Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mistakes to Avoid

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

We all know there is standard professional protocol at most companies. Things such as the expectation of a professional dress code and spending your time at work productively are standards everyone expects to be held to when you enter the working world. There are certain mistakes however that we all tend to fall towards as humans. These are some common things to be conscious of avoiding:

This may seem obvious, but sometimes people try to go above someone’s head to avoid conflict. This tends to have the opposite effect. Doing anything that would make a colleague look bad in the eyes of their peers is a big red flag.

Every once in a while everybody gets swept up in drama and participates in idle gossip. It’s a habit that very few people avoid falling victim to at some point. However, in a professional environment gossiping will make you look worse to your colleagues than whoever the drama is surrounding.

Taking credit for something you didn’t do
This basically shows that you have no regard for another person and their hard work. We’ve all experienced someone stepping in to steal credit from us at one time or another. The reality is that it will get out that what you are taking credit for is not your own and that will likely make people question the other work you have performed.

Emotional outbursts
Avoiding emotional outbursts does not mean that you aren’t allowed to have emotions at all and must go around the office like a heartless robot. This simply means that issues should be discussed calmly and rationally. Not only will this look better on you, but someone is more likely to respond to a rational argument than to someone screaming and throwing chairs.

Saying that you hate your job
You may have valid reasons, but save venting your frustrations for outside of the office. You don’t want to come across as a negative person. Supervisors will notice if you are a direct cause of low morale and plus if they hear that you don’t like working somewhere why would they want you to work for them?

There is certainly nothing wrong with owning up to your accomplishments, but when your celebration gets excessive that’s when it will start to look bad on you. Gloating about one accomplishment can come across as if this doesn’t happen very often for you. Besides, how many times will the people around you want to hear about it? You want to be able demonstrate that you care about more than yourself which means focusing on others' accomplishments as well.


Even little white lies that seem harmless can be detrimental. If you are discovered being dishonest about something, no matter how small, people will be less likely to trust you in the future and more likely to assume you aren’t telling the truth about something larger.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Art of LinkedIn

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

Our generation is incredibly social media savvy, but one of those most common questions I get during walk-in advising besides resume help is how to build a LinkedIn profile and then how to utilize it. While there isn’t necessarily a way to beat the system and guarantee that you’ll find a job on LinkedIn, or that a recruiter will find you, there are things you can be doing to make sure your name is getting out there.

While the average LinkedIn user doesn’t have to pay to use the site (unless you choose to upgrade), there are companies that pay serious amounts of money to search through the around 300 million users on LinkedIn. So make sure your profile is as detailed as possible, with all of the sections filled out, because you never know what search criteria or keywords are going to get you noticed by your dream company.

Usually the first section on your LinkedIn account is your summary. This can be tough because if it’s the first thing that somebody sees on your profile, obviously you want it to be unique, well-written, and an accurate summary of your skills and qualifications. A great example of a summary can be found on the profile of Toppel’s own Carly Smith, who supervises us Peer Advisors: “I am a new career services professional, working at the University of Miami Toppel Career Center as the Assistant Director of Campus Outreach. One of my favorite parts of my job is helping others to create and build connections, whether it be student to employer, student to alumni, or student to student. I love what I do and am excited to continue gaining experience in the field.” She clearly and concisely explains what she does and what she is passionate about, creating a great introduction to the rest of her profile.

From there, you can copy and paste a lot of the text from your resume, particularly in the experience section. Your education section will be similar as well, and be sure to include any study abroad experiences. With resumes, we recommend not including any information from high school, but my high school happens to have an alumni network on LinkedIn, so in this case I am connected with that network and have my high school listed on my profile. There are also sections on LinkedIn for organizations you’re a part of, courses you’ve taken, honors and awards you’ve received, skills, certifications, and languages, and you can also connect with various groups and organizations on LinkedIn. It’s best to fill in all of these sections as much as you can, as long as the information is as relevant to your field as possible. For example, as a marine science major I follow companies like Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and more.

The next step after building your profile is to connect with other people on LinkedIn; you never know what people within your close network may know other people at a company you apply to one day. Once you start making connections and following different companies and organizations, you’ll get updates about job postings, current events in your field, and more great information that will put you ahead of the pack when it comes to using social media to search for a job.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Questions from the Professionals

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

Be honest. In the rare occasions that as students, we get to play the role of the professional/employer, do you ever feel that the part of the job interview where you ask the candidate, "Do you have any questions for me?" is almost always a waste of time? As the interviewer, it’s easy to tell that most candidates don't actually care about your answers; they just hope to make themselves look good by asking "smart" questions. To interviewees, what they ask is more important than the actual answer to their so-called “smart” questions. Great candidates ask questions they want answered because they're evaluating you, your company/organization – and whether they really want to work with you.

1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?
Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don't want to spend weeks or months "getting to know the organization." They want to make a difference, right away.

2. What are the common attributes of your top performers?
Great candidates want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe your top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Great candidates want to know, because 1) they want to know if they fit, and 2) if they do fit, they want to be a top performer.

3. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
In every job, some activities make a bigger difference than others. Although you have positions available, you want to find the right candidates, because that results in higher retention rates, lower training costs, and better overall productivity. Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know helping the company succeed means they succeed as well.

4. How do you plan to deal with...?
Every business/organization faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends. So while some candidates may see your company as a stepping stone, they still hope for growth and advancement; if they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because you were forced out of business. Great candidates don't just want to know what you think; they want to know what you plan to do, and how they will fit into those plans.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Handle the Haters

By Maura Gergerich, Toppel Peer Advisor

It’s just a fact of life that not everyone you interact with will like you. If this isn’t the case then you haven’t made enough decisions in your life. Leaders are constantly forced to make decisions like firing people or changing a policy that will make people upset, but what makes good leaders is that they choose the right option rather than the easy one. The key to this is also learning how to deal with these people.

Accept that you can’t please everyone
This is of course easier said than done, but trying to please everybody will either end up angering everyone instead or driving you insane. So just stick with what you think is right and people will respect your ability to stand tall in the face of adversity.

Keep an eye on your enemies
Everyone has heard the idea of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. It’s way easier to protect yourself from being backstabbed if you don’t turn your back.

Laugh it off
The best way to dealing with slander towards you is to have a sense of humor about it. Not only will this make you feel better, it will also make your peers respect you for not throwing self-pity parties.

Forgive and forget
One of the strongest things a person can do is forgive someone. It shows that you are the bigger person. And you never know, that person may end up changing their ideas and be a wonderful asset to you. Holding grudges is too much energy to waste on so little outcome.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Will I be Homeless for my Summer Internship?

By Marian Li, Toppel Peer Advisor

You know, finding an internship/job isn't the ONLY stressful thing students need to worry about post-spring-semester. The reason why employers value students who do internship experiences over summer is that not only do the students gain knowledge of the industry at hand, but they also grow as individuals ready for the real world – which includes paying rent, driving commutes, and generally fending for themselves away from their parents and home. As a student though, you’re not alone! The struggle of growing up is a shared pain, so here are a few tips to make the housing process a little easier!

Do your research – Always start early! Depending on the time frame of your internship/job, you may have to review some of your housing options and how flexible they are with lease agreements. You should do some recon and get a lay of the land around your job’s location. You should consider commute time, the safety of the neighborhood, and amenities. These traits help you determine a good middle ground for your job.

Find Roommates! – First and foremost, the easiest way to cut costs is to find someone to share the cost. A lot of times, students have the opportunity to travel out of state and it’s a little scary to do it alone. Most times, though, classmates of yours may be working in the same area as you so meet new friends! Although you may not be working for the same company, having some company outside of work is comforting and it lightens the financial burdens of looking for housing by yourself.

Extended-Stay Hotels – Think housing is too difficult? And you wish booking a hotel was an option? Well, surprise! Some hotels actually have the option of extended-stay for weeks, and even months. Hotels are abundant no matter where you end up, but just be wary that this option may be a bit pricy!

AirBnB – The up and coming website students tend to overlook is AirBnB. The idea behind AirBnB is for people who had space to share to host travelers looking for a place to stay. Much like extended-stay hotels, the duration of your stay is pretty flexible as long as the host agrees to it! AirBnB provides a unique experience since you’ll essentially be a tenant of theirs but you learn more about the area.

Subleasing – If your internship/job is located near a college/university, there’s a good chance there are students living around the area as well. Most house/apartment leases are on a 10 or 12-month lease minimum, and if the students aren't staying for summer, chances are, they’re looking for ways to supplement their monthly rent.

Happy house hunting!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mini Mock Interview…What’s It All About?

By Kiernan King, Toppel Peer Advisor

Interviews are a necessary component of the job application process and Toppel offers a service to help make that process run a tad smoother; The Mini Mock Interview. To obtain one, simply come to the office for walk-in advising and meet with a fantastic peer advisor or graduate assistant. Getting ready for Medical School? Preparing for Graduate School? Hoping to land your dream job? We offer mock interviews in all of these areas Monday through Friday 10am – 4:30pm. 

Interviews will always begin with the dreaded, “Tell Me About Yourself” question. To answer such, one must stay relevant and keep the answer professional. Consider these five easy steps:
  1. Be Gracious. (Thank them for taking the time out of their day to meet with you)
  2. “My name is ____.” It’s never a bad idea to remind the employers who they’re potentially hiring.
  3. “I’m originally from…” Geographic relevance goes a long way and is one of the easiest ways to connect with someone.
  4. Use connecting words. “I’m currently a _____ at _____.” Here you can list your title and where your most recent and relevant experience comes from.
  5. “And this is what I do…” The final step is the trickiest yet most important. Here you need to explain step 4 with a brief example of why they should consider hiring you over someone else.
Remember, the elevator pitch should be less than three minutes. Be careful not to overdo it. Be articulate, use general phrases. Your rhetoric and ability to summarize will be graded here.
  • “What do you know about our company?” The easiest way to answer this question: research, research, research! Gather all of the information you can because it will show the employer you’re truly interested in working there which will also impress them. If the least you do is read their Wikipedia page, you’ll know that much more about that company. Also see if you can find a story about the company in your local newspaper. Information on current events can give you a leg up on the competition.
  • You will be challenged on your previous experiences. Not only do you need to research the company, but be sure to go back through your own résumé and remind yourself of the many experiences you’ve had, your responsibilities there, and what you accomplished. Be sure to “flip” any negative aspects about these positions into positive ones.
  • Be sure to highlight your interpersonal skills. These can always be backed up by hard skills listed on your résumé, but in order for your personality to really shine you need to refer to examples of how you positively impacted a colleague, peer or client.
  • Midway through the interview we may pause and asses the number of “ums” and “likes” said. This critique is only to help you avoid saying these words and to get you feeling comfortable with a little bit of natural silence. A note about your body language may be mentioned as well.
  • When employees ask you about your strengths, a good formula to go with is to start with a word. Turn that word into a sentence and then make that sentence become a story. Avoid cliché answers and be sure to say a skill for a weakness and not personality traits because skills can be taught and adjusted more easily than habits.

IMPORTANT: have a minimum of 3 questions to ask an employer at the end of an interview! One can be an overarching question, one can be related to what they find rewarding/challenging and one may be about opportunities for growth within the company, for example. Be sure to never ask anything personal.

Final tips: invest in resume paper and bring about 5 copies to an interview, go easy on the cologne, perfume, practice a firm handshake, be sure to iron your shirt and know how to tie a tie! While dressing professional is not required here, if you choose to do so we can offer a note or two on your outfit.

Don’t approach this mock interview, or any interview, like a test that you studied for the night before. You don’t want to sound rehearsed and the best thing to do is be yourself. The peer advisors and graduate assistants will listen to your answers and will provide honest feedback. Come see us, we don’t bite! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Summer Internship Hunt

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

It’s that time of year again: the humidity is creeping back into our weather, professors are starting to remind you to actually start that final project you’ve known about for the whole semester, and the “what am I doing this summer?!” panic sets in as you realize we are a little over a month away from the end of the year. So inevitably, we here at Toppel are hearing the same question over and over: how do I find a summer internship?

As college students we are constantly being told how important internships are to our future career, but often, heavy course loads and on campus involvement makes it difficult to balance an internship during the school year. Summer is the perfect time to dive head first into an internship and get some valuable experience. So, how do you find that elusive summer internship?

To start, check out After logging in with your CaneID information, click on the “Jobs” tab and start searching. Use different keywords to narrow down your search and find exactly what you’re looking for.

Can’t find your perfect internship on HireACane? Here’s where you might have to do a bit more work. All of the internships and jobs I’ve ever gotten have come from just doing a Google search and seeing where that takes me. I follow tons of organizations in my field on Facebook and Twitter, and constantly keep up to date on what they’re doing to see if they’re places I’d be interested in working at, and sometimes they’ll even put job/internship postings on Facebook.  

So what if you find your dream company, but there’s nothing posted about internship openings? While many websites will have a “careers” or “internships” page, you might have to dig a little further with others to find the opportunity you’re looking for. You can send a letter of inquiry to a company expressing your interest in working for them and asking if they have anything available. They might turn you down but you really have nothing to lose!

Once you find the internship opportunities you want to apply for, come to Toppel for walk-in advising and we can help craft the perfect cover letters and resumes for those applications. Before you know it, you’ll have an awesome summer internship lined up!