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Making Connections

The 3 Rules of References

By Carly Smith, Associate Director, Career Readiness

This summer, I have been thinking a lot about references. Being at the same company now since 2011, it’s been a while since I’ve had to think about who I would use myself if asked to provide a list of 3-4 people who can speak highly about me to a future employer, grad school, etc. However, this summer reminded me why I should always be thinking about who these people might be. In my position at the Toppel Career Center, I have both given many references to those who have worked for me or with me. I have also been on the other side, calling references for those I am considering hiring. I had the opportunity this year to serve as a reference for someone who I admire and love working with, and it felt wonderful to know that my positive endorsement might help support that person in their goals. However, there have also been a few situations I encountered recently that made me realize that finding a great reference is tricky, and not everyone may know the best tips and strategies for finding the right person. So, here are my three major rules for finding the best reference for you.

#1. Make sure the person you are asking to be a reference knows you well enough to speak well of you.

I learned this lesson as a college senior. Not knowing who I wanted to write me a recommendation for graduate school, I chose some faculty members that I had taken classes with recently and performed well. Everything seemed all great, until one of those individuals turned me down. I was caught off guard. Why is this person saying no to me when I took the time to ask for a recommendation? Well, it was for one huge reason. This individual was a lecturer at my university and the course that I had taken with her was only a one credit course, so she felt her recommendation would not be as well received as from someone who I knew better and spent more time with. In the end, she was right, and I chose a professor who I had a better relationship with. I have carried this with me into my current job, and will sometimes turn down a reference request if I don’t feel that my recommendation will be able to be as great as I know it should be. These people usually agree and find someone much more knowledgeable about them. Continue reading “The 3 Rules of References”

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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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”

Workplace Etiquette

By Kim Wilks, Peer Advisor

The end of the semester is quickly approaching and this means that students will be moving into their full-time jobs and summer internships. Whether the position is short-term or long-term, you want to be sure to leave a good impression on everyone you encounter. Every day will be a networking opportunity. Keep a positive attitude and stay motivated. Here is a list of 10 professional etiquette tips to remember as you enter the workforce.

  1. When introducing yourself to someone for the first time say your full name and stand up. The higher-ranking person usually initiates the handshake. Handshakes are generally three seconds long. Keep a firm but comfortable grip.
  2. Maintain eye contact and good posture. Remain confident.
  3. Men nor women should not cross their legs.
  4. Arrive on time and be prepared! To be early is to be on time. This way you can do any last minute preparation that may be necessary.
  5. Respond to emails in a timely fashion. Address the person(s) receiving the email and say please and thank you. Check your grammar and watch your tone.
  6. Keep phone usage to a minimum and keep your phone on silent/ vibrate.
  7. It is usually better to be overdressed than underdressed. However, try to follow the dress code.
  8. Try your best to remember names, but admit if you have forgotten.
  9. Follow directions and ask questions if something is unclear.
  10. Avoid controversial topics with co-workers inside and outside of the workplace.

These ten tips are just some of the things to keep in mind as you enter “the real world.” Beyond all of this, remember to have fun and be yourself.  Take every day as a learning experience. Admit your wrongs and take responsibility. Then, move on and improve with every passing day. You’ll do great.

Good Luck Canes!

Tell Me About Yourself Question

By Kiera Adams, Peer Advisor

Spring time. It’s the time that interviews are being done for summer internships or jobs. There’s one question that is asked in all of these interviews: some people’s least favorite question, Tell me about yourself. This question can be one of the hardest for some to answer. Here’s a guide to help you answer the question:

Time

People either say too little or go overboard when answering this question. Your answer should be focused and short, about a minute. You don’t want to go over 2 minutes because it’ll start seeming like you are rambling. You don’t need to fit all of your skills and experiences in that minutes that’s what the whole interview is for.

Present-Past-Future formula

First you start off with the present: what you’re studying, level of study, etc. Then past: briefly go over some key experiences and skills from those experiences (again-make sure this isn’t too lengthy). Then the future-what you hope to get from the internship/why you’re excited about it.

*Tip: Make sure when you are listing experiences and skills that they are relevant to the position you are interviewing for!

Practice

The tell me about yourself question is a good question to practice ahead of time. Using the formula above, you can create a little script in your head. That way you won’t be as nervous when the interviewer asks the question. It’s important not to try to memorize it word for word because you can end up sounding robotic and rehearsed.

*Pro-tip: This YouTube Tutorial by Antony Stagg is a great tool. It uses past, present, and future as the formula; however it does a great job of explaining! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW-yxxPMtro

Cover photo acquired from: http://turningpoint-academy.org/job-interview/interview-question-article-on-the-topic-tell-me-about-yourself/

Good Luck on Interviews!

 

 

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!

Meeting with a Full Time Advisor

By Lindsey Shanck, Peer Advisor

So you have already come in for a walk-in appointment with the peer advisors…what’s next? You have had your resume and cover letter critiqued, maybe had a mini mock interview and a LinkedIn session.  Your next step is to meet with a full time advisor!

The full time advisors at Toppel are your go-to help for any questions you might have. While the peer advisors act as a liaison to share resources available at Toppel and keep your documents professional, the full time advisors can help you make the road map to a successful career after graduation. They can help set goals based on your major and career aspirations and give you tips in the industry you are interested in. With experience in the real world and with employers in your industry, they are essential in your career education.

Each of the eleven advisors are in charge of different fields and industries, but they are all experts in career education, and have the tools you need to make you successful post graduation. Devin is in charge of STEM fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Carly is the pre-health expert, and specializes in nursing and health science, life sciences, and psychology, and Edward is the pre-law guru. Ali is Toppel’s artsy advisor with specializations in architecture, art, art history, and theatre, and Debbie advises on music and communication. Richard and Kim specialize in the school of business, and Richard also advises athletics. Hilary resides in Washington D.C. and advises through Skype and phone on all things government. Betty handles the social sciences, RSMAS, and all international opportunities, along with Anna who also works in the school of education. Last but certainly not least, Esther works with graduate students, alumni, psychology, humanities, and liberal arts students.

To make an appointment with your advisor, log on to Handshake, and start planning your career!

Interview Questions

By Kiera Adams, Peer Advisor

The Spring Career Expo is coming up February 22nd, 2017! This is a great way to make connections in order to get an interview for a job or internship. There are many components that make a good, solid interview. A part that isn’t always utilized or is forgotten about is asking the interviewer questions. Monster.com gives a nice quote saying, “Interviews aren’t just about giving the right answers—they’re about asking the right questions.” Here are some good questions that you can ask an interviewer:

About the Job:

1) What’s the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?

This is a good question to ask because the interviewer will be able to explain what the expectations are for you right away. This can help you determine how demanding a job will be and if you will be able to handle those demands.

About the Company:

1) What do you enjoy most about working here?

2) Can you give me some examples of the company’s culture?

Both of these questions give you an idea about the type of work environment you will be immersed in. For some, type of environment is super important so you don’t want to go through the whole employment process just to enter a culture that isn’t something you would be happy or thrive in.

To the Interviewer:

1) Has your role changed since you’ve been here?

This question will tell you about opportunities for growth within the company. You want to join a company or organization that will support you growing as a person. Even if it’s a short, summer internship, so you should get all the information you need now just in case the company becomes a long-term option in the future.

Questions not to ask:

1) What are the requirements of the job?

2) What does the person in this job do?

It’s important to do your research before going into an interview. You should have a general idea of what the position you’re applying for does. But feel free to ask the employer about more expectations they have, examples of what you would be expected to do, etc.

3) What is the salary for this position?

Even though this answer is important, you shouldn’t ask this question right off the bat.  This is a better question to ask once you’ve been offered a position.

 

Good luck interviewing, Canes!

Resume Quick Tips!

By Kimberly Wilks, Peer Advisor

It’s that time of the semester again! Dust off your dress shoes, grab your best suit, and brush up your resume because it’s time for Career Expo! On Wednesday February 22nd from 1:00 -5:00 PM, there will be a long list of employers and grad schools here waiting to meet YOU!

Be sure to stop by Toppel beforehand to prepare. Your resume is the paper representation of you and it needs to be spick and span! You can find sample resumes on hireacane.com! Toppel’s Peer Advisors, such as myself, are very excited about helping our peers land their dream job or internship. You’ll definitely want to stop by before the career fair to make sure that you are ready to impress these employers.

Here are six quick tips to remember when working on your resume:

1) Your name should be the largest words on the page. Employers shouldn’t have to search in a tiny corner to find out who’s resume they’re holding. Claim all the hard work that you put in and on that resume!

2) Avoid having paragraphs of information. Use bullet points!!! These will aid in the flow of your resume.

3) Use your experience statements to talk about what you did in the company and include results if possible. Employers are more interested in what you did, rather than what the company did altogether. However, avoid personal pronouns such as I, me, or my.

4) If you don’t have relevant experience, then emphasize the relevant skills that you have gained from the experiences you do have.

5) Find the right balance of information to make your resume look just right. Your resume should not have too much white space but it also should not be packed with information in size 8 font.

6) Last but not definitely not least, be completely honest! This way you can get a position that fits!

Toppel Peer Advisors are here to help! Good Luck Canes!

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