for a living. Therefore, it made sense to tie my love for travel with tips for career success.
Build Bridges

San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world; it’s a place where people can freely express themselves and be accepted for who they are. On top of that, it has amazing cuisine and lots of cool and unique neighborhoods. Of course, you can’t think of San Francisco without the iconic Golden Gate Bridge coming to mind. As we rode atop a double-decker bus (and froze even though it was July), I couldn’t help but think about how important it is to build and sustain bridges in one’s life, especially when looking for a job. That said, it is sometimes difficult for college students to put themselves out there and begin building these important relationships. As you can see from the picture, we couldn’t see the other side of the bridge because of all the fog. Oftentimes in life we can’t see what’s ahead of us but we take the leap anyway. Making connections is no different; it takes being a little vulnerable and having faith that although it may take a little while, great things come from building bridges. 

Follow the “Crooked” Yellow Brick Road

A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a car ride down Lombard Street, which has eight very tight hairpin turns in just a one block stretch! Dozens of people crowd around the top of the steep hill to take pictures of cars winding their way down this crazy street. This got me thinking: Sometimes people view their career in a linear fashion: I have to do A to get to B before getting to C. Well if there’s one thing Lombard Street teaches us, it’s that more often than not, there are twists and turns (sometimes difficult ones) in our careers but we still ultimately get to where we are supposed to go. While it’s great to plan – and we do preach planning at Toppel – it’s also important to remember that life’s detours often provide us with the best experiences. Not to mention all the fun that awaits these unexpected deviations to our plans.

See the Light

During our visit, we took a day trip to Muir Woods, which is filled with breathtaking and towering Redwood trees. It was pretty cool to drive just 12 miles out of the city and find ourselves surrounded by such beautiful nature. I know my friends will read this and laugh because I’m not your typical “outdoorsy/one-with-nature” kind of guy but I can certainly appreciate beauty when I see it! Several things popped into my mind as I wandered among those giant trees. First, sometimes looking for a job feels like an overwhelming process; it can easily become all-consuming. Therefore, it’s important to take time to stop and just “be”. Sometimes it takes a simple change of pace to see things more clearly and gain a better perspective. The other thing that sprung to mind was a result of taking the picture you see here. Managing everything in your life (school, work, internships, job searching, etc.) can sometimes feel like a never-ending journey but there is always a light at the end of that journey. As I looked up to the trees and saw the sun beaming through, I couldn’t help but feel relaxed and at peace with many of the things I’m juggling in life. 

Take Time for “Career Tasting”

One of the highlights of our trip was spending time in the Sonoma wine country. Sonoma is such a laid back and idyllic place, which makes it so hard to say goodbye. Of course, for wine lovers like me, it’s among the best places to sample many different types of wine. As my friends and I drove around Sonoma and stopped at the many wineries, we not only had a chance to taste fantastic wines, we also got to learn the history behind each winery and the folks who work there. Therefore, think of your career as one big wine sampling trip: take the time to test out different careers (shadowing and internships) and ask successful individuals for a few minutes of their time to learn about their career path and passions. Just like not every wine is going to be pleasing to one’s palette, some of the careers you try out may be the opposite of what you’re looking for…and that’s okay! Better to try it and know rather than always wondering “what if?”

Taking a hot air balloon ride has always been on my Bucket List and I’m happy to say I was able to scratch it off the list during my time in Sonoma. What better way to view the beautiful Sonoma sunrise than in a hot air balloon with your closest friends? Although I’m not a huge fan of heights, I could not let the opportunity pass me by (there’s a lesson in there). More importantly, the same way the balloons in the picture you see here aren’t meant to stay grounded, neither are we as individuals. I never understood why “being grounded” is viewed by many as such a good trait in people. Know your true value and what you have to offer and use it to stretch and soar in your career. The ride may be a little bumpy and scary at times, but I think we can all agree: a hot air balloon sitting on the ground is just not as cool as one floating up and away!
Wait for the Rainbow

During our time in Hawaii, we visited two of its islands, Oahu and the Big Island, and they couldn’t be more different from each other! While Oahu is fast-paced, the Big Island is totally laid back and relaxing. My favorite part of Oahu was visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial…it’s a must-see! On the Big Island, we visited Volcanoes National Park and got to see some really cool active craters. That said, the picture shown here reminds us of the dangers Mother Nature brings us. As I equated this to one’s career, I couldn’t help but think of all the potential pitfalls and dangers that await us. We are all going to make mistakes and we will most likely encounter individuals who don’t have our best interests at heart. But as you can also see in the picture, out of darkness comes light…in this case, a rainbow. So whether you have no idea what you want to do for a living or hate your current job or you’re pondering a career change, be patient and just wait for the rainbow.

Have Fun!

We have a saying at Toppel: “We take our work seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.” If there’s one final career tip I can leave you with, it is to HAVE FUN! Yes, it’s scary to embark on your life after college or to take a risk on a new career or business endeavor, but it is also all about your perspective. The unknown is much easier to face when you’re having a good time. Also, there isn’t a rule that says you can’t have fun in your career. So take some time to laugh, act silly, and most importantly, surround yourself with those who care about you the most. Sure, six grown men wearing “hi” shirts to a Hawaiian Luau is silly (and a little embarrassing) but who cares? Everyone knew we were there to have fun and many even said “hi” back!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Step Up Your Job Search

By Aileen Lopez

Finding a job in today’s economy is no easy task.  However, there are opportunities out there that you may not be aware of.  The best way to find a job is to get out from behind the computer and start talking to people and building relationships.  Here are 4 ways to step up your job search:

When speaking to a potential employer about the type of job you are looking to obtain, it is essential to be clear as to what your career goals are.  Avoid telling potential employers you’ll “do anything.”  Recruiters want to know you are clear and focused on your goals.
Your resume should be updated at least every 6 months.  You want to be prepared in case someone asks you for a copy of your resume.  When applying for a job, utilize the job description to modify your resume for that particular position.

Once you have a clear understanding of what your career goals and interests are, it is important to keep up with current events.  You want to be able to chat about what is happening in the industry you are trying to tap into.  Staying up to date with your industry of interest allows you to contribute to conversations with recruiters and/or people in your network.  Also, do your research on the companies you are targeting as potential employers.  Recruiters know when someone hasn’t taken the time to do so.

Networking is the best way to find a job.  People tend to do business primarily with people they know and like.  Although most job announcements require a resume and cover letter, this alone can be very impersonal.  Networking may lead you to information about a job that may not yet be advertised.  Try attending as many networking events as possible.  Once you collect a business card at an event, make a note for yourself on the back of the card with information about how you met this new contact.  Include the date, the event where you met and a bit of information regarding your conversation.  This information is helpful for follow-up purposes.  Whether following up via an e-mail or a handwritten note, you can reference the conversation you had with them to help them remember you.  At networking events you can potentially end up speaking with a lot of new people, so this technique will help you keep track.  Always remember, networking is about building relationships. 

If you have any questions or need assistance stepping up your job search, please contact the Toppel Career Center at 305-284-5451 or visit us at

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Making Yourself Indispensable to the Boss

By Ali Rodriguez 
Bosses tend to be busy people; multiple priorities, pressing deadlines, and staff to lead. It can be overwhelming at times, and there are certain employees who rise to the occasion to make themselves indispensable to their supervisor and team. I want to share a story about one of my staff members who has done this successfully, so much so that when she graduated recently I was concerned about who would pick up the slack! 

Consider this when you begin an internship, part-time position, or full-time job: employees who leave a legacy work hard and produce results, but are also invaluable because of their willingness to be a team player. This may seem obvious to some, but it is incredibly important. On that first day, when you jump out of bed and report to the job, you are thrilled to be there. Take the first day or week to absorb the office culture, get a sense of your responsibilities, and ask many questions. I recommend that one of those questions be: “What can I do to help?” 

You may be thinking “They will ask me if they need help,” but remember that supervisors’ work days are demanding. They may have discussed your career interests and helped you to set goals based on the job description. Now, they may assume that you are all set. But how else can you step up and offer assistance so you will be valued? Consider the important trends in your industry and at the workplace. How can you assist the boss in being more effective is his/her job? 

  1. Offer to help with projects that may not be glamorous. Often times, you learn more about the organization by doing these “fun” tasks. 
  2. Anticipate your boss’s needs. It takes time to get to know your supervisor and you will develop an ability to do this if you pay attention. 
  3. Show a passion for what you do. Enthusiasm is contagious, and it will be quickly noticed if you are enjoying your experience, even if it is not exactly what you plan to be doing for the rest of your career. 
For the past twelve years of working at the Toppel Career Center, one staff member in particular stands out to me as working incredibly hard and making herself indispensable. As a graduate assistant, she was responsible for helping students with resume critiques, presenting programs on interviewing and other career-related topics, and marketing the Toppel Career Center’s programs and services. However, she always took it a step further and went above and beyond. For example, she stayed on as an assistant for the summer after her first year and worked at the front desk. While this was technically a junior position to what she had already done, but she did it with a smile every day. During that time, she also provided support for our Toppel Internship Program and we valued her attention to detail. In essence Thaimi Fina was really the person who could do it all. So, this blog kills two birds with one stone. I get to share my thoughts on the subject and give thanks to Thaimi, who earned a Master of Science in Education in Marriage and Family Therapy, and will be starting a position at the FIU Counseling Center. Thanks Thaimi and we will miss you!