Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bored at Work? Try Something New!

By Kiernan King, Toppel Peer Advisor

It just isn’t how it used to be anymore. You were once excited to wake up early, put on that new uniform and make a difference!

Now your alarm howls, you roll out of bed with ten minutes to spare and speed to work hoping you’re not late, or do you even care that you are? You find yourself going through the motions and can’t seem to understand what keeps driving you to come back each day.

Here’s how to get back to your roots and fix it. Let’s try something new:

1. Get To Know the People You Work With Better.

Employees feel positively about expectations and opportunities in a job they apply for yet might feel like they’re alone even in a crowded room of coworkers during lunch break. Contributions need to be recognized, opinions need to be heard, employees need to be cared for.

To do so, start building new relationships with those who have interests similar to yours. Ask them where they are from; geographical questions are some of the easiest way to make a connection with someone you’re meeting for the first time.

2. Change Your Space

Staring at grey cubical walls all day can be rather un-inspirational. Perhaps ask your boss if he or she would consider giving the employees a budget to spruce up the environment to make it more conducive to creativity. Doing so would be a great work activity and would also allow freedom of expression which not only de-stresses but also fills the office with color and can uplift the mood.

3. Incorporate Social Media in Your Workday

If you tweet one good thing that happens every day, soon you’ll have a running log of happy, positive messages. When you’re feeling down, you can go back through these and laugh at the memories they evoke. These little messages can serve as reminders that your office is actually more fun than you think!

4. Stress…Who Needs It?

Exercise has tremendous impacts on mental, emotional and physical well-being and fighting stress proactively involves incorporating exercise in your daily routine. Play sand volleyball, get a game of pickup basketball going, even try yoga! Also, make sure you’re getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Coming to work tired and lethargic will only add to the stress of getting all your work done without a full nights rest.

5. Take on New Challenges

When you began with your company, everything seemed like new challenges that you were excited to take on and enjoyed being a problem solver. After some time there, those obstacles become more commonplace and frustrating. Talk to your boss and see if you can start a new project or cross-train in another department. Volunteer to help a coworker with a difficult task, helping someone else achieve his or her goals may re-instill a sense of purpose. 

So is it possible to love your job again or are you ready to call it quits? If you change the way you think about a given situation you begin to change the way you feel about it. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Impressive Careers Don’t Always Make Impressive People

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

There are certain companies who’s names immediately inspire awe in us; when we hear a friend or a classmate has secured an internship there, we immediately think “wow, he/she is really successful.” And while that may be true to some extent- it was probably very competitive to get that internship and it will probably look great on their resume- it might not necessarily be true in every respect. Everybody wants to put well-known names on their resume, but just because somebody’s had a job or internship at one of those impressive places doesn’t mean they’re an impressive person. Getting the position might be the first step, but making the most out of that experience and becoming a well-rounded person is the second, arguably more important, step.

This past summer I had an internship with the New England Aquarium; in the marine science world, the “NEAq” is a well-known and respected education, research, and conservation organization, great to have on my resume as a marine science student. And while I am proud of being able to put the NEAq on my resume, when I look back on my experience there, I gained so much more than just a few lines and bullet points to fill up a piece of paper. Working with the people there taught me so much; they made me a better, more focused student, educator, leader, and marine conservationist.

So while you should aim to get the best possible internships and jobs you can, don’t do it just for the space it’ll take up on the resume. Do it because of the experience you will gain there, and take full advantage of all the opportunities that arise while you’re there. You will become a more well rounded person taking the time to learn from those around you and learn from your experiences, and that, ultimately, will make you a more impressive candidate in person, instead of just on paper. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Just Attended A Career Fair? Find Out What To Do Next!

 By Kiernan King, Toppel Peer Advisor

Attending a career fair allows you to explore a variety of career options that you wouldn’t normally have thought about. In doing so, you allow yourself to connect with many employers from a variety of companies and have an opportunity to network and even practice that elevator pitch.

You had your résumés off to countless HR representatives and then…that’s it?


What you do at the career fair is almost more important than what you did while you were there. Here are some steps to follow!

1. Get Organized
Since you probably spoke with many potential employers, it’s important to stay organized and keep track of all your job leads. Did you collect business cards, informational brochures and packets? Can you read that e-mail address that you frantically jotted down after someone said they knew someone better suited to help you with your career goals? Create a document that helps you keep track of everyone you spoke with and some highlights of the conversation you had with them.

2. Follow-Up
You probably gathered as many business cards as you could, now it’s important to follow up with the contacts you met. Send an email, thank you letter or make a phone call. 

Make sure it is well-written and free of grammar errors. Make note of something the employer said they’d help you with, chances are they spoke with many people and don’t remember anything they told you. 

Don’t make this casual. Go to the organization’s website and find specific positions you could apply for, tie your skill sets to match the open position, let them know you’re excited about the opportunity and that you value their input from speaking with them at the event.

3. Make Necessary Changes to Your Resume

If you received any critiques at the fair, be sure to make those changes now. It’s important to keep this document up-to-date, as your skill set changes with each new experience you take on. If needed, come to the Toppel Career Center for walk-in advising Mon-Thurs from 10:00-4:30, a peer advisor will be more than willing to help you out!

4. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Continue to practice your interviewing skills. Everyone claims they are good at interviewing, but are you really? You want to stay sharp and not be nervous before you interview for your dream job.

5. Reflect
It’s important to see how you managed yourself so you can prepare and make any improvements next time. Were you shy? Awkward? Confused? Did you seem to make a fool out of yourself or did you make a joke that left the employers with a good impression? What’s something I would do differently? What worked?

There is always plenty to do once you leave a career fair, just remember to give yourself props for attending one and know that it is never too early, or late, to go to one!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Not to Write

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

If you ask someone for assistance with your resume you probably get bombarded with lists of things that you need to have on it or that you may have forgotten to include. While what is supposed to be included on your resume is all very important, it is also crucial that some information be left off to make it more effective.

1. Previous salary information
You shouldn't talk money with an employer until after you have been extended a job offer. On your resume, the most important part of your experience to emphasize is what you did and what it accomplished. Having payment information may give employers the wrong idea when they look over your resume so avoid that by simply not talking about it unless it’s specifically asked of you.

2. Why you left previous jobs
Do not put this on your resume! You want to highlight your experiences in a positive light and focus on your accomplishments. You may be asked why you left previous positions in an interview so feel free to discuss it there. Just make sure you don’t talk down upon any employers or co-workers or companies. Be as nice as you can while answering honestly.

3. References
If an employer wants to see your references they will ask you specifically. Be prepared and have them available, but do not list them on your resume. Even including “references available upon request” is not necessary because it is implied that if an employer asks for your references, you will be able to provide them.

4. High School information
Freshman year it's ok to list your high school information and activities because you are still transitioning to a new school and may not have a ton of experiences there yet. However, from your sophomore year on, you should aim to filter that stuff off. Your high school should not be listed in your education section and activities and experiences should only stay on if they were extremely relevant to your field or work history.

5. Your starting year at an institution
You should have your graduating month and year listed by the institution you are attending and that is enough for dates. It’s common for people to want to include things like “2010-2014” or “2012-present”. These things can all be implied by just your grad date. If it’s a year that hasn’t happened yet, employers will know that you are still in school without having to blatantly say so.

6. Jargon 
You don’t want to have any information that won’t be understood by the person reading it. Any sort of abbreviations should be fully spelled out and any jargon from a specific job should be avoided. Even if there is something that is understood in your field, keep in mind that a company may have hiring managers that aren't experts in every field.

7. Lies and exaggerations
This should basically speak for itself. Everything on your resume should be truthful. Don’t try to exaggerate your skills or what you did for a certain position because you may be asked to fill a position based on what you say that you are not qualified for.

8. Personal information
Short of applying to acting or modeling positions, do not include a picture of yourself on your resume. Similarly, things like your date of birth or gender shouldn't be listed. Also along those lines, interpersonal skills such as “leader” or “motivated” should not be listed in a skills section. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How to get Prior Experience Before Prior Experiences

 By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

“Although you’re a qualified candidate, we’re looking for someone with more experience in our line of work.” Ouch. Finding a job in an industry you have no previous experience in is one of the hardest career challenges there is. Employers can demand that job candidates have prior experience in their industry because the market allows them to. You’ve got to be really up for the challenge if you’re going to succeed. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible! You just have to ready to dress up a new perspective for yourself.

Examine Your Motives – Why are you subjecting yourself to a whole new job field? Look harder at the purpose behind what it is you’re trying to do. People’s reasons for changing to a new industry – or even a new major in this case – are often related to the purpose of that industry.

Be Clear on What the Appeal is – For you to be committed to breaking into a different industry, it must really appeal to you. Do your research to understand well what it is that this industry gives you that others don’t.

Look for Shared Values – Check out what values you share with your industry of choice. Different industries have different value-sets. For example, in certain industries the issue of safety is paramount. For engineers to be able to work in environments they do, they must accept that the most important thing is not to endanger human life.

Understand What it is You Offer – You need to be clear on the experience, drive, and ambition that you have. At this stage, you have no experience and no track record. What is it about you that is going to make you more appealing than the other candidates? All this can be showcased on your resume. Even though the experience itself is rather dated, if it allows you to elaborate on a skill you haven’t touched upon, don’t be afraid to use it! One of the most beneficial things you can add to your resume is a “Relevant Coursework” section to let the employer know that you do have knowledge in certain areas that aren’t necessarily encompassed in their preconceived idea of what your major entails.

Use Relevant Contacts – How can you utilize the people in the industry that you know? Use them to find out what the industry is like and also to arrange introductions to the right person. What you seek is honest, objective answers to your questions. You don’t want to go and enter an industry you have no experience in until you’ve done this sort of homework. At worst, you will find out what you need to do to be more viable as a job candidate in this industry.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Back to School Pick Me Up You NEED

By Rebecca Graffam, Toppel Peer Advisor

While scrolling through lists of “Life Hacks” on Twitter the other day, a thought occurred to me: wouldn’t it be great if instead of reading all these life-facilitating tricks, I actually got up and increased my productivity?  Crazy notion, right?  While I was thinking more in-depth about my situation, it dawned upon me that I have a crazy amount of responsibilities, time commitments, and all around hard work coming up this semester.  Coming back to school from a long break can be tough, but luckily I have a few tips that just might help you hit the ground running to get ahead in both your academic and professional life.

  • The black hole called “Netflix.”  Do not waste your weekends lying in bed watching Netflix.  It’s bad enough that you aren’t hitting the gym or doing laundry, but sitting in your room and getting absolutely no work done?  We have all been there, and there is no need to dwell in the past, but it’s time to move forward.  Allocate time for work and time for play (yes, Netflix falls under the “play” category).
  • Seek help when needed.  Don’t wait until the week of a big test to start learning the material you were taught a month ago.  Start studying early and go to tutoring or your teacher’s office hours if you don’t understand the material.  You don’t want to be that student who comes around the professor’s office hours the day before a test.
  • To-do list? Check.  When you are overwhelmed and do not know where to start, a to-do list is the first step to success.  Start your days off with your list and cross things off as they get accomplished. 
  • Divide and conquer.  Split your work into 30-minute sections and take 5-minute breaks in between the study sessions.  When there is a set amount of time to accomplish a task, it is easier to work hard and not become distracted. 
  • Create ambitious and realistic goals.  Don’t go into the semester with unrealistic expectations for yourself, but at the same time don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.  Setting goals will make you more satisfied and create the feeling of accomplishment.  Goals should be personal, professional, and have a deadline to ensure productivity.
Now, I know that this is a lot to digest after being back to school for just two weeks, but we will be thanking ourselves around finals time when we have already read that textbook, perfected that paper, and made those flashcards for things learned two months ago.