Thursday, May 29, 2014

Create Your Own Opportunities

By Carly Smith, Assistant Director of Campus Outreach

You probably have heard the number one way to find a job is through networking. Well, I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that made me remember this is not always the case. This article talked about new research that shows that contacting potential employers directly is the most effective way to find a job. Does that surprise you? 

I immediately remembered a time when I was a college student. My senior year I was required to complete an internship/practicum to obtain my degree, and the way we were told to find these internships was not to look for job postings or contact people in our circle. Instead, our professors told us to locate companies we wanted to work for, find a person in charge of hiring or who managed the department we wanted to work in, and send them a cover letter asking for an opportunity to work for them. 

This idea was new to me- and a bit scary. I had to directly reach out to a person I never spoke with before and prove in my cover letter why I would be a great addition to their company. Also, this person had not posted an open position and would not be expecting me. Still, the scariest part was that our professor required us to write in our cover letters that we would “follow up in a week to discuss the possibility of completing a practicum with your organization.” What if this person did NOT want to talk to me?

And, with each letter I sent out- I think about 7 or 8- I attempted to call the people I wrote to the week after they would have received my message. It was nerve-racking to put myself out there like that, but with great risk came great reward. I got on the phone with more than half of the people I had reached out to with my cover letter and finally landed an internship with one of my top choices, working for a community college as a practicum student.

So, my challenge for you is to not wait for an internship or job opportunity to come to you. You may find an amazing posting on a website such as or through a person in your network, but don’t limit yourself to finding job opportunities in these ways.

Take a risk. Be proactive. Create your own opportunities.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Real Talk: Networking

By Maria Tomaino, Associate Director, Events & Marketing

I meet students and alumni at networking events and one of the most common questions I hear is “So, what do I do here?”

Networking is one of those unfamiliar things, even though it should be looked at as the most familiar of all!  Reason being is because we network every day; we meet new people all the time! However, something about dressing up and introducing yourself to someone you don’t know, could be a little intimidating.  The goal is not to add pressure to meet everyone in the room, but rather to set a realistic goal of meeting at least 3 new people, being open and genuine, listen and take interest in the other person, and find ways to follow up. 

Now, that’s all well and good, but how do you actually START a conversation with a complete stranger?

It’s easy; make an observation!

Here is a list of one liners to break the ice that not only I have all used myself, but are sure fired ways to get a conversation going:

“Crazy traffic on the way over here! Did you travel far to get to this event?” 
“This is a great event, how did you hear about it?” 
“Wow!  I love your (insert item of clothing/bag/shoes here). Where did you get it?” 
“Did you try a crab cake yet? It’s delicious!” 
“I see on your nametag that you are an UM alumni! When did you graduate and what degree?”And, my personal favorite:

“Hi! I’m Maria, may I sit at your table; I don’t know anyone else here!” (People LOVE this one!  You would be surprised by the amount of people are open and receptive to this because it is so honest and genuine. )

Here are some networking don’ts:

DON’T be creepy.  You know what I’m talking about. Lurking around, staring at people, not talking or following around people, you get the drift.  This isn’t you.  This may be the nervous, unsure version of you, but it isn’t someone that you want to strive to be.  Be confident! Smile! Engage!

DON’T take the event for more than it is.  Listen, one event isn’t going to make or break your job search.  And if it didn’t go as planned, so what? And if you did make a few good connections, so what?  It’s over the course of time, following up with others and continuous connecting and growth of your personal and professional network is when you will see some major results.

DON’T dress a fool.  At the end of the day, networking events are a professional setting.  Dressing in something comfortable, business professional, stylish, and showing some personality is always a bonus.  You want to make your best impression wherever you go.  Need some inspiration, check out Toppel’s Pinterest boards.

DON’T be on your phone the whole time.  Check ins, tweeting the event hashtag, taking an Instagram, that’s all well and good but make sure you are approachable, engaging in conversation and making eye-contact!

Here’s the thing.

Meeting others is something that happens every day, throughout your whole life. Being comfortable in taking small risks by starting a conversation, listening and being genuine can go as far as you let it. You never know who you will meet, what you have in common, and where your relationship could go!

Be brave.  I know you can do it.

And if you see me at an event, I encourage you to say hi first. I promise we’ll have a conversation.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Message to the Class of 2014

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

Working my final days of the school year at Toppel this past week handing out caps and gowns made this year’s graduation, and the all too rapid approach of my own graduation a year from now, become a reality. For the past few weeks I’ve been in denial that some of my closest friends and people I have looked up to since first becoming a Miami Hurricane are now graduating. And with their graduation, I officially become a senior!

While it is sad to think about campus next year without the class of 2014, ultimately I am excited to see what they do out in the real world. While everyone jokes around about being terrified of life after graduation and never getting a job, almost every single graduate I’ve talked to has something amazing lined up for after graduation. While it still may be terrifying to move on from UM, I have no concerns that they’re going to going to be just fine.

All I can say now is to younger students: become friends with students from every class during your time here! While it’s great to be close with those in your own class, the older students can teach you so much- whether it’s advice on which classes to take or avoid, or knowing the best place to go in the grove on a Thursday (over 21 of course), they can help you in every aspect of life and make your time here in Coral Gables that much more meaningful. And now, the older students give me hope. Hope that even though right now I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing after graduation, that’s okay, and I will figure it out.
So to the class of 2014, thank you for being the best friends and mentors, congrats, and go show the real world what Miami Hurricanes are capable of!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Summer is Here!

By Rachel Rooney, Toppel Peer Advisor

The school year is officially over. It’s that time of the year that every student cannot wait for: summer. It’s a break from studying and stress, and all that is left is to have some fun. Here are my suggestions for summer, whether you are at home or staying here in Miami. 

  1. Go somewhere you’ve never been before. It could be a road trip or flying across the pond to Europe, or it could just be going to a local landmark. Try Google searching for things to do/attractions in your city.
  2. Do something that you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had the time. School, as great as it is, is known for being very busy all the time. Summer is great time to explore other interests you have or to learn something new.
  3. Try one new thing that you never thought you would do. Do something courageous and daring. Even something simple. Put yourself out of your comfort zone.
  4. Volunteer even if it’s just for a day. Run and sweat in a 5K charity run. Volunteer at a day camp for kids or an after school program for kids in summer school. Help out at a local hospital. Fundraise for a non-profit.
  5. Do something kind for someone else. Give a little love and get a little love:
  6. Relive your childhood. Set up a lemonade stand. Catch fireflies. Build a tree house. Play on the playground. Jump off the swings; go down the slides. Take your dog for long walks. Drink ice tea and eat barbeque. Have picnics. Go to the park. Fly kites. Go swimming. Enjoy summer festivals or carnivals with your family and ride the Ferris wheel. Sit outside and lick popsicles and eat ice cream. Make tie dye t-shirts.
  7. Live spontaneously. Embrace the freedom of summer. Wake up and see the sunrise. Kiss your childhood sweetheart. Go on long car rides with cold sodas playing loud music. Have a dance party. Do anything fun.
  8. Read. I’m an English major, so I plead with the world to read. Libraries are always waiting, so go visit one, for a day or for more than one.
  9. Take so many pictures. Summer is amazing and wonderful, but it is also short. Live in the moment and capture each one.
  10. Should you ever get bored, fight it. Here are all approximately 349 things to do in the summer, so boredom should never be an option: 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ace those finals!

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor
The day every student has been looking forward to the entire semester is almost here; summer vacation! The entire semester summer break has seemed forever away. Now let the realization sink in that its actually only one week from now. BUT in order to get that much needed R&R that comes with the end of the semester, you first have to be able to make it through those finals exams. It might be a struggle and super tempting to blow it all off, but hang in there! 

Take it a little at a time
Studying in small doses is a lot less overwhelming than trying to learn 12 chapters of your textbook in one day. Put some time aside each day to try to lock in all the information that’s going to be on your final. It’s a lot less stressful to know you only have maybe one or two chapters to look over the night before your final.


Look over notes the night before
So maybe you do procrastinate a little. Everyone does at some point. If this happens make sure you at least look over your notes the night before rather than waiting until the morning for those late finals. While you sleep, your brain has the opportunity to lock that information into your long term memory. Studies have been done that show students that only study the night before an exam do better than those that study right before. Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t review in the morning as well to give yourself the best chance at acing your test.

Take study breaks
Studying for 12 hours in a row is super tiring and stressful. Your brain is more likely to retain all that information if you take one ten minute break for every hour.  Get out of your seat and stretch a little to keep your body awake and mind alert. Also its important to keep in mind that if you miss the time you are supposed to go back to studying that doesn’t mean you get to extend your break for the next five or ten minutes. Set alarms to keep you on track if you are prone to distractions.