Toppel Peers Blog

the inside track to your career

What Makes a Great Elevator Pitch

By Kara Davis, Peer Advisor

Let’s say you’re at a career fair, a luncheon, or even in an elevator.  There will be lots of people that you are eager to meet, but what’s the best way to introduce yourself and make sure they remember you? That’s the beauty of the elevator pitch! If you find it difficult to talk about yourself to others, rest assured. An elevator pitch is only 30 seconds.

So, what does this elevator pitch consist of?  First you want to talk about who you are. You’ll want to greet the person you are talking to and then give them your name. Then you mention what school you’re currently attending, what year you are in school, and your major. If you have a broad major, like psychology, feel free to mention what your focus in that major is. If you are working while in school, or you’ve finished school, you would then tell the person your occupation. If the person you are speaking with is a potential employer, you’ll want to clarify the position you are looking for with their company. It’s important to do your research! What jobs are they offering? Do you meet those job requirements? Don’t forget that your elevator pitch is meant to make you stand out to the person you are talking to; you’ve got to include a “WOW!” factor.  What makes you unique? What fact can you mention that will spark interest and help people remember you?

After you’ve given this amazing pitch, you want to make sure that the person you met at this luncheon or the potential employer at the career fair can contact you. If this is a potential employer, feel free to leave them with a copy of your resume. In other cases, you can give out a business card. If you don’t have either, make sure to give them your name and at least one form of contact information (phone number or email).

To make sure your elevator pitch is perfect, practice all the time!  Have your friends, family, or even your pets act as potential employers.  Record yourself so you know exactly how you sound and what your posture looks like. A great elevator pitch helps you get your foot in the door for that dream job and allows you to grow your professional network. Good luck!

“Tell Me About Yourself;” A Trap?


By Qismat Niazi, Peer Advisor

Ah, the dreaded “tell me about yourself.” Many students, myself included, have been stumped by the broadness of this very inquiry. Do I tell them about my dog? Do I tell them I have a very unhealthy obsession with chocolate? All probably extremely interesting points, but it’s not what the employer is really asking you.


One important thing to note is that the employers, although they might have an interest in you as a person, want to know more about how you and your unique traits will be of value to them; your obsession with chocolate might not cut it (unless you’re interviewing for Hershey but that’s a different story).


I have come up with a three step answering process that seems to touch base on everything the employer wants to know while not deterring from the question at hand. I call this the Past, Present, and Future Method.



By starting out with your past, you are giving employers a little background to lead into your current and future endeavors. You can briefly touch upon where you’re from or a monumental life-changing experience that you feel is necessary to mention, but you should really set this up in a way that highlights any past experience you have had in the field of the company you’re interviewing for. This is a good leeway into talking about how you got interested in what you’re currently doing: any research, jobs, even the reasoning behind which you chose your particular major(s).



This is your chance to, in plain terms, brag about all the amazing things you are currently doing. You want to make sure this ties into what you did in the past or address why it doesn’t quite align (I found my passion to be something completely different). Again, you want to make this company specific; mention characteristics/skills that would be useful in the position you’re applying to and brand yourself.



This is where you can outline your vision of the company in the future. Talk about where you want to take the company, if you have any new initiatives, and where you see yourself involvement wise. This shows the company that they have your interest and you definitely see yourself aligning with their mission.


This three step method has really helped me structure my interview answers and make sure I’m hitting all the necessary talking points, and I wish that it does the same for you! Good Luck Canes!

How to Interview

By Cayla Lomax, Peer Advisor


With Expo ending and summer slowly approaching  many of us have been gearing up for interviews for upcoming jobs or summer internships (or may have already landed the job!).  During this time of frenzy here are a few tips to keep in mind when trying to put your best foot forward for the interview.

Before I go in to the nitty gritty of this article, I do want to mention one key point. According the website The Balance, “the key to effective interviewing is to project confidence, stay positive, and be able to share examples of your workplace skills and your qualifications for the job”. This quote really encompasses the what your main focus point should be when interviewing: Confidence, Positivity, Reliability, and Experience.

I’ve gathered the following tips from The Balance, The Muse, and Live Career:

1.Research the Company and Position

Success in an interview is dependent on solid knowledge of the company and position you’re applying for. You want to know the background of the company, obviously, as well as what the position entails, but don’t neglect researching the company culture and mission statements. By getting a sense of “who” the company is,  you can better structure your answers to fit the what they are looking for and become a more attractive candidate. Find as many resources as you can such as friends, contacts, Google, Glassdoor, press releases, company’s social media, etc. to better your knowledge about the company.


2.Anticipate Interview Questions

First and foremost, you should prepare and practice your response to the typical job interview questions, such as the “Tell me about yourself” question, which though seemingly simple, can trip up those who are not prepared. You also want to ask the hiring manager what type of interview to expect – different firms use different types of interviews, so it’s best to be prepared for anything that’ll come your way. Your main goal when answering interview questions is to come up with answers that are detailed, yet concise, that focus on specific examples or accomplishments.


3.Be Aware of Body Language

Though the content of your answers in incredibly important, employers will also be focusing on what is unsaid – that is, your body language. You want to make sure you have eye contact, good (yet comfortable) posture, and smile and nod occasionally to show that you’re actively listening and engaged. You want to avoid slouching, fidgeting with your chair, or playing with a pen or your hair.


4.The Follow Up

Common courtesy and politeness go far when interviewing. Generally you should send your thank you note or email within 24 hours of your interview.


With these tips you should be well prepared for any interview that comes your way. Good luck Canes!

Gap Year: What’s the Deal?

By Ali Banas, Peer Advisor

So…You’re considering a gap year. This isn’t an easy decision for some, but for others it makes perfect sense. Whether you just need a break and want to gain experience in your field, you’re feeling indecisive about your path, or you know that you need time to gain insight on your career, a gap year might be right for you. There are many things you can do during this time, like traveling, working, or gaining experience. When you’re wondering if this time is right for you, consider a few things. Can you afford to live and complete your goals without scholarships or major funding from the university? Will this motivate you to return to school and help your focus? What do you want to gain from this experience? Here I will discuss a few of the most popular things to do during a gap year.

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Completing lab work while in school can be time consuming, and therefore overwhelming. The best way to get involved on campus is through professors and researchers, asking about faculty-led projects. These do not always have to be completed while in school, so it’s best to reach out and ask for opportunities that would be available to you during your gap year. If there is another research lab you were interested in, it is best to reach out and talk to representatives or organizations that lead the type of lab you are looking for. Gap years can also be a great time for networking. Get your feet wet in different types of research or see if the path you wished to take is one that would fit you well.


If you are in the medical field, you know how important shadowing can be. Use personal connections to spend a few days here and there shadowing the career professional of your choice, to see if this path is one you would be interested in. Medical professionals are not the only ones who offer shadow days, and students in other majors/career paths should be looking for these opportunities as well! Ask around your college, friends, professors, or advisors for helpful connections that may be able to assist you in finding a person to shadow. Shadowing during a gap year could really help you have a realistic view of what the working environments are really like.


Definitely one of the most common things to do during a gap year is to work. This is a valuable way to save up some money, gain experience, and meet new people that could help shape your career. A bit more of a commitment than shadowing, this is option is great for those who are trying to become more financially stable, or those who are trying to experience their field of choice hands-on. Whether full-time or part-time, working during a gap year can be very beneficial.


There are so many options for volunteer experiences around the world. This can be a great way to experience different cultures while helping a good cause. Volunteering doesn’t have to be in your field, but it couldn’t hurt if it was. Volunteering can be a great resume booster while giving you experience, networking opportunities, and the opportunity for exposure to things you might not get to see otherwise.


There are many options to consider for a gap year, and it is important to pick what will be best for you. Consider your options, and enjoy Canes!

Career Expo Craze!

By Morgan Henry, Peer Advisor

Get Hyped for Spring Career Expo 2018!

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The University of Miami’s Spring Career Expo is Wednesday, February 21st from 1-5pm at the Watsco Center. This event will feature over 100 companies that are eager to make connections with both students and alumni from UM. It’s a great way for you to make connections to strengthen your personal network, discover different potential career paths, as well as continue to develop yourself professionally. With all these benefits on the line, it’s important to stay on top of things and budget yourself enough time to have a great Expo experience.

  1. Use Toppel! Whether your resume needs tweaking or you want to start from scratch, Toppel Career Center has great resources to help you out. Walk-in Advising is Monday through Friday from 9AM to 4:30PM, so be sure to stop by in the dates leading up to Expo. We can also help you develop the perfect elevator pitch!
  2. Research the Companies. After you register for Spring Expo using your Handshake account, there’s a great feature that lets you see a list of every company that’s attending the fair. Go through, pick out your favorites, and learn more about them. Prepare some questions for the company representatives and stand out from the other hundreds of students that will attend.
  3. Make a Strategy. Whether this is your first Expo or you’re a seasoned vet, it never hurts to have a bit of networking practice. MAXIMUS will be coming to Toppel as Expo time nears to give students valuable input on what networking means and how play to your strengths within this setting (February 20th, 5:30pm). Make sure to register for this event using Handshake!

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Remember, there are so many resources out there that want to help you! Take advantage of them, and give yourself plenty of time to prepare. See you at Spring Expo 2018!

Good Luck, Canes!

3 Things Equally as Important as Academics

By Jordan Lewis, Peer Advisor

As students, the pressure is on to get good grades, whether it be in order to maintain scholarships or gain admittance to graduate school or simply reach personal goals, combined with participation to extracurricular activities and possibly even a job can be draining both mentally and physically. We often think we need to prioritize our academic success over our general well being, as if the two cannot coexist; this mentality is NOT a healthy one!

Continue reading to learn more about three things (other than your academics) that deserve some serious attention.



Many students find themselves skipping out on a good night’s sleep to study or put last minute touches on an essay and do not realize the benefits they are giving up by doing so. Mentally, sleep improves learning in addition to helping you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Sleep deficiency, on the other hand, negatively effects those things, in addition to being linked with depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior. Physically, sleep helps heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, decreases the risk of obesity, and supports healthy growth and development.

Long story short, next time you find yourself at 2 AM choosing between pulling an all-nighter and getting some rest, consider choosing the latter; you won’t regret it.



We all know that constant exercise helps us look better, but that’s not why it’s on this list. Yes, exercise is important physically; it decreases risk of cardiovascular diseases and other health problems, including stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and cancer. What many do not consider, however, is how vital it is in maintain a good mental state. Frequent exercise not only stimulates the brain chemicals that make you happy, but also boosts confidence and energy.

It doesn’t have to be long; a 15/20 minute walk a few times a week can improve your life in ways you never imagined.



This one needs little explanation. Right now, we’re at the time in our lives where we have the fewest responsibilities. Most of us don’t have house payments or children to support, and we should take advantage of that! College is about getting a degree, but it’s also about making memories and growing as a person. Set aside time during the week to enjoy yourself, relax by yourself or with friends, and recuperate before the next hard task you’re given.

Take care of yourselves. Work hard, but remember to play hard too!

Dressing the Part to Rock the Interview

By Kara Davis, Peer Advisor


Congratulations! You scored an interview for the job of your dreams, but what are you going to wear?! Proper business attire can make or break your chances of being offered that position.  Since you’re going for an interview, it is safer to go with business professional rather than business casual.  What’s the difference? Business casual is often worn in a casual office setting, but is still considered appropriate for the workplace. This includes khakis or slacks and casual button-down shirts for men and a skirt or pants with a dress shirt or a dress for women.  Typically, business casual does not include jeans, flip flops, or tank tops.


Business professional is exactly as it sounds, professional. For men, this is usually a dark-colored suit with a tie and dress shoes. For women, business professional can include either a dress with a blazer or a suit with pants or knee-length skirt; shoes can either be closed-toe heels or closed-toe flats. Wearing business professional attire to your interview will be a benefit to your future employer’s first impression of you. Are you worried that you don’t have the right items to put together your professional look? Come to Toppel and make use of Sebastian’s Closet! Here you can borrow various items of professional clothing for FREE. It’s better to be dressed for success than under dressed without your dream job!


Good luck, Canes!

Pre-Med Students and the Gap Year

By Andrea Trespalacios, Peer Advisor

In recent years, there has been quite a shift in the demographics of medical school students. Ten years ago, 60% of Harvard Medical School students were coming straight out of college (The Harvard Crimson). Nowadays, their most recent statistics show that about 65% of admitted students have spent some time off between college and medical school. This data combined with the rising cost of education and the increase in competitiveness for top schools has prompted many students to take gap years.

Students choose to take time off between college and medical school to strengthen their academics by:

  1. Taking other classes to boost their GPA
  2. Studying for the MCAT
  3. Earning other degrees

Students also take their time off to prepare financially for the commitment of having to pay for another degree. With the average debt being around $183,000 (American Association of Medical Colleges), students spend their time:

  1. Working and saving money
  2. Applying for scholarships

Thirdly, pre-med students focus primarily on gaining relevant experience that will make them stand out from other applicants. They spend their time:

  1. Doing research
  2. Working as a medical scribe, EMT, or at a doctor’s office
  3. Interning at non-profit organizations
  4. Volunteering at local clinics or hospitals, Peace Corps, and hospices
  5. Shadowing doctors in a range of specialties

The video below does a great job of explaining why gap years should be considered if you are applying for medical school. But is also important to remember that gap years are not for everyone and ultimately, students should weigh all the elements and factors that go into this decision!

Good Luck, Canes!


Communication & Job Searching

By Kiera Adams, Peer Advisor

We hope everyone had a great time at Expo last week! Expo having just passed means it’s about that time when recruiters are starting to reach out about jobs or internships. It’s always a question about how you should approach the next steps: Here are a couple of tips to guide you on how to follow up with employers!

First question is: when exactly should you follow up? When talking to a recruiter, it’s not a bad idea to ask at the end of the conversation what the next steps would be. From their answer, this should give you an idea of when you should except an answer. If they don’t give you a specific date, it’s recommended you wait a week or a week and a half before following up.

One tip to keep in mind is not to invade their personal space: Not just physical space, but also over the Internet. Don’t contact the employer asking if they made a decision the day after you speak with them. You want to show interest, but don’t want to seem like you are desperate.

Another question is what method should you use to follow up? Should you call or email? Employers don’t have the time to talk on the phone to every candidate especially with the quantity they meet at a career fair. Emails can be easier to keep track of and leaves a paper trail. Make sure when you are writing your emails that you say something that will remind the recruiter of your previous conversation. They hear from a lot of people so it can be difficult to keep track and remember people just from your name on the email signature.


Here are some do’s and don’ts from an article about this topic from LiveCareer:

Do be patient. The process often takes longer than the employer expects”

Don’t stop job-hunting, even if you feel confident that you will get a job offer.”

Do write individual thank you notes or letters to each person who interviewed you”

And finally:

Don’t place too much importance on one job or one interview; there will be other opportunities for you.“


Hopefully these tips help you get to the next step in your job search! Good luck, Canes!

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