Monday, March 30, 2015

Important Reminders for Young Professionals

By Rebecca Graffam, Toppel Peer Advisor

One year into my college career, where I have been majoring in Business Administration and minoring in napping, I am also one year into my first real “big girl” job.  Starting off at Toppel afraid to make a slight misstep, my daunting position soon turned into a promotion for taking initiative in my job and showing I can handle responsibility.  With Toppel becoming like a second home, I can now say with confidence that I am ready for my next job this summer with a real estate firm.  And I’m pretty ridiculously excited. 

While juggling school, extra-curriculars, a social life, and a job, I had a lot of people telling me to just chill out this summer.  However, I cannot stay still for long and not only decided to branch out to this job but also take summer classes in the upcoming months.  Even though I may be putting a lot on my plate for the summer, I am pretty pleased with my decision and I am eager to begin exploring new career paths. 

I am also insanely scared, because once again, I will be the new girl in a new industry. 

I’m starting over.  Again.

So, how does a college student handle so much in a year without going crazy? Bubble wrap.  Both for packing purposes for your oh-so-delicate thank you cards you will be writing up the ying-yang to potential future employers thanking them for interviews as well as an inexpensive stress reliever.  Secondly, this list of reminders for the sanity and confidence of the young professional:

1.  Age does not define you.

Just because you do not have as much experience (or as many wrinkles) as the person next to you, your youth is not your defining trait or a detriment.  Never allow anyone respect you or your work less simply because you are from a different generation.   

2.  You are valuable.

You should constantly be on the look out for learning opportunities.  Whether it is a promotion in the company for which you are working, or the knowledge that you are worth more somewhere else, always be on the lookout to grow.  Though loyalty is important, it is also important in the early stages of a job to use the period as a learning experience.  Gather information and absorb the knowledge of the people around you, but never forget how significant you are.  Remember that they are learning from you too.

3.  Be yourself. 

The best way to succeed is to be unapologetically you.  Attempting to be someone else will only hurt you in the long run.  Do not lie in an interview and do not act like someone you are not when communicating with your coworkers.  You want people to like you for you.

4.  Network. Network. Network.

You should be connecting with professionals everywhere you go.  Take all your interactions with people and absorb as much information as possible.  There is something to learn from every person you meet, and the people you meet in your career have the potential to be valuable assets in the future. 

5.  Do not be afraid to press the reset button.

Starting over after a failure means you are growing.  You will develop your professional brand and who you are as a person through trials and tribulations and hitting the reset button multiple times in your life.  When you look back on your career, you will remember how exciting and terrifying it was to get knocked down and get back up again to move on.  Keep moving forward and never stay down. 

And if you are just starting, do not forgot to remind yourself how far you are about to go.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Alumni Guest Post: "Say Hello To My Little Friend!"

by: Louis Gerard Politan

I thought I would name the blog with a quote from Al Pacino in Scarface. Throw you off a little. Spike a bit of interest! 

If you're like me, you've found some online posts mundane and mechanical. If I wanted to listen to a lecture, I can do that in school. Not in this blog! This blog is about taking Initiative! Speaking up! Finding ways for you to take steps forward! Wink up! Get off your friend's futon, enough hob knobbing in South Beach! College life! Rules! 

I am a Cane; always will be, it was a time in my life that will never be forgotten and that's why I wanted to share a couple of ideas to prepare future alum for their best career!  One way to get started is by attending this upcoming Virtual Career Fair

Ah yes! The purpose of this blog. To encourage students to participate in Virtual Career Day. Right away, two items jumped out at me, the audience and the people offering jobs. Those people we refer to as the 'employer'. Here is the premise, "Forward thinking Companies, the people giving the jobs, and entrepreneurial organizations that are leveraging the power of technology to reach students all over the country without traveling." It is a fantastic concept. With companies like Amazon, Intel, John Hopkin's University and Peace Corps, to name a few, it is well worth your time. Students and Alumni meet employers live online. That's the concept. It doesn't work without you! Your attendance is crucial for this venue to succeed. 

Let's go over some reasons why it may not be a bad idea to attend the SEC & ACC Virtual Career Day, April 1st and 2nd. For one, the colleges participating! Come on! University of Miami! Notre Dame! Duke! Pitt! Wake Forest! What an extraordinary list of peers. The schools are well established universities that employers are excited to speak with. That is great for you. Eventually, there is going to come a time, when the dreaded word 'Employment' is going to smack into you like a meteor from Mars. Embrace it! Be prepared. Spend the day of April 1st or April 2nd, honing in on your skills and meeting with employers and interacting with your peers around the country. Slide over the beer cans and Papa John's pizza boxes and make room for Virtual Career Day! Opportunity awaits you! Don't miss out on forming potentially life-changing relationships with hungry employers. Hey. There may be a chance to accomplish something great. Use the intelligence your university has bestowed upon you, and challenge yourself to participate in this Virtual Career Day. Life is all about challenges; don't be scared! Nike says it well, "Just Do it." 

Right now, go to ACC/SEC Virtual Career Fair, and register now! Be excited about speaking with potential employers! Be confident! Surprise yourself! It's always great to surprise yourself; doing something so far away from what you’re used to, and finding unmatched success. This is FREE, so you won't even be cutting into your meal plan.

Here is my challenge to you: Register for SEC & ACC Virtual Career Day, April 1st and 2nd; make at least three contacts with potential employers. That's it! Doesn't seem much of a challenge. The challenge is taking the time to 'DO IT!'. It’s never been easier than sitting in the comfort of your dorm or apartment, whichever it may be, and making in- roads with potential 'Employers'. Encourage your friends to participate as well. My advice, as an alum, is: Invest some energy into this event; you will be pleasantly surprised on the outcome! Usually when you don't want to do something, that is the exact thing you should be doing. For instance, running. Getting the courage, and mind set to hit the pavement is never easy; when you get out there and accomplish that run, the feeling afterward is very rewarding. Same here. You may not feel this is worth your time, but afterward, landing a nice new internship or job, and at the very least networking and making contacts, it will be rewarding. The universities almost act like an agent. You are represented by them. UMiami is giving you an inroad to potential recruiters/employers. Use it up, baby! Make sure you do. With this Virtual career fair it is a perfect time to flex your muscles. Use your school for all its worth! Let them flip the bill on this one! Use their name to meet future employers. Well, I hope you take the time to register for the SEC & ACC Virtual Career Day, April 1st and 2nd

And did I mention, you could be eligible to win and iPod? 



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Confidence over Competence

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

At some point nearly everybody has had an experience where they watch someone who seems less qualified than themselves get praised or promoted while you sit bitterly wishing you could have been in their place. It’s a thing that happens in school work or any other organization that you are a part of in your lifetime. What’s the most common reason for this? You may be inclined to jump to conclusions of shady deals and elbow rubbing but the truth is that it comes down to competence vs. confidence. In this battle, confidence generally ends up the successful one.

Obviously to get a job or internship you must be competent. I’m not saying that you can ignore this altogether and still hope to get by. But there is always a chance for learning in this area. Confidence is harder to improve upon if it’s not there. Companies want individuals who can be confident in their decisions to represent them. You wouldn't want to be taken care of by a doctor who was unsure of their diagnosis even if they were considered one of the best in the field or represented by a lawyer who wavered back and forth on their next course of action in court. Of course not! No matter how qualified you may be, if you don’t have confidence in yourself how can you expect someone else to have confidence in you?

Now, that being said, DON’T exaggerate your abilities. Try to examine your skills realistically. If you state on your resume that you are proficient in a program that you maybe only worked with a few times, you could end up in a sticky situation if you have a job where you are expected to use it regularly and don’t know how. That’s not what confidence is about and it’s not the truth either. But it is ok to be proud of your skills and accomplishments. Take pride in your work and yourself and it will show to everyone you interact with. If you show that you like who you are and what you do other people will too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

UShadow Program: A Day in the Life

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Setting up a job shadowing experience can be daunting and confusing, especially if you don’t yet have the connections with employers in your field of interest. Job shadowing is a career exploration activity that offers an opportunity to spend time with a professional currently working in a person’s career field of interest. Lucky for you, the Toppel Career Center does all this planning and provides a contact and introduction for you! The University of Miami UShadow program provides students the unique opportunity to connect with a knowledgeable alumni/employer hosts and investigate a potential career field in our local community through a typical workday.

I personally, had the chance to participate in the UShadow twice, both this year as well as last. A little background about me, I’m a junior majoring in Health Science Business Administration. Yeah I know, it’s a mouthful and somewhat difficult of an industry to enter without any help. This year, I had the opportunity to shadow the Clinical Resource Coordinator at Jackson Memorial Systems. The day started off with a tour of the building and introductions to her staff. Right as we were about to head to her office, the hospital had a fire drill; prompting more introductions to other hospital administrators my host hadn’t planned on, life takes you in funny directions. Originally the day was supposed to be focused on the administrative aspect of healthcare, but during the 30-minute drill, I had the chance to pick the minds of many practitioners and their thoughts regarding profit versus non-profit institutes. This is one of the many benefits of shadowing, at the end of your experience, you hear more than one story of how people got to where they are – which in my opinion, is the most enriching part of meeting people.

Every now and then, as students, we lose sight of the long-term goal we have post-graduation: a job we love. Having a chance to speak with someone in a position I hope to be in within the next 10 years was a motivation to work towards what I wanted. Through UShadow, not only do you gain insight, but you also gain a mentor to aid you through your journey. My host, an alumni of the university, and I connected while reminiscing about our time at UM which made conversation flow naturally, and I got to learn more about her. The most important advice I took from my experience was that, no matter what industry, networking is what sets candidates apart, and what better way to network than through a day shadowing!  

The UShadow program is open to all University of Miami students who are in good academic standing with the University and are classified as sophomores or juniors at the University of Miami. Students should also review the timeline of events to ensure they can attend one of the Pre-Departure Orientations. Students from all majors are encouraged to participate! Be sure to check out Toppel’s noteworthy program!

Monday, March 16, 2015

So, You’re Really Good at Interviewing? Prove It.

By Kiernan King, Toppel Peer Advisor

Getting to the interview stage is one of the hardest parts in the job process because it means that something about your resume really stuck out to an employer and they’d like to call you in to get to know you better.

This is your time to shine.

The power really is in your own hands at this point because how you perform on interview day will determine whether or not you’re offered the position.

The key is to understand exactly what they’re looking for. Here are some steps to take if you want to improve your chances of success:

Do your homework.
Good preparation demonstrates that you’re serious about landing the role. Get to know as much as you possibly can about the firm and think about what you want to say in the interview. Researching will also bring up questions that you definitely need to be asking at the end.

Set the right tone.
Employers are on the look-out for people who are confident, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. You may be the most qualified and experienced person, but none of that will matter if your attitude is wrong.

Sell yourself.
Before you go into the interview you should draw up a list of key attributes and think about the main points you want to make about yourself. Have an elevator pitch? If not, draft one. If so, practice it; fine tune it. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

It is important to pay attention to the questions they are asking so that you know exactly what you’re responding to. Failing to do so is one of the most common mistakes potential employees make, be unique and don’t do this! Interviewers are asking questions that look for a particular piece of information, and if you fail to present with such than you are simply doing yourself a disservice.

Recruiting is crucial for companies because getting the wrong person can have serious detriments to that company’s culture and overall message. Bosses want people who will fit straight into the existing group with minimum fuss and challenges to overcome. Getting rejected isn’t always a bad thing, it could just mean that the skills you’ve developed may be better suited elsewhere.

Show that you’re a team player who can be relied upon from your first day on the job!

Remember that Toppel conducts Practice and Mini-Mock interviews. Attend an interview workshop, schedule an appointment or simply come for walk-in advising and interview with our peer advisors or graduate assistants! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Spring Break is HERE and you can’t wait to hop onto the plane or cruise and let loose and have fun with your friends, but more importantly, you can update your Facebook/Instragram/Twitter/Snapchat with all the photographic proof that you’re living it up #[insertlocation] #SB15. One of the farthest things from your mind is probably the long-term effect of your postings.

As social media becomes the latest branding strategy, networking technique, job seeking tool and recruitment vehicle, it’s also becoming the latest way for employers to check out the media profiles of applicants to weed out undesirable candidates. So while you may be proud of your 500+ Facebook friends or your 1000+ followers on Twitter and almost all your friends liked the hilarious photo of you wasted at the club from the break, make sure your awesome virtual social life is not killing your promising career paths. Here are some don’ts and mistakes people tend to do when it comes to social media.

Your privacy settings aren’t appropriate – Most social networking sites do offer options to keep your profile private. Use these as much as possible. Avoid posting any controversial content; however, if you absolutely want to share what you did last weekend – or over spring break – limit the view only to your friends. But be aware that anything you post online can become public or viral in no time. If a friend “likes”, tags, or retweets you, a larger audience now has access to you post.

You haven’t Googled yourself – You need to able to see what your potential employer is seeing. Google yourself and check out the results. Is there anything out there that could be costing you your job? While it is important to have an online presence so that employers can learn about you, it is also important to be aware of what they’re looking at.

You have grammatical or spelling errors in posts – You may shrug it off since it’s just one misplaced comma or a common acronym, according to a survey conducted in 2012, 54% of recruiters have a negative reaction to grammar and spelling mistakes, while only 47% of recruiters have negative reactions to alcohol references.

Don’t badmouth your current or previous employer – Just like in an interview, keep your rants about your boss or company to yourself. If hiring managers see that you’re willing to trash a colleague online, they assume you’ll do it to them too.  Past actions speak louder as an indication of future actions. Plus, there’s always the possibility of getting fired if someone sees your negative comment.

Don’t announce interviews, raises or new jobs – How you talk about any of these sensitive topics on your social networking site is key. If you’re just starting off your job search, writing “Interview today, wish me luck!” or “So excited about my new job!” is totally acceptable. If you’re currently employed, you’d be surprised who’s checking and if you write something like “Trying to con my boss into giving me a $5K raise, noob!” I don’t think your future at the company bodes well. As a general rule, don’t post something that has a conflict of interest (i.e. don’t mention your job search if you’re still employed, unless your boss knows you’re on the lookout, that’s fair game) and keep everything positive!

Your professional information is inconsistent – Be consistent with job titles, companies you’ve worked for, and duration. It’s fine if you rework your job descriptions, for example, because targeting your resume is a good practice when applying for jobs, Inconsistency in the top headers of your resume will not sit well with potential employers. Make sure the information you’ve provided in various forums/sites adds up.

On the positive side, companies are also looking for reasons to hire you! So use social media wisely to highlight your skills, expertise, and professional savvy, and get the job you deserve. Have a wonderful, fun spring break and stay safe!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Etiquette After a Career Event

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Job fairs and Meet-Ups provide you with an opportunity to make face-to-face contact with many employers. At some fairs, you also have the opportunity to interview for open positions. Our Toppel Career Center brings over 100 employers and graduate schools every semester to give us students as many opportunities to get our foot in the door with our future potential employees.

A lot of the concerns students have usually concern the preparation prior to the actual career event but a lot of times, students tend to forget to tie up loose ends that really can make a difference in their career goals. So after the event, give yourself a pat on the back, but you’re not done JUST yet!

Stay organized – During the event, employers have a ton of handouts so keep track of business cards and promotional items! The backs of cards are an easy place to write a few notes of your conversations with recruiters while the memory is still fresh in your mind. Review your notes and process what you learned about the different organizations. Some students benefit from creating an Excel sheet to keep their job search organized.

Follow up – Within a week of the event, write thank you notes/emails to recruiters from companies that are of particular interest to you. Hand written notes are a classy touch if you’ve invested in stationary. Regardless of the medium, express your interest in learning more about the company and possible positions. If recruiters ask for you to send a resume or other information, do so as soon as possible. Follow up on leads by calling the recruiter if you haven’t heard from them within two weeks.

Evaluate your experience and plan for the next step – What was positive? Negative? Did your research help you? What questions were difficult to answer? What would you change for future career events? Were you able to articulate your career goals well? How was your elevator pitch received? Take advantage of Toppel’s many handouts and workshops for interviewing or even resumes! The more feedback, the better you’ll get at this.