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!