Thursday, December 10, 2015

So Much Free Time!

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

You’ll soon be saying sayonara to the balmy Miami weather and saying hello to actual winter wherever you call home. While you’re on break over the holidays, it’s easy to get into a lazy mode where you sit around doing nothing with your days, letting them mesh into one long continual nap fest where the days lose their names. While there is some value in taking a breather and relaxing, there is only so much rest necessary and, to be fair, you have other, more important things to do. Make the most of every moment; you’ll be happy you did once you’re back into the swing of second semester!

Update your resume Regardless of where you are in your job search, use this spare time to create or update your resume. Did you learn a new skill in any of your classes this semester? Consider adding your relevant coursework and updating your grade point average as well. Did you work last semester? Include any work experience and add versatile details. Also add any volunteer work you did, or if you were an active member of any clubs. Your resume is the key to applying for internships and jobs, so you want to keep it up to date and looking its best.

Find a short-term internship – Put your time off to good use with a short-term internship. Inquire about internship opportunities during break at your career center and by searching for internships the same way you would during the semester. If you aren’t seeing anything available, try and make your own internship opportunity. Spruce up your resume, research nearby companies you’d like to work with, and send them a standout e-mail detailing what you’re looking for and what you can offer them. Explain why you want to intern at that specific company during your break and why you’d be a good fit. If neither of the above works, get a head start on your spring semester or summer internship search. Start researching companies and keeping track of internship opportunities.

Shadow an employee in your desired field – If you can’t intern at a company, find out if you can shadow an employee for a period of time. Shadowing an employee is a nice way to get a glimpse into the career – what a typical day entails, what’s required of employees, and what the atmosphere is like. If you are certain of what you want to do, this is a fantastic opportunity to see what skills you could work on now to improve your job search. You can learn specific computer programs or other skills you see in use, and figure out which personal attributes are needed for the job. On the other hand, if you’re still not sure what career path is right for you, shadowing workers in a few different industries could be your chance to see what various jobs are like and help you make a better decision.

Volunteer – The holiday season is all about helping those less fortunate, so it’s a great time to volunteer. Besides giving back to your community, making a difference in people’s lives, and forming friendships with fellow volunteers, it’s a great way to build your resume and to gain experience for scholarship applications. You might also consider doing something that could add specific, valuable experience to your resume.

Apply for scholarships – If there ever was a time to apply, it’s now! You don’t have to spend the entire break applying for scholarships, but even if you devote a few hours to your scholarship applications, it’ll make a world of difference.

Ultimately, your break is yours. Take the time to relax and catch your breath! But don’t forget to remain productive; it’ll make it easier to transition back in the springtime. Until then, happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Managing your Busy Life

By Lindsey Shanck, Toppel Peer Advisor

Juggling classes, a job, an internship and whatever else you might have on your plate can be extremely stressful. It can feel like you have a million tasks to complete each day with little time left for yourself. Although it would be nice to sit back and relax, remembering that college is for exploring career paths and discovering your interests makes you want to take on new leadership roles, more classes, and join more clubs. BUT it is so important to take a step back and realize that you will never be able to discover your passions if you are too overwhelmed! This is why learning how to manage your responsibilities is a necessary skill.

1. Keep Organized

Make sure you are regularly checking up on your emails and calendar. It is so easy to forget about returning an email to a professor, miss a meeting because you forgot to put it in your calendar, or get behind on class readings because you didn’t jot them down in your calendar. Create a plan (like checking your email 3 times a day) and stick to it.

2. Create a Routine

Each week your classes remain the same, but your other obligations may not. Maintain a routine that you follow each day. Plan out the night before or the morning of, any changes that you may need to make because of an important meeting or errands that your need to run.

3. Block Out Distraction

When you are doing homework, studying, or preparing for an interview, turn your phone on “do not disturb” and do not open social media tabs on your laptop. Even just hearing the little buzz of your phone signifying a text can create a 5-minute pause from your work.

4. Remember to Allot Time for Yourself

You will not be able to achieve a high-test grade or land the perfect job if you are running on four hours of sleep and fast food. Create time in your schedule to exercise, eat a good meal and even take a nap if you need to. Your body and mind need time to recharge, and you will feel the difference.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interviews Are Two-Way Streets!

By Trish Vega, Toppel Peer Advisor

Interviews can be nerve-wracking. There can be so many things to keep in mind in order to help sell yourself to your interviewer:  Am I sitting up straight? I gotta make sure I’m not using too many “ums”! Am I talking too fast?

But we can chill a little bit and take some pressure off. In a way, you are an interviewer too! Interviews are a great way to figure out if a company or position is a great fit for you and your professional development. Here’s how to make sure your potential opportunity can be a place for you to thrive.

It’s a Conversation, Not an Interrogation

Often, an interview can turn out to be a rattling off of questions and answers. Take this opportunity to make your interview time more of a conversation! For example, if your interviewer asks about your experience with writing blog posts, don’t be afraid to follow up with a question about what the company’s goals and aspirations are in terms of audience engagement. This will help you in a few ways: it would give you an insight to the company and how they work so you can discern if it is an environment for you, and it would also show that you have an interest in the company, making you more appealing to the employer. Additionally, this can help establish a rapport between you and your interviewer and leave a good impression.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

As your interview progresses, be on the lookout for any tidbits of information that signal what the work environment of the company is like. Do they mention travel? Overtime? Opportunities for advancement? If so, see if you can ask a question to get more information on those topics! With that in mind, here are some other questions we recommend asking to get a feel for whether a company is the right fit for you.

What qualities are you seeking in a candidate?
How would you describe the organization culture?
What are the best things about the job and the most challenging parts of this position?
What opportunities are there for me to develop?
What does a day in the office look like?
What goals do you have for the person who will serve this job?

Happy interviewing!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Time to Apply for the Summer Internship

By Melissa Wyatt, Toppel Peer Advisor

It’s that time of year again – time to apply for a summer internship. With many application deadlines fast approaching, here’s a quick checklist of how to perfect your applications and find an internship.

1. Visit the Toppel Branding Lab

You can visit the Toppel Branding Lab Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 4:30 PM to help perfect your resume and cover letter. You don’t need an appointment, and can solidify your application materials by critiquing them with a Peer Advisor. When applying for a competitive internship program, you need your application to stand out.

2. Ask for letters of recommendation and references now – don’t wait!

Ask for letters of recommendation today! You won’t be able to get a great recommendation if you wait until the last minute. Whether your application is due December 1st or February 1st, reach out to former employers and professors now about writing you letters of recommendation. Even if an application doesn’t ask for recommendations or references in the first application round, still reach out to potential references now. Stay in touch with them throughout your internship search, and ask their permission to use them as a reference if needed.

3. Practice your interview skills with a practice interview

You can schedule a full practice interview with Toppel’s professional staff at (305) 284-5451. In just one hour, you can have a practice interview specifically tailored to your field, and you will receive detailed feedback about your interview performance. If you’re pressed for time, drop in for a 20-minute mini mock interview and assessment with Toppel’s Peer Advisors. Both options will help you learn how to answer the tricky questions interviewers might ask, and will teach you how to sell yourself to an employers.

4. Use Handshake to look for an internship

Last but not least, log onto Handshake and use Toppel’s job search feature at Through your Handshake account, you have access to the 2,000+ jobs and internships that employers advertise through Toppel. Once your online resume is uploaded and critiqued by our staff (3-5 business days), you can even apply for an internship directly through Handshake.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why you should take an Introduction Business Technology Class

By Madison Bowden, Toppel Peer Advisor

Business Technology is expanding and dominating not only the business world but also playing a role in almost every work field. Learning the basics to hardware infrastructure and network infrastructure is almost a necessity in this day and age. An introduction to Business Technology class allows you to use technology to your benefit. With an introductory background in Business Technology one can access and create information that is vital in this world.

Albert Einstein once said, “ It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” So why not become knowledgeable in one of the dominating forces of today’s society when it comes to news, media, and ethical standards. Technology allows you to express yourself in a way that could be a selling point for employers. Nowadays, technology can be used to create a personal show and tell of skills by creating your own personal website, personal LinkedIn Page, or even creating a new tool such as an application on your smart phone!

However, without the knowledge of how to make your digital footprint it is hard to make a very big impact. The power of search engines and other technological parts of computer software play a big role in how you can display yourself in an efficient, innovative manner. I encourage everyone to take a Business Technology class to expand their horizons.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Do You Belong?

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Each company is defined by it, but not many know it by name and many don’t even know it exists! An important attribute when considering future employment options is the company culture, the DNA, if you will of the organization.

A company’s culture is the only truly unique identifier. Products and strategies can always be duplicated. Your company culture defines the way in which your organization interacts with one another and how the team interacts with the outside world. It’s the formula that guides the team, as well as inspires and motivates employees. When companies are going through the recruitment process, they’re not only looking for qualified individuals, but also individuals they want to work with in the future.

It’s not uncommon for job seekers to enter organizations without understanding the culture and come away disappointed. When considering a new prospect, be sure to investigate the institution’s culture! Consider these questions to guide you:

What should I learn? – Understand the organization’s purpose – not just what they said they’re doing, but how their purpose leads to decisions and what makes them proud. Learn how the organization operates. Different purposes and different organizational features can be more or less appealing to different people, and that’s okay! No two people in the job market are the same. When you understand how the potential employer operates, you’ll need to consider how well that matches your goal. Your target organizational culture is an important part of your aspirations.

How should I learn? – Read everything you can about the institution, but read with a critical eye. Read in between the lines, all the formal vision statements are filled with buzz words, but what do they mean? Discuss culture with people in the organization; see what it means to them. You’ll talk to people in the interviewing process. But you may learn different things if you meet others there that aren’t involved in your recruiting process. Their different experience with the institution will affect their views, so ask about situations where they’ve seen the culture in action.

When should I learn? – It’s hard to learn about culture at such an early stage in your search, but your impressions can guide to you your ideal workplace. Culture may come up in job interviews, although it may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to sell yourself. People sometimes worry that discussing culture might make people uncomfortable and put a job offer at risk. The culture topic isn’t entirely off base and it’s necessary to know for future growth in the company.

If this culture concept is hard to grasp, just think back to the time when you were considering which college to attend. Why UM? The strong athletic department? The diversity that defines our campus? The love for the alma mater during this Homecoming season is a good time to reflect on our own school culture so Go Canes and get some soul searching done!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The World is Your Oyster: Deciding Where to Study Abroad

By Monique Beaupre, Toppel Peer Advisor

If you thought deciding where to go to college was fun, then choosing where to study abroad is going to be even more exciting! …More likely, choosing a school was stressful and overwhelming. Given a literal globe of possibilities of study abroad programs, the selection process may be daunting. Here are some things to consider when picking a foreign city to live and study in:

* Are you fascinated by a particular culture?
+ Have you yearned to see Roman ruins? Or are you looking to experience something totally different from the Western world?
+ Can’t decide? Consider a program that takes you around the world, like Semester at Sea ( There are other multi-city immersion programs to choose from, especially summer programs.

* Where have you traveled before?
+Could you imagine calling one of those places home for a month, semester, or year?
+Do you want something totally different from anything you’ve already experienced?

* How large or small of a city interests you?
+Look at the size of the area you grew up in, or where you go to college. Is that comfortable? Are you looking for something different?

* Do you have foreign language skills? Do you want some new ones? Does that even matter?

* What is your budget?
+Although you can’t put a price on the value of cultural enrichment, some cities cost much more to live in.
+Look into currency exchange rates and cost of living – finding a cheap city to live in could
A) save you money,
B) allow you to ball out a little more than you’re used to, or
C) leave you with money for weekend trips!

* Are there any study abroad programs specific to your major or minor?
+Some programs through UM allow you to complete a minor or take courses specifically for your major. How convenient.

Studying abroad is a potentially life-changing experience. It’s an opportunity to reinvent yourself in a world disconnected from your past. You might find yourself learning new languages. It’s the chance to travel to places you wouldn’t usually have access to on the weekends, and return to your new home base for classes Monday-Friday. You can make friends from places you’ve never heard of, and easily keep in touch for years to come, thanks to Facebook and WhatsApp.

Deciding where to go takes some careful thought, but the experience is more than worth it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hocus Focus

By Alexis Musick, Toppel Peer Advisor

With Halloween so close (and finals looming not too far beyond), career development can often get swept under the rug. Costume parties and chocolate just hold an appeal that can’t be beat by 8:30am interviews. That said, it’s absolutely essential – especially as a student – to focus on your future, even with exciting events just a few days away. So, in celebration of my favorite holiday, here are ten ways that Halloween and career development go hand-in-hand:

1. You can carve your own path. Every October, thousands of carved pumpkins make an appearance outsides homes across the nation, each with its own unique design. Likewise, you have the complete freedom to choose your own career path. You are not limited by the choices of others around you; but you can be inspired by them!  

2. Imagery is important. You can’t have Halloween without black and orange, ghosts, or little skeletons on the front lawn. There are traditional “rules” – or at least expectations – about what this eerie holiday will bring. Similarly, there are a set of guidelines to follow when choosing what to wear for interviews or career fairs. Ensure that you are always wearing business professional attire as opposed to business casual attire. A great resource outlining just what that means can be found in Toppel’s “Dress for Success” guide.

3. Staying current is the name of the game. When it comes to selecting your costume, you never want to be stuck in the past. The days of Snooki and the Jersey Shore crew are long gone, so instead take a look at the latest TV shows, movies, or memes. In the career world, you always want to remain relevant. To succeed in the workplace today, you need to be in a permanent state of reinvention: understand your company’s mission as it evolves, become familiar with new software and social media as it is incorporated into society, and realize that you will need to be ready (and comfortable) to constantly adapt in any position.

4. You should look out for others. Halloween, especially at a University, can get a little dangerous. Don’t hesitate to be a Good Samaritan at any event or party you may attend – if it looks like someone may need some help, offer it. The same principle applies in the workplace (or in any professional environment). As students or as employees, it is best if you act as a team; and that involves answering any questions your colleagues may have, sharing the workload (if possible), or offering to do extra tasks when you can. You never know where your kindness could take you, especially if you’re looking for that internship of your dreams.

5. There are consequences for your actions. Halloween isn’t just physically dangerous: it could also damage your reputation. What you post online can and will affect your future (and, perhaps, your current state), so ensure that what is posted isn’t illegal or disrespectful. With career development, you always want to ensure that you have an online presence in the form of social media profiles like LinkedIn, and you never want to jeopardize any opportunities by having unprofessional past experiences haunt you. 

6. Taking chances can pay off. From a zombie hotdog to a hashtag, Halloween costumes can get totally weird. People push the envelope every year and really put themselves out there. However, that’s what makes this holiday so magical. It’s the risk-taking that makes it so enjoyable and funny, and the people that take those chances are often the ones who make some new friends and get some extra (hopefully positive) attention. The same principle applies with career development. Don’t be afraid to take chances and reach for the stars with any endeavor or project you may have – it shows initiative.

7. Planning ahead is worth it. Generally speaking, you can’t just pull anything out of your closet to use for a costume. If you want to look your best, investing time into planning what you need (and buying it early before it sells out or becomes astronomically expensive) is critical. Investing time into career development pays off, too. If you can build a strong foundation and get started early – by researching internships and employment opportunities early in the year – you will have more opportunities come your way, and be less stressed while you’re at it. The best opportunities go to those who arrive there first.

8. There’s room for change. You aren’t locked into the same Halloween costume from year to year. If you were King Joffrey last year, it doesn’t mean you have to be King Joffrey this year. You could be Daenerys! The same holds for careers: there’s always an opportunity for a career shift. You don’t have to know exactly what you want and then commit to that for the rest of your life. There is room for growth and for change as your interests change and your life progresses.

9. You don’t have to accept every offer. Just like there is room for change, there is room for choice. When every house on 5th Street is offering raisin granola bars or pennies as “treats,” you don’t have to take it. You have the ability to walk down the road to good ol’ 6th Street where the homes are rumored to give out full-sized candy bars. You can also test the waters with your career. With multiple opportunities coming your way, you can wait and see what each has to offer before committing to only one.

10. It’s applicable to everyone. Although Halloween was originally developed as a Western Christian holiday (the eve of All Hallows’ Day) and was inspired by Celtic and Gaelic harvest festivals, nowadays, everyone takes part. Even if you may think that career development doesn’t apply to you, there is always room for improvement. Having a second pair of eyes take a look at your resume wouldn’t hurt, nor would getting some more interview practice in. Don’t forget to make career development a lifelong thing: take some time out of your day and make an appointment for a mock interview or come in for walk-in advising at Toppel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Who is your Mentor?

By Lindsey Shanck, Toppel Peer Advisor

When you think about the journey to who you have become today, who are the people that stand out in a positive way? Maybe your mother stands out in your mind, your grandfather or your neighbor. How have these people influenced decisions you have made and the choices that have brought you to where you are now?

These are questions to consider when self-reflecting on all the aspects that make you who you are today, and who you will become in the future. Having a mentor, whether it is a professor, a boss, or a relative, will become even more important for a multitude of reasons. What are some characteristics of a good mentor?

1. Wisdom.

Your mentor has experienced more of both success and failure than you have. Consulting them about important decisions such as going to grad school or accepting a job offer will help give you a different perspective.

2. Education. 

A good mentor can take life accomplishments they have had and use what they learned to help you. Whether they have multiple degrees, or they own their business, chances are they had to turn many corners to get where they are now.

3. Role Model. 

Just like your mentor may have taught you to mow the lawn, get an A in calculus, or be confident in an interview, they are there to provide you a positive example. Just like their mentors have taught them great advice, they are going to teach you those same values.

4. Selfless.

Mentors are selfless and teach you to be selfless too. They have what is best for you in mind and want you to succeed in what ever it is you are doing.

So think about who your mentor is and what they have taught you. As you think about your next step, whether it is medical school or a summer internship, think of how the things you learn in these experiences will make you a good mentor one day too!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Established Professionals: They Were Once in Our Shoes! (Part 2)

By Trish Vega, Toppel Peer Advisor

In my last post, I had the privilege of interviewing Mary Anne Viegelmann, the Global Employee Experience Manager at LinkedIn. She shared some of her experiences during college and offered some great advice.

Today, I’m excited to share some more thoughts from small business owner, Daniel Tomizaki. Daniel, referred to as “Sifu Tomizaki” by his students, who is the founder and owner of Tomizaki’s Champions Kung Fu Institute, a school established in 2007 that is dedicated to teaching martial arts and general well-being to children, teens, and adults. Read on for his take on what college students can do to pave the way for an awesome career journey!

What can college students do to prepare for their careers while they are in school?

1) Develop good study ethics; 2) Apply yourself 100% in all matters; 3) Volunteer work; 4) Paid work; 5) Network with peers

What qualities do you believe makes a career-ready individual?

1) Discipline; 2) Great disposition; 3) Initiative; 4) Eagerness to learn; 5) Great work ethics

Shift happens throughout careers and throughout life. How have you learned to deal with unanticipated changes in your career journey?

1) Stay focused on the destination. The journey may change though;
2) Be open minded, many times opportunities present themselves in strange ways;
3) Keep walking forward, despite the adversities;
4) Don't burn bridges;
5) Treat everyone with the utmost respect

Any other advice?

Ask when you don't know, hold on when you are falling,and always smile!


Thanks to Sifu Daniel Tomizaki for his words on hard work, openness, and drive! Now what do you think? In your college career, what great work ethics have you developed or hope to develop?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

First Impressions

By Madison Bowden, Toppel Peer Advisor

Yes, First Impressions are everything. The first time you meet a potential employer, the President of an Organization/ Charity, etc. they will not forget how you made them feel. It may sound silly but they will remember if you were respectful, courteous, and intuitive so it’s imperative to leave a good impression. First impressions are important with everyone you network with whether it be a potential employer or not they may be in your future in ways you never thought.

Here are some secrets about FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 

*Make a unique personal statement that will leave the employer to remember you—this requires strategizing beforehand.

*Dress to Impress.

*From personal relationships to professional make sure to always represent yourself in a way you want to be remembered that resembles your true self.

*Good posture shows you carry yourself in a confident way. 

*Smile! Make sure to smile and seem enthusiastic! 

*Eye contact says a lot about a person. It is important to look the person you are speaking with in the eyes and not be looking away from them. Eye contact is a non-verbal way of communication that shows you are interested in what he/she is saying.

*Firm handshake shows confidence and professionalism. 

*Last, but not least, always be confident when you meet someone. You can show confidence by following all of the key secrets listed above. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Getting Involved On Campus Can Benefit the Job Search

By Melissa Wyatt, Toppel Peer Advisor

Many people believe that only jobs and internships should be a part of your resume – but  especially for college students, this just isn’t true! Getting involved on campus is one of the best things you can do to aid your job search. Though work experience is still crucial, on-campus leadership will develop a skill set that an internship never could. Instead of answering phones or running errands, an on-campus leadership position provides experiences that will benefit you for years to come.

Campus involvement gives you the opportunity to take charge of an organization and demonstrate your leadership, communication, and conflict management skills. By organizing a campus event, you can hone your problem-solving skills, learn how to coordinate resources, and become an effective manager. By being a part of an executive board, you learn how to negotiate with and persuade both your peers and administrators. In an interview, you’ll be able to back your skill set with examples!

By being involved on campus, you can show employers that you’re ready for a professional environment. Taking on responsibility in your extracurricular activities demonstrates your accountability, execution skills, and capacity to be a leader.

So how do you put this on resume? Better yet, how do you discuss your campus involvement in a job interview? Describe your positions with Project-Action-Result statements. Don’t just state what you did; explain your unique contributions to a project and what you achieved by completing it. This will demonstrate exactly what you can contribute to a company, and it will show employers why they should hire you.

To sum it up: getting involved on campus gives you the opportunity to hone your skill set and spearhead projects – something that usually doesn’t happen in an internship. Differentiate yourself from other candidates, and show employers that you can handle responsibility and achieve proven results. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pursuing the Passion That Can Make You Great

By Jenn Mori, Toppel Peer Advisor

So I may love Ted Talks too much, but I’ve found the advice they provide to be the most inspiring and motivating life advice I hear. This one, by Larry Smith, a professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo, is no different; he once told a reporter “Wasted talent is a waste I cannot stand” and that viewpoint can be seen easily in this amusing video, titled “Why you will fail to have a great career.”

It’s kind of a cynical video - the title portrays some of that cynicism. Smith begins by talking about how we all settle for good careers, and settle for working really, really hard to get to a great career. That hard work ethic is something I see all the time - but not just in certain college kids - I see it in some adults I know who have worked overtime their whole life, but are still nearly in the same position in their company that they were 10 years ago. So maybe Smith has a point, and there’s more to making a memorable impact on the world than working hard to get there.

Which brings me to the point of his entire video - we need to find our passion. Not our interest, which there are many of (and I can attest to that), but the one passion that stands out above the rest and that can be the difference between finding a “good” career and a GREAT one. And I feel like as college students, we’re given so many options and clubs and majors and minors to pursue and look at that even knowing the difference between those two words, passion and interest, can be difficult. But Smith does an excellent job at explaining what the difference is, why it matters and why no one should make excuses once they find their one passion - it could bring out a talent in you, you may not have even known existed.

Here’s the video, so check it out!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No, N-O

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor 

Some people just can’t say no – to ANYTHING. We routinely overestimate the cost of saying no, but saying no isn’t as bad as you think! There have been studies that show the “inability to say no” syndrome is common! Saying no won’t cause the start of the apocalypse, but when you refuse, the person who made the request is likely to spend time trying to persuade you to change your mind. In our brains, that’s conflict and most people don’t like it. Sometimes we say yes just to avoid being rude. Or sometimes we’re afraid that we might miss an opportunity that might never be available again or burn a bridge and end a relationship – even a business relationship.

The Cost of being a Yes Person – All of these reasons make us totally human and are understandable. The inability to say no can make us popular or can lead to others taking advantage of our good nature. But there’s one thing for sure; if you can’t say no, you won’t be as productive. If you can’t say no to anyone, you may never be able to focus on things that matter to you. Let’s face it; if you’re helping all your colleagues with their tasks, you’re probably not doing yours. It can start a trend: if you keep helping others, they soon learn to come to you for help and they spread the word to others who, in turn, seek your help as well. It’s a slippery slope, the more people asking for help reduces the time to spend on your own work.

Maximizing Productivity – Instead of letting others distract you, you need to focus on saying no to distractions. The most productive people write down their most important tasks the night before. You’ll sleep better knowing your day is planned and, without knowing it, your mind will be focused on the task! The next day, start with the most crucial one and work your way through the list, keep the end-goal in mind! Another method suggests individuals to set a specific time slot aside for helping others each day. The post-lunch lull is a good time to do this, leaving you time to focus on your own tasks. The key to this method is to understand when you work best and how effectively you utilize your time.

Being at college results in being stimulated ALL the time, but you’re a student first. Remember, saying no to distractions says yes to productivity!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Combine My Passions or Focus on Just One?

By Kristi Brownlee, Toppel Peer Advisor 

See, the trouble with being multi-passionate is that rather than having a blank canvas, and an open and clear mind your canvas is completely filled with every color in the rainbow, numerous colliding illustrations, creating this beautiful mess. But, it’s still a mess! How can one channel all of their creativities and talents into one profession? The honest answer, if you have fourteen specific passions that you want to pursue as a career, you may have to narrow just a tad, but it is possible!

In trying to figure out what you want to be doing within the next 10 years, you need to grab a new canvas and start fresh. I’m pretty sure you have been thinking a lot about all of the different professions you could see yourself fulfilling. I’m also sure, in the midst of all those thoughts have come some confusion and indecisiveness. Now’s the time to stop thinking, and do! “Clarity comes through engagement, not thought.” So, in order to make good decisions you have to tap into each of those passions, and determine whether it’s something that truly suites you. So, take that dance class. Participate in that marketing internship. Join that health care advocacy club.

By engaging in those activities, you will begin to get a glimpse of just how much effort is required to fulfill that passion for a lifetime. And, you’ll see how those passions begin to narrow themselves, naturally.

Once you’ve limited your list of passions from fourteen to about seven, it’s time to prioritize. Rank your passions by asking yourself this question:  “Are my passions going to allow the life I want to live?” Be realistic with yourself, and make that decision based on what outcomes you want to see in the future. If you want to interact with children, but don’t want to be in a high stress environment, then maybe being a pediatrician is not the best avenue. Through research and networking, you will see what professions exist and what avenues will allow you to explore as many of your passions as possible.

Through this process, another important thing to remember is that failure is imminent, but suffering is optional. Embracing your failures is the quickest way to recuperate from a mistake. Knowing that life is fluid and has twist and turns will open your eyes and mind to what life lies ahead. If one thing doesn’t work out, you have so many other options. As long as happiness and comfort is sought after, and you are not pursuing professions for the wrong reasons, you can never truly make a mistake.

The last thing to recognize is that your life doesn’t have to consist of one career, day in and day out. Purpose can change. Passions can grow. New doors can open. And, different stages of life bring different goals. So, maybe after being a public health professional, you want to branch out and start your own bakery. As crazy as it may sound, people go through changes everyday, but the important thing is to adapt and prepare for what comes next.  Essentially, you can do whatever you want.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

GIVE A LITTLE, GET A LOT: Leveraging your Volunteer Experience

By Alexis Musick, Toppel Peer Advisor

Bright and early on Saturday, August 29th, more than 300 students met at the Rock to take part in the first service day of the school year: Orientation Outreach. According to the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, Orientation Outreach is a day to “introduce first-year students to volunteerism within the Miami community” and allow them to broaden their horizons, strengthen their ideas about the world, and connect with upperclassmen who are passionate about service.

This year, students worked with North East 2nd Avenue Partnership, a nonprofit organization committed to revitalizing Little Haiti to preserve the community’s cultural identity and encourage economic growth through development. Volunteers traveled to the Little Haiti Cultural Center in groups of various sizes, each led by at least two student Site Leaders. Individual groups of students then went to work on a different project, including painting oil drums with the Haitian flag, creating a mural for MACtown with artist Renda Writer, painting over graffiti, and spreading mulch.

Description: Student Site Leaders for Orientation Outreach 2015 prepare for UM’s first day of service.

Like most volunteer experiences, it was fun, rewarding, and something worthwhile to do on a weekend day. But that’s not all that volunteerism is, and that’s not all that it can be.

Far too often, the majority of students shy away from days like Orientation Outreach – and, in some cases, from volunteering in general. The reasons behind it are numerous: some simply don’t want to wake up before 8:00am or think that their skills and experiences render them unsuitable for volunteer work. Others think that they should instead put energy into securing only what they believe to be “marketable” endeavors like internships or paid employment. Others yet don’t see how volunteering could help with career development at all.

Kara Montermoso, a content manager at (a site that connects people, organizations, ideas, and resources) addressed the misconceptions by stating, “Volunteer work, whether in addition to a current job or an activity in between jobs, shows an employer that you are willing to try new experiences, be involved in your community, and generally demonstrates a willingness to make things happen.” Career development isn’t just all about employment – it too can be about the totality of your experiences, including philanthropy.

Here are a few ways that your volunteer experiences can be leveraged for success in career development: 

1.      Through volunteering, you can learn a lot about the local community.
From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem that – with all of the other volunteers – your efforts might not make that much of an impact. However, volunteering gives you an inside look at just what resources are available to solve a community’s needs. Each person has their own unique perspective molded by circumstances that are entirely their own, so who knows! You may be the person who sees an unmet need in the community and, using your experiences, is the one to start a movement toward change. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and speak up when you see an opportunity. Remember that potential employers are increasingly looking to take on those who show a demonstrated commitment to their community, so making efforts toward community development through innovation is never a bad idea.

2.      It shows you are interested in personal development and can take initiative.
Finding a job or internship can take time even if you take an hour or two out of every day to make phone calls and submit applications. Making time to volunteer while you’re in that limbo period shows potential employers that you’re committed to continually educating and bettering yourself, even when the situation might not be as bright as you’d like it to be. Plus, it’s useful to have a few strong experiences up your sleeve to explain any gaps between your last Federal Work Study position eight months ago, other than the fact that you slept a lot and went to the beach.

3.      It makes you different.
With so many people in the market for the same set of opportunities – especially in a University setting – it’s critical to highlight what makes you different and the best person for a position. Having significant volunteer experiences would not only help you stand out, but it would give you something unique to talk about in any interviews you may have. For example, if you were a visual arts student looking for an internship, talking about how you were a Site Leader at Orientation Outreach for the group who worked on painting the oil drum barrels would differentiate you from the crowd of other applicants. An experience like that demonstrates your leadership skills and you’d easily be able to talk about what you learned in your interview, which puts you far above applicants who have never had any comparable direct experience.

4.      It gives you relevant experiences and skills to add to your resume.
As students, it can be pretty difficult to juggle classes, organizational involvements, and jobs, so we tend not to have an overwhelming amount of work experience, if any at all. It’s entirely normal (given that our job is, after all, to be a student) but it can pose an issue when trying to develop a professional resume. Fortunately enough, in lieu of professional experience, volunteer work can be emphasized and made the central focus of your resume. Highlighting recent and credible volunteer experiences is entirely appropriate and said experiences should be treated just as seriously as any part of your resume, meaning it’s necessary to list the organization’s name, location, your functional title, dates involved, and accomplishments. Mentioning volunteerism-related skills or writing your experiences in a skills-oriented manner is one of the best ways to position yourself in the job market, so make sure to record the details.

5.      It helps with networking.
Most people think of volunteering as a one-time thing where you show up, do whatever you’re assigned, and leave. However, making volunteering an active and regular thing can introduce you to a wide network of people. When you’re volunteering, ensure that you are the best that you can be. Take time to listen to the organization, to understand why the need for volunteering exists, and to treat your experience as a learning opportunity. If you donate your time and skills well, you may be able to secure a reference from the volunteer coordinator (or anyone else you have been in contact with). Moreover, by sharing your history and your career ambitions with other volunteers or the organization with whom you’re working, someone may be able to introduce you to the opportunity that you’ve been waiting for. Say, for example, you’re interested in a job curating art exhibits. You volunteer at Orientation Outreach and are placed on a site that involves painting the MACtown mural. You go out of your way to really talk with the artist and you have conversations with NE 2nd Avenue Partnership staff about how you’re passionate about community development and cultural preservation through art. Not everyone you cross paths with will have an opportunity in their pocket, but if you show them how devoted you are to your interests, you’re likely to get leads you wouldn’t have otherwise found.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thinking About Changing Your Major?

By Lindsey Shanck, Toppel Peer Advisor

As an incoming freshman, it seems like students are on one of two sides of a spectrum. They either know exactly what they want their major to be and will not waiver, or they have absolutely no idea what they want to do, and they chose a major because it sounded like a good option. No matter what the case is, studies show that most students end up changing their major at least once in their college career.

When I was a freshman, I thought biology was the only subject I was interested in, and I would never stray from the pre-med track. I believed that if I dropped pre-med, I would stumble into a deep depression and never achieve my dreams. But what I did not realize is that there are so many factors in deciding what major is right for an individual. These include lifestyle choice, if grad school is a possibility, maintaining a strong GPA, and ultimately doing something that makes you happy. Almost everyone I know has changed their majors at least once, some from biology to psychology, like me, or some making a bigger jump from chemistry to journalism.

Although changing majors is very common, and it is possible to change them more than once, it is still important to put some thought behind the decision. Some people I know have switched majors simply because their other major was hard and they wanted an easy out. As a result, they are now very confused about what they want to do after graduation, and are no longer passionate about what they are studying. In order to make an educated decision about whether one should change their major, there are some things that should be done first.

1. Picture yourself in 5 or 10 years. Is what you are doing/ your dream job, related at all to the major you are thinking about switching to? If not, you may not be making a decision for the right reasons. While one should be happy in their major, college is for gaining experience to enter the workforce, and gaining a degree that could help with that. Changing a major simply because it is easier would be a good decision for the rest of your college career, but not for life after college.

2. Take a career assessment. Toppel offers lots of resources to help students find what career might be right for them.  Students can either come into Toppel to take an assessment, or take an assessment online. Sokanu is a new, free assessment that produces top job matches based on a variety of factors. For me, Sokanu produced very accurate results. These assessments may confirm the career you have always been thinking about, or give you new career ideas that may have been off your radar.

3. Talk to an advisor. Make an appointment at Toppel to meet with an advisor. They can talk to you about different career options within your major, offer advice for how to achieve your new goal, and discuss if changing your major is needed. Furthermore, your academic advisor is very knowledgeable about the field you want to go into and how to get there.

4. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. While a career might interest you, it is very important to consider the lifestyle you want, if you are compatible with the job, and if you would be utilizing your best skills. The career assessments can help you determine certain personality traits you have and how those traits could help you or hurt you in a job.

The beginning of the school year can be hectic, and with classes starting, it is often overwhelming to think about making changes to your schedule or major. However, with all the resources Toppel has to offer, these decisions can be a little less daunting. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Established Professionals: They Were Once in Our Shoes!

By Trish Vega, Toppel Peer Advisor

Have you ever come across a successful individual and thought to yourself, “Man, they work so hard and are doing so well! They must have superpowers or something.” Well, I’ve definitely been there. But even though someone’s current position may be awe-inspiring, it’s important to remember that they too were once in our shoes!

I had the chance to interview Mary Anne Viegelmann, the Global Employee Experience Manager within the Human Resources department at LinkedIn, and she shared with me her best career advice for college students like us.

Ready? Let’s go!

Mary Anne Viegelmann/via LinkedIn

What can college students do to prepare for their careers while they are in school?
"You don’t really know exactly what you’re gonna do in life, but you generally know the things you like doing. Be aware of those passions and skills that you have and try to find the intersection between those two." 

"Talk to as many people as possible no matter what they do! Learn about people from all different backgrounds, it doesn’t even have to be “formal networking”. You never know what those conversations might bring. Most people don’t have a figured out plan for their work but a lot of times it
starts with a simple conversation. People are so willing to talk to college students because they want to help you succeed. Take advantage of that now!"

What qualities do you believe makes a career-ready individual?
"Especially with college students, it’s so important that you are coming into the workplace with fresh new eyes. Your viewpoints and actions are not jaded, you’re not stuck in the mentality of 'that’s the way we’ve always done it'. You’re more open and willing to see things differently and you should use that to your advantage. Employers like people who are positive and willing to take on anything. Saying yes to almost anything and trying almost anything will get you pretty far. And when I mean 'saying yes' I mean being willing to take on projects you may not even know a lot about, because it is all a learning experience. Also, be willing to ask a lot of questions! All this helps build new skills too."

"This is huge especially in the tech world. In the four years that I’ve been in Silicon Valley, I’ve seen constant change. So adapting to that and figuring out how to change your programs quickly is so important."

Shift happens throughout careers and throughout life. How have you learned to deal with unanticipated changes in your career journey?
"When I deal with change, I try not to dwell on it too long. As long as the change does not interfere with my values, I think, 'Okay, there is probably a change for a reason.' Some change you obviously can’t control, like when a company is growing, but I try to look at the pros and cons of the change and work with it. If there’s a change that you think is bad, you should still question it and bring your opinion to the table but do it with an open mind. And I think that comes with a certain attitude of positivity and
openness. It’s better to do it with a positive attitude than with a negative attitude, because you have to do it anyway! So why be a grump about it?"

Any other advice?
"One of the biggest reasons of why I’ve been able to be successful in my work is because I’ve taken to heart one of our core values at LinkedIn, which is that relationships matter. And so the way I always approach every situation is to always think about the people first. It doesn’t matter what my motive is, they’re people first. Usually people are more willing to help you out if you have a strong relationship, so by focusing on the person, I almost won’t even have to ask if I need something because they already want to help you. That’s been hugely important for me, building on the relationships without any expectations, because it’s important to know the people you are affecting. And even if there’s nothing they can do for you, that’s okay. You’ve built a relationship and maybe you’ll get to work with them later on. If you can adopt that trait in college, your network will be huge."

"I think college is such a great time to explore and see what’s out there. I don’t think you have to have it figured out. I’ve been working for 15 years in different kinds of roles, and I’m still learning a bunch of different things. Always be learning, always find different opportunities to build your skills. Volunteering is such a huge part of that. You create such great relationships. And showing your skills in something other than schoolwork will help you too. Employers like to see that you are well-rounded, and they especially like to see volunteer experience, especially good employers. Those companies who care about people first will ask those types of questions and notice that type of thing on your resume or LinkedIn profile.

"Lastly, just have fun!"
Thanks Mary Anne! So what do you think? In what ways have you experienced that relationships matter?

The Importance of Marketing Yourself

By Madison Bowden, Toppel Peer Advisor

Marketing is a vital skill you need to face the business world, because you need to create your own unique personal brand. You may be wondering how you can set yourself apart from other individuals and enhance your own personal brand. You need to commit yourself to the three P’s of Marketing: Preparation, Packaging, and Presentation.

  1. Know what you bring to the table (Skills, Talents, and Experiences).
  2. Career Readiness which can be done through research at the Toppel Career Center
  3. Network by:
    1. Joining LinkedIn, a professional networking website.
    2. Joining an Organization or Charity that resembles your core values/beliefs. For instance, you can join a Sorority/ Fraternity to enhance your philanthropy involvement; or a Business Fraternity to showcase your professional side, etc.
    3. Use Social Media to your advantage. For example, you can join Twitter and follow companies and their recent trends.

  1. Make sure your resume has been picked apart and perfected to portray your uniqueness.
  2. Practice interviews are critical to getting your interview skills right.
  3. Keep track of your past interviews and job experiences (know what went right and what went wrong). 
  4. Always keep a list of References.

  1. Public Speaking practice is a key portrait of your Communication Skills and Confidence. Make sure to practice speaking in front of those who intimidate you whether it be higher authority or speaking in front of classmates. Practice makes perfect! 
  2. BE WELL-DRESSED. Remember it is better to be overdressed rather than underdressed.
  3. Strategize before presenting yourself whether it is for your first organization meeting, career expo, job interview, or simply meeting a potential network; it is important to make the right first impression. Make a plan of how you are going to approach the activity and what you want to take away from the experience. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On Finding a Career Path You Know You Will Love

By Jenn Mori, Toppel Peer Advisor

Here’s the thing – finding something you like and liking it for a decent amount of time isn’t as easy as you think for some people, myself included. I arrived in Miami with an intense desire to study physics, quantum mechanics, all those hard-core, highly theoretical, math-based fields. Now, several years later, I can only see myself doing game or software development or anthropology fieldwork after college and it’s not even that I stopped liking physics (despite taking PHY205).

I just realized: I can’t possibly see myself in the job environment that a degree in physics would lead to or taking a good 7+ years learning only quantum physics and related topics to even get to that job. I understood I only really chose that because everyone else was, I was pretty good at it, and I knew I could get great pay.

That’s what you need to keep in mind as you’re looking towards the future – Can you see yourself loving this a few years down the road? And it’s okay if you end up switching career paths somewhere during those years; people change, so do interests and the most you can do is predict.

The thing is, whether you know what you want to do later in life or not, keep your mind open and be able to understand yourself, what you’re good at, and what you really want from a job.

Below is a motivational Ted Talk I found recently on this topic that I believe more people should see. The first few minutes applies mainly to those who already in the midst of their career, but even college students – especially college students – can find something to take from the other 14 minutes where he helps to motivate you to how you can fine and stay on the track of doing what you love. 

Enjoy it!

If you want more definite help on what you should major in/what you should do after college, you can find several career surveys on the Toppel Website, under Online Resources.