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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.

 

Research

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.

Shadowing

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.

Work

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.

Volunteer

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!

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.

Sleep

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.

Exercise

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.

Fun

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!

Take Advantage of Resources

By Ali Banas, Peer Advisor

As a freshman in college, you experience a lot of firsts. Possibly the first time living away from home, the first college courses, first finals week, on-campus living, the list goes on. It can be a lot to handle, but it can also be the start to a great experience. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a new sea of people who all seem to know what they are doing, and what their future plans are. The University of Miami has great resources to help students gain steady footing during this time. For me, freshman year had many firsts, including my first internship. Living out of state during a portion of the year makes finding jobs/internships very difficult, but it’s made easier with applications like Handshake, and facilities like Toppel. I may not have found my internship on Handshake, but I found lists of a dozen others I would have never found by myself. Having no past experience with resumes or applications for internships, I found myself uploading my mediocre resume to Handshake and just hoping for the best. When a Peer Advisor commented on it, I made changes, and was amazed that this service was done automatically, without me having to ask. Looking into the services offered by Toppel, I realized I needed to take a trip before sending in my application. Applications are not always straight forward. Some have what seems like endless hoops to jump through, and can drive you insane. My application was one of these. I struggled on how to get all my paperwork together, and on what the best way to complete everything was. Walking over to Toppel was nerve-wracking, because I had no idea what I even needed to ask. Going to Peer Advising seemed scary, but honestly extremely worth it. The Advisor helped answer my questions, and figured out what it was that my application needed to be considered complete. Utilizing services like this, is something that every student, not just freshman should take part in. I learned so much from my internship that I never would have guessed that I would be taking part in freshman year. It seemed so advanced, but with help on creating the best possible application, I secured my place.

It can be scary taking advantage of services that are new to you, or that you never needed in the past. But as a freshman, undergraduate, graduate student, or beyond, you learn from new experiences. You have a possibility to learn from everyone you meet, if you just take the time to. Whether it’s job applications, job searches, or questions that you didn’t even know you had, there are resources to help. Not only are there amazing career resources on campus, but there’s a resource for nearly everything you can need. Mental health, counseling, medical, social issues, on-campus living, and academic, it’s all covered. Majority of these are included in tuition, so why not take advantage of them?

Good Luck, Canes!

Ways to Normal

By Morgan Henry, Peer Advisor

Whether you called it Irma, Hurrication, or (my personal favorite) Irmageddon, the impromptu vacation probably disrupted your semester. Calendars are soaked with white-out as we frantically work to keep up with continual altered academic and break schedules. This state of change-induced stress is a dangerous position to be in as it’s a recipe for either a burnout or procrastination.

I’m a big proponent of the phrase “work smarter, not harder,” and I think that definitely applies here. As we work to find the schedules we lost to Irma, it’s important to take action and know ourselves. Keeping in mind what we’re capable of and understanding what needs to be done to improve are the first steps in getting back on track and not only coping with the stress, but conquering it. Here’s a short list of things that work for me:

  1. Compartmentalize. When I’m doing school work, I focus on school work. When I’m at work, I focus on work. When I’m at neither of these places, I try not to talk about either. Constant obsession over the imagined impending doom of assignments headed my way makes me anxious and adds to unnecessary suffering. I try to create a limit of how much I worry over these things to help with stress.
  2.  Plan one activity that you look forward to each day. It can be anything from going on a run, taking a power nap, or watching an episode of your favorite show. But actually schedule it out. I have a planner that contains every detail of my life, and I make sure to block out at least 30 minutes of the day to relax with that. This helps me create a better work-school-life balance because life’s about more than just smashing goals.
  3. Reach out to professors and managers. If stress ever starts to make me feel miserable, I immediately find someone to talk to. Sometimes a friend works but other times I need someone who will more directly understand the situation. Life’s not out to get you, and professors and managers are always there to help.

Good luck, Canes!

Dear College Graduate,

By Sterlie Achille, Peer Advisor

I hope this letter finds you well. First off, congratulations on accomplishing your goal of earning a college education! You came, you learned, you conquered. These 4 years as a Hurricane have flown by and formed a stronger and wiser version of your freshman identity. You’ve earned the degree, aced your job interviews, and landed that great job. You may be asking yourself: What’s next? Well, now a new journey awaits…the real world.

When you are out there living your best life, I hope you remember to:

1. Keep up with your fitness

Unlike in college where you walked to get to and from class, most workplaces involve a lot of sitting or limited mobility. As difficult as going to the gym may be, it might be essential for your body’s upkeep. If not through exercise, manage your fitness by eating better and removing unhealthy choices as often as you can.

2. Practice smart financial decisions

It can be as small limiting your eating out to 1x a week (put in the effort to bring your own lunch to work as much as you can since eating out can add up quickly), or creating a budget, or even removing the unnecessary bills like cable (especially if you’re never home).

3. Continue networking

So you found the perfect job? That’s great! However, it is still very crucial for you continue to build professional relationships and meaningful connections at your workplace. This isn’t only good practice to get a reference or referral when moving jobs. It can also benefit your advancement within the company.

4. Ask for help, when needed

In the real world, we don’t always get things right. This is perfectly normal and you are not alone. Whether you need help in your personal life, or in the professional world, there are many knowledgeable people who would be more than willing to help guide you. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but once you ask for help the first time, it gets easier. What’s more important than a few awkward minutes? Your confidence in your ability to tackle the problems you will face!

 

The real world may not only be all fun and games, but there is something exhilarating about making your own decisions and having the freedom to manage your time. In addition to the things above, I hope that you find everything you are looking for. I hope that you roll with the punches, never stop aiming for excellence and continue to show up, and never give up! Carpe diem graduate, and congratulations again!

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Stressed Out

By Jackson Pollock, Peer Advisor

Finals are quickly approaching and stress levels are about to reach an all-time high. This stress that builds up while studying or thinking about finals can be alleviated with a few easy methods:

Breathing Exercises

Personally, I have really grown to enjoy taking a break and practicing some breathing exercises. The simplest and most productive, one in my opinion, is to just sit with you hand on your stomach and breathe through your nose, slowly and deeply, so that you feel your lungs fully expanding, then slowly releasing your breath through your mouth. I usually do this technique for about two minutes. I would recommend doing whatever you feel comfortable with, just don’t get too comfortable that you fall asleep in the library. This will lower your heart rate and lower blood pressure. This is a very easy and quick way to bring yourself back to a good mental state. It’s very easy to do this in the library for a couple minutes to relax.

Talk to People Close to You

Talking to friends about what is going on in your life is a great thing to do to lessen your stress level. Doing this will allow you to truly understand why you are stressed out and with their support it will motivate you that you can in fact have it in you to accomplish your finals (in this case). You’ll also get to hear what is on their mind, which may show that you are both going through some tough mental times. Whenever I get stressed out, I like to talk to friends I’m close with at school, but also reach out to distant friends that are completely detached from my current environment.

Laugh Out Loud

On one of your study breaks go online and either watch your favorite show (The Office works well) or some funny videos. Laughing out loud will make you feel mentally lighter and realize that there are things other than Biology and Calculus.

Listen to Music

This might be my favorite way of reducing stress. There are two ways you can approach this. This first is to listen to some relaxing music in the form of something like white sound, or classical music. This can calm you out. My personal angle on this is to start jamming out to some of my favorite songs, making sure the volume is fairly high (but not too high to affect the studying of other people in the library)

Move.

Although the chairs in the library are actually pretty comfortable (@ me), during study breaks you’ve got to get out of that place. Take a walk around the library and get some fresh air, go for a run around campus, go workout in the gym, go take a yoga class. Just do something that will get you moving.

Zoom Out

This is the most important one on the list. On one of your study breaks pick up a newspaper (if you don’t know what this is, it’s a series of papers put together with text and images on them telling the national and world news) and read through some of the national and world headlines. In this newspaper you will see all the bad things that are happening in the world, and all the things that you need to worry about. Through this zooming out and seeing the whole world, you will realize that these finals are not going to have substantial impacts on your life. This zooming out will allow you to be grateful for having the privilege to attend an amazing institution such as the University of Miami and much more.

You’ll be fine…

Building a Personal Brand

By Tina Humphrey, Peer Advisor

What is Personal Branding?

Personal Branding is a unique story that others recall when they think of you.

Why is it Important?

It’s important in the workplace because it helps it allows you to stand out. When you need a promotion or a referral, your supervisors and or colleagues should have something positive to say when they think about you.

What should you be doing now to build your Personal Brand?

Think about what makes you unique, relevant, differentiated, and special. Reflect on your strengths, skills, values, and passions. How do you STAND out?

How you see yourself is how others see you

Keys to build your personal brand

Be Authentic

Be known for something specific

Get your personal brand in check

Take steps to build and own your personal brand online

 

“Your personal brand is what differentiates you from others”

End on a High: Productivity

By Sterlie Achille, Peer Advisor

The semester is coming to an end faster than we think and soon finals week will be here. Ever wondered about the ways you could you improve your studying and productivity?

Well, read on for some tips!

1) Do not take on unnecessary tasks

Time is the one thing money can’t buy.  While it is tempting to go through every problem in the book or read every chapter listed on the syllabus, it is important to prioritize and narrow down your studies. Every exam will test on a specific set of materials. Make sure to focus on the areas your professor advises so that you are not overwhelmed. Focus helps to make a study session productive!

2) Create reasonable to-do lists

To-do lists help you keep in mind the things that need to get done and can help motivate you to be productive. However, to-do lists of more than 10 items are counter supportive to helping you reach your goals.  Large lists set a large expectation that can be overwhelming or discouraging if everything from this list isn’t accomplished. Instead, attempt to limit your to-do lists with no more than 6 items at a time. That way you can prioritize your tasks even further and set realistic expectations.

3) Keep an organized working area

An organized workspace will help remove distractions and make for a more productive study session. The last thing you want to happen when motivation hits is to have to search for space to set down your work or fight back the flood of stuff on your desk.

4) Take Study Breaks

Studying for long hours is actually hurting you more than it is helping.  If you spend more than 8-10 hours at a desk without moving around much, then you will notice that you have less energy.  Productivity is not measured by the number of hours you sit at a desk.  So take breaks! 10-15 minutes is usually a great refresher for going back to your task with a clearer mind!

5) Set Self-Imposed deadlines

(AVOID situations like the one above as much as possible)

Set a personal deadline and hold yourself as accountable to it as you would any other important cut-off date. Deadlines are often stressful. Unfortunately, they’re a necessary evil. You may not always meet them but, it will help you to avoid procrastination and get as much done as possible.

College is what you make of it! As the semester comes to a close, best of luck (and preparation) to end strong. Happy studying!

You’ve got this!

Email Etiquette

By Sterlie Achille, Peer Advisor

With the close of Spring Career Expo, many of us might have to reach out to professional recruiters by email. Whether to network, apply for a job, or follow-up after an interview, it is important to keep things professional. An easy way to ruin your chances of success is to send a conversational email filled with grammatical errors.

Here are some tips that can improve and sharpen your professional email writing skills!

1) Strong Subject line

This is one of the simplest parts of the email, but it can often be the hardest to create. Keep the subject line brief and simple to convey the main idea of the email. Avoid leaving the subject area blank or with meaningless words that do not convey the specifics of the email. This section should give the reader an idea about the email before they open it. It should be an accurate description with any relevant dates or deadlines.

2) The Greeting

Most mistakes with the email greeting happen because people get too personal. The best way to greet someone is with formality such as “Ms. Last Name” or “Mr. Last name”. Unless instructed by the person directly, it is generally not a good idea to address them by their first name.

3) Organization

It is important to have a well-organized email that clearly conveys a message. Structurally, the email should include an introduction, body, and closing paragraph. In your intro, highlight your reason for contacting the person, then give all the information they need. Finally, end your email by letting them know if you would like them to contact you, or if you will be reaching out to them at a later date.

4) Timing

Make sure to send follow-up emails after several days have passed.   It is best to allow the person enough time to see your message. However, it is still important to send your reply emails on time to keep the interest of the recruiter. Once you have a reply, it is your responsibility to respond as soon as possible.

5) Proofread

Once your email is complete, proofread it for grammar and punctuation errors. Avoid making the mistake of sending it quickly without reading it over several times. Taking that extra step shows you care and will help you stand out in a positive way!

Happy writing!

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