Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Day at Design Miami: My UShadow Experience

Written By: Kathryn Hornbeck

When I learned who my UShadow host was, I did what any curious mind would do and Googled the man, Brandon Grom, and the company, Design Miami. The former was easy to understand – he was a recent UMiami graduate with a business degree who worked a series of odd jobs before becoming an exhibit coordinator at Design Miami. The latter, however, flummoxed me. The website was incomprehensible, and for the life of me I could not figure out what it was they actually did.

Not wanting to sound silly for not understanding his company’s purpose, I readily admit that I went to the office, located in the beautiful Design District, during spring break, without a clue as to precisely what it was he did.

The office was no ordinary office; it was essentially a furniture art museum that was spacious and slightly surreal. Brandon cheerfully greeted me and we began to tour the space. Naturally, the first thing he asked me was if I had researched the company – I had, but I was still lost on what it was they did, and said as much.

I learned Design Miami coordinates two major interior design festivals a year, one in Miami and one in Basel, Switzerland. Galleries set up exhibits in the festivals to show off their couture furniture – it is, essentially, IKEA on steroids. Brandon works with each of these galleries to help them with logistics, dates, times, invitations, etc.

We moved on to the informational interview, which was a casual two-way conversation about each other and our respective academics, extra-curriculars, and goals for the future. Brandon was living proof that you never know where you are going to end up – he had never even taken an art course before working for Design Miami, yet there he was, working with some of the biggest names in the design business on a day-to-day basis.

Due to my interest in graphic design, I was able to sit in on a website design meeting between the company’s website programmers and content editors. Twenty minutes was enough for me to decide that it was not something I would consider doing for a living; if I hadn’t attended that meeting, I would not have realized it wasn’t the job for me, so I’m thankful I did!

I stayed at Design Miami until 3 p.m. and was able to speak with marketing coordinators and budget analysts, learn about some software specific to Brandon’s field of work, and take a tour of the Design District.

I am so grateful for the opportunity UShadow afforded – I would never have even thought about art and showcasing before that day, but it turns out to be something I will seriously look into in the future. I plan to stay in touch with Brandon, as he is happy to act as a resource for any future questions or concerns I might have. We are connected on LinkedIn and via e-mail.

Though I went in not sure what to expect from my UShadow experience, I highly recommend it, as you will without a doubt have the opportunity to discover more about your likes, dislikes, interests, and passions, which is all any confused college student can ask for!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview Faux Pas

By: Robert Vanisko

At the Toppel Career Center, we have tons of advice for students who are interviewing for jobs and internships. Today, however, we are going to focus on what not to do when interviewing for a job or internship.

Being underdressed: When attending any type of career related event, one of the worst things you can do is show up underdressed. Whether it is a job interview, career fair, networking event, etc. showing up underdressed will make you stick out like a sore, unprofessional, thumb.

Showing up late to an interview: There are few things that can kill your chances of getting a job faster than showing up late to an interview. In a job interview, employers want to see if you are going to be a good fit with their company. No matter what your excuse is, showing up late immediately throws up a red flag and makes you seem like an unreliable employee. 

Obnoxious name-dropping: While you may have friends in high places, make sure you are not obnoxious about it when dropping names. While these contacts may be very helpful in getting your foot in the door, you need to make sure you don’t come across as arrogant in the interview.

Bad mouthing former bosses and co-workers: While you may feel that some of your past career failures have been the result of your former bosses and co-workers, a job interview is not the time to say it. This makes you come across as selfish and not a team player. Plus, you never know who the person interviewing you is friends with.

Having your phone turned on: Even if you have it on vibrate, nothing says “I don’t care about this interview” more than having your cell phone turned on and distracting from the interview. Having a cellphone ring or vibrate mid-interview can quickly turn the tide of an interview against you, either by throwing you off while you are trying to answer a question or by angering the interviewer. While cell phones have been working their way more and more into everyday life, they still have no place in an interview.

Luckily for you, you now know to not do any of these things when interviewing for a job or internship. If you have any more questions regarding interviews or any other part of the application process, feel free to come to Toppel for an Interviewing Skills Workshop or a Mini-Mock Interview

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ten of the Toughest Questions (and Answers) Interviewers Ask

Written by Thien Van Tran

Congratulations on making it into college! Now you just need to get your hands on some real-world experience in an internship, or maybe a full-time job, and look at you, you grown up! Shouldn't be too hard, with your college degree and all, right? Well, first you have to get past this.

The Interviewer

Depending on how prepared you are, this person may appear different. If you happened to come to an Interviewing Skills workshop or watched the Interviewing Skills webinar, your interviewers may look like this.


But most likely, you'll encounter something like this.

You don't want to get caught off guard and made to look like a big ol' drooling baby, which is never a good look for anything. Not even a drooling baby.

So how can you avoid this? Practice interviewing!! Here are some of the toughest questions you can be asked in any interview. Now, some of these questions may seem familiar to you, and that's because I straight up stole them from the internet they are behavioral questions that can be used in almost any interview.

10.Where do you see yourself in five years?

This one isn't too bad, but it's easy to ramble on if you don't focus on relevant aspirations. For example, you don't need to mention that you want to get married soon, have kids, or lose some weight. You want to hint at the fact that you want to stay with this company for a while and grow alongside it. An example of an answer could be, "I want to secure a civil engineering position with a national firm that concentrates on retail development. Ideally, I would like to work for a young company, such as this one, so I can get in on the ground floor and take advantage of all the opportunities a growing firm has to offer."

9. What sets you apart from our other applicants?

This is where you focus on the value you'll bring to the position. Describe how your previous experiences, skills, qualities, and willingness to work hard make you a valuable asset. Focus on specific skills, but don't forget to show that you are passionate about the position or company.

8. Describe a time when you had to deal with a challenging coworker.

"This one time, I had a disagreement with one of my coworkers, and it was pretty bad, but we worked it out and now we're cool." Or better yet, "Naw, dawg, I'm cool with everyone." Chances are, your interviewer is not as bro as you are, so these may not work as well as you (and I) would believe.

The answer to this question is not, “No.” Conflicts arise in the workplace, and employers want to know that you will be able to resolve them effectively. Everyone has worked with a difficult coworker, so impress your interviewers by describing how you used teamwork to successfully complete the task while remaining professional. Feel free to talk about learning your coworker’s strengths and weaknesses, and respecting the differences in work styles or skill levels between your coworker and you.  The best situations to talk about in response to this question deal with work-related (not personal) conflicts. Describe a time where you and a colleague differed on your approach to an assignment. Then, explain the steps you took to come to an agreement. The anecdote should not end with a description of who “won,” but rather how you reached a compromise with your colleague.

7. What is your greatest failure?

It’s no shame to acknowledge a previous failure – in fact, the ability to recognize your own failures and learn from them is an important quality and will work in your favor, as long as you demonstrate the right attitude towards such experiences. Failures usually provide us with our greatest lessons, and the ability to learn from them shows maturity, self-awareness and an ability to grow. The key here is to acknowledge where you went wrong and show that you learned from your mistake, took a positive lesson from it and moved on. If you can demonstrate that you never made the same mistake again, that will impress your prospective employer.

Be specific – describe the situation and your reaction to it, outline the lesson you learned and how you would approach a similar situation today. For instance, let’s say that in your early career you failed to deliver an important project on time because you didn’t manage your time and prioritize properly – then you can say that you learned an important lesson from this and are now a stickler for organization and keeping things on schedule. Or perhaps in your first project management role you failed to communicate effectively with your team, but ever since then you have ensured that weekly meetings are held where everyone has input and all issues are clarified to make sure everything is on track.

6. Why should we hire you?

The easy answer is that you are the best person for the job. You want to make sure that the interviewer gets this idea, but you don't want to say it so brazenly. Just back it up with what specifically differentiates you.

Drive home exactly why you believe you are uniquely and fundamentally and beyond any shade of a doubt qualified for the specific role being discussed. This is where your homework comes into play and you need to really understand what the employer is looking for in terms of skills, strengths, values, track record and cultural fit. Align your goals and interests with the employer’s and reiterate that you are confident you can not only meet the deliverables and perform the requirements of the role but really excel! Show confidence, enthusiasm and energy without being boastful or arrogant.
5. What is your ideal workplace?

Emphasize your flexibility and your ability to be productive, happy and efficient in any number of environments. This is not the time to demand the corner office with the park view or uninterrupted closed-door policy. Versatility goes a long way in today’s fluid workplaces and you need to show that you are able to focus on the job at hand and “fit in” seamlessly regardless of extraneous factors be they the physical surroundings, team dynamics or general level of noise and activity in the office. Indicate examples of how you have managed to excel in the past in suboptimal work environments and done so quite happily. Convey that you like the challenge of fitting into a new role and know from your history and track record that you can adapt immediately regardless of the environment.

4. Do you have any questions?
If you just respond with, "No, I have already heard what I need to know," it makes you seem disinterested and complacent. However, you should also be careful to avoid the wrong topics. If you ask the wrong questions, you could immediately invalidate the rest of the interview. "How often are you allowed to work from home?," and "How much will I get paid?" are some examples that are not ideal. With these responses, you can unknowingly communicate that your top priorities are avoiding coming into the office as much as possible, and money.

You should ask about 2-3 questions about what you have interests in. Here are a few sample questions:
  • "What is the immediate need on your team that you are hoping to fill with this position?"
  • "What projects can I contribute to right away?"
  • "How would you describe a typical day on this team?"

3. What is your greatest strength?

Don’t be afraid to “toot your own horn.”  This is the time to do it. Hopefully you already know what you’re really good at but if not, make sure you give it some thought.  Also, in the case of an interview, you’ll want your strength to relate to the job.  Maybe you’re a really good runner but if this is a sales job, that probably isn’t relevant.

2. What is your biggest weakness?

The key to answering this age-old question is not to respond literally. Your future employer most likely won't care if your weak spot is that you can't cook, nor do they want to hear the generic responses, like you're "too detail oriented" or "work too hard." Respond to this query by identifying areas in your work where you can improve and figure out how they can be assets to a future employer. If you didn't have the opportunity to develop certain skills at your previous job, explain how eager you are to gain that skill in a new position.

"In my last position, I wasn't able to develop my public-speaking skills. I'd really like to be able to work in a place that will help me get better at giving presentations and talking in front of others."

1. Tell me about yourself

While this might be an intimidating question, it’s actually one of the best opportunities an interviewer can give you because you can answer any way you’d like. It seems like an easy interview question. It's open ended. I can talk about whatever I want from the birth canal forward. Right? Wrong. What the hiring manager really wants is a quick, two-minute snapshot of who you are and why you're the best candidate for this position. So as you answer this question, talk about what you've done to prepare yourself to be the very best candidate for the position. Use an example or two to back it up. Then ask if they would like more details. If they do, keep giving them example after example from your background and experience. Always point back to an example when you have the opportunity.

Prepare for this question by going over your resume as well as the qualifications and responsibilities listed in the original job posting. Then, give your interviewer a short summary of your background and career path thus far, making sure to focus on those experiences that are relevant to the position. The description should end with why you applied for this role, how it fits into your trajectory and why you are excited about it.

Best of luck!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don't change your career- change your settings!

By: Bree Blair

Do you have a Facebook and/or Twitter account?
Do you want a job or want to keep your job?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, then this blog is for you! Many people underestimate how much of an impact social networks have on your career. Professionalism takes place in and out of the office, including your appearance on social sites. Companies and organizations want people representing their office well. Of course you can still have fun, live your life, and share it with your friends, but representing yourself well is just as important.

The first thing you should always do is make sure your profile and information are completely private. For Facebook, this makes sure that no one except for your friends can see your wall posts, pictures, or even pages you liked if you make it secure enough. You can even hide your page from specific people or groups, so if you're really worried about someone finding your page, there's always an extra route to take. This is really important to do; you don't want an employer getting the wrong impression of you just because of something or someone you are friends with on Facebook. Unless you are close friends with coworkers, it's suggested to keep that information private. Keeping your social life private from your professional life is usually the safer way out and not worth the risk, with exceptions of course. Plus, I don't think you want your employer seeing some old tagged photo of you from spring break in college that you didn't even know was on there (embarrassing). If for some reason you just really don't want to make your profile private, just remember to never post anything about work or your coworkers!
If you have a Twitter account, definitely consider making your tweets private. There would be nothing worse than having your employer see your ranting tweets about all your pet peeves or how much you can't wait to quit your job. Even if your profiles and tweets are private, always avoid ever mentioning anything about work. You could be as careful as possible, and at some point, word can get back to your employer who knows someone who knows someone who follows your social site, and then a situation comes up that you really don't want to be in. Keeping business and social life separate is an easy way to stay in the clear from looking bad at the workplace. If you just thrive off of people re-tweeting you, then be careful with what you say. You don't want to give off the wrong impression to your employer or coworkers. You don't have to change your whole life just because you have a career; you just might want to change your privacy settings!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Get Familiar With HireACane

By: Oleg Ignatenko

It has recently come to my attention that many students are aware of HireACane but the problem is that they don't know how to use it and because of this they are missing out on the many, incredible opportunities it presents to them.

If you are a University of Miami student and plan on getting a internship or a job sometime in the future, HireACane is something you should know and use.  Let's go over a few important steps in the process of setting up an account and using its services:

1.  Go to and click on Student (or Alumni/Employer, whichever applies to you)
2.  Click on Log-in
3.  Once you input your log-in information, you will arrive at this screen
You're going to notice a lot of different things jumping out at you but lets remain focused and do what needs to be done first.

4.  Click on the Profile tab and fill out as much information as you can (or at least the required areas) for both the Academic and the Personal sections.

5.  From here on you will go over to the next tab titled Documents.  Here, you can upload your resume, cover letter, a writing sample, etc.  Pretty much everything that you will need when applying for that job or internship.  Also, if you haven't done a resume or a cover letter, feel free to check out these amazing blogs from out Toppel peers such as "How to make your resume a masterpiece" or "The inception of cover letter writing".

6.  Set up an appointment with an advisor.  That's right, you no longer have to come in or call to make an appointment.  Instead you can make one right from the comfort of your room or basement or wherever you may be as long as you are in front of a computer.  You will find a link on the right side of the Home page under Shortcuts.  From here on you will select the reason for your appointment, who your advisor will be and what day and time it will be for.

                                                                    (Does it get easier than this?)

7.  Well, you're done! Sort of. Now that you are all set up with the basic stuff, don't stop here.  Keep exploring the site and make sure you click on these three tabs:
  • Postings
  • Networking 
  • Events
 Utilize the site as much as you can and you will be setting yourself up for a successful future.

Good Luck!