By Christian Garcia

As I pondered what to write about for my blog entry, I found myself thinking back to my summer vacation last month. A group of my friends and I traveled to San Francisco, enjoyed a few days in Sonoma, and capped off the trip with a visit to Hawaii. Needless to say, it was an amazing trip! Anyone who knows me knows that I love to travel and that I love what I do for a living. Therefore, it made sense to tie my love for travel with tips for career success.

Build Bridges
San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world; it’s a place where people can freely express themselves and be accepted for who they are. On top of that, it has amazing cuisine and lots of cool and unique neighborhoods. Of course, you can’t think of San Francisco without the iconic Golden Gate Bridge coming to mind. As we rode atop a double-decker bus (and froze even though it was July), I couldn’t help but think about how important it is to build and sustain bridges in one’s life, especially when looking for a job. That said, it is sometimes difficult for college students to put themselves out there and begin building these important relationships. As you can see from the picture, we couldn’t see the other side of the bridge because of all the fog. Oftentimes in life we can’t see what’s ahead of us but we take the leap anyway. Making connections is no different; it takes being a little vulnerable and having faith that although it may take a little while, great things come from building bridges. 

Follow the “Crooked” Yellow Brick Road
A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a car ride down Lombard Street, which has eight very tight hairpin turns in just a one block stretch! Dozens of people crowd around the top of the steep hill to take pictures of cars winding their way down this crazy street. This got me thinking: Sometimes people view their career in a linear fashion: I have to do A to get to B before getting to C. Well if there’s one thing Lombard Street teaches us, it’s that more often than not, there are twists and turns (sometimes difficult ones) in our careers but we still ultimately get to where we are supposed to go. While it’s great to plan – and we do preach planning at Toppel – it’s also important to remember that life’s detours often provide us with the best experiences. Not to mention all the fun that awaits these unexpected deviations to our plans.

See the Light
During our visit, we took a day trip to Muir Woods, which is filled with breathtaking and towering Redwood trees. It was pretty cool to drive just 12 miles out of the city and find ourselves surrounded by such beautiful nature. I know my friends will read this and laugh because I’m not your typical “outdoorsy/one-with-nature” kind of guy but I can certainly appreciate beauty when I see it! Several things popped into my mind as I wandered among those giant trees. First, sometimes looking for a job feels like an overwhelming process; it can easily become all-consuming. Therefore, it’s important to take time to stop and just “be”. Sometimes it takes a simple change of pace to see things more clearly and gain a better perspective. The other thing that sprung to mind was a result of taking the picture you see here. Managing everything in your life (school, work, internships, job searching, etc.) can sometimes feel like a never-ending journey but there is always a light at the end of that journey. As I looked up to the trees and saw the sun beaming through, I couldn’t help but feel relaxed and at peace with many of the things I’m juggling in life. 

Take Time for “Career Tasting”
One of the highlights of our trip was spending time in the Sonoma wine country. Sonoma is such a laid back and idyllic place, which makes it so hard to say goodbye. Of course, for wine lovers like me, it’s among the best places to sample many different types of wine. As my friends and I drove around Sonoma and stopped at the many wineries, we not only had a chance to taste fantastic wines, we also got to learn the history behind each winery and the folks who work there. Therefore, think of your career as one big wine sampling trip: take the time to test out different careers (shadowing and internships) and ask successful individuals for a few minutes of their time to learn about their career path and passions. Just like not every wine is going to be pleasing to one’s palette, some of the careers you try out may be the opposite of what you’re looking for…and that’s okay! Better to try it and know rather than always wondering “what if?”

Taking a hot air balloon ride has always been on my Bucket List and I’m happy to say I was able to scratch it off the list during my time in Sonoma. What better way to view the beautiful Sonoma sunrise than in a hot air balloon with your closest friends? Although I’m not a huge fan of heights, I could not let the opportunity pass me by (there’s a lesson in there). More importantly, the same way the balloons in the picture you see here aren’t meant to stay grounded, neither are we as individuals. I never understood why “being grounded” is viewed by many as such a good trait in people. Know your true value and what you have to offer and use it to stretch and soar in your career. The ride may be a little bumpy and scary at times, but I think we can all agree: a hot air balloon sitting on the ground is just not as cool as one floating up and away!
Wait for the Rainbow
During our time in Hawaii, we visited two of its islands, Oahu and the Big Island, and they couldn’t be more different from each other! While Oahu is fast-paced, the Big Island is totally laid back and relaxing. My favorite part of Oahu was visiting Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial…it’s a must-see! On the Big Island, we visited Volcanoes National Park and got to see some really cool active craters. That said, the picture shown here reminds us of the dangers Mother Nature brings us. As I equated this to one’s career, I couldn’t help but think of all the potential pitfalls and dangers that await us. We are all going to make mistakes and we will most likely encounter individuals who don’t have our best interests at heart. But as you can also see in the picture, out of darkness comes light…in this case, a rainbow. So whether you have no idea what you want to do for a living or hate your current job or you’re pondering a career change, be patient and just wait for the rainbow.
Have Fun!
We have a saying at Toppel: “We take our work seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.” If there’s one final career tip I can leave you with, it is to HAVE FUN! Yes, it’s scary to embark on your life after college or to take a risk on a new career or business endeavor, but it is also all about your perspective. The unknown is much easier to face when you’re having a good time. Also, there isn’t a rule that says you can’t have fun in your career. So take some time to laugh, act silly, and most importantly, surround yourself with those who care about you the most. Sure, six grown men wearing “hi” shirts to a Hawaiian Luau is silly (and a little embarrassing) but who cares? Everyone knew we were there to have fun and many even said “hi” back!