Toppel Peers Blog

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UShadow Experience

By Maria Calandranis

Maria Calandranis

The UShadow program matched me based on my interests and my major to create a shadowing experience that could help me see how the education I am getting right now is used day to day in some people’s lives and how I see myself fitting into the work field. I ended up being matched with the assistant director of environment and sustainability at the city of Miami Beach. I grabbed an Uber early in the morning and went to city hall on Miami Beach at 7:30 am. I went to meet with my mentor, and so began the whirlwind of a day. There was so much going on in this department. Tours, addressing events, meetings speaking about problems with plastic and sewage pumps, and collaboration with the EPA, which is what I sat in on for most of that day. The concepts they talked about practically aligned with my classwork; it showed me how important the things I am doing right now are to real life situations. For instance, the policy process goes from identifying the issue and talking about them within the team, then designing a solution to the problem. Afterwards the plan would be put into place and then continually monitored for success and implementation. The problem addressed with the EPA was the groundwater level rise when there are storms that are more frequent and with more intensity. They used a program to input weather statistics from the past, possible costs of production or damage, certain conditions they want to meet etc. It was eye opening to see the amount of research and numbers needed to create a plan. The process of building a solution made me realize what sort of research I want to do in the future to impact our communities.

The UShadow program gave me the opportunity to see the sort of problem solving that goes on within city halls and how they work. This experience has shown me that I really have a passion for making a difference in communities and finding information that advocates for change within the population and the cities to better our environment and our city. It was the sort of experience I really needed to feel confident about my direction in the widespread field of marine science. And the decision to focus on conservationist/human impact research is still a general section of research I can continue to delve into within my studies at the University of Miami.

In the future, I plan on contacting my mentor again to meet with her and see more of what their division is working on. That day was very beneficial in seeing what my working life could look like after I am done with my education. It was exciting to see what a contributing member of society looks like and feels day to day. I want to continue by exploring  some other conservation efforts and what kind of education is needed for doing research in this field. I have refined my career goals and am excited to explore the options even deeper as I go through my years at the University of Miami. I hope to be changing the world’s perspective on the environment and their impact on our future.

How to Land the Perfect Internship

It’s that time of the year again. With the Fall Semester’s end on the horizon, the internship search is now getting into full swing. If you’re a junior (like me) this time might be full of stress as you’re frantically searching for a competitive internship. If you’re a senior, this time might be doubly stressful as you’re researching grad schools, preparing applications, or perhaps looking to secure employment post graduation.

But, don’t fret. With these tips, you will be well-equipped with the relevant knowledge to go through your internship search process.


  1. Think about your goals

An internship is the time to “test the waters” and see whether or not you really like the field you plan on going into. Before applying to companies, think about what you want to gain from that internship. Research the company and their culture and identify locations where you may want to work. Don’t feel boxed in by you major choice.  As I mentioned before, an internship is the time to try out new things without the commitment of a full-time job, so feel free to try out new experiences.


  1. Start early

It’s always good to start your internship search early. Take this time to carry out in-depth research and touch up your resume. Be aware of deadlines – certain industries can have early deadlines. Many competitive internship programs start their recruiting process in early fall (for finance related internships it starts even earlier!). Try to make a schedule with all the deadlines of the internships you want to apply for. A general rule of thumb is to start your internship search at least a month prior, to allow yourself time to perfect all of your qualifications as an applicant.


  1. Network

Don’t wait for an internship to come to you! Be proactive and use your network to increase your chances. Ask your friends, family, friends’ family, school, and work contacts to find possible internship opportunities. Use to try to find and reach alumni who are working in a company or industry you’re working in. Attend industry events in your area – in fact, Toppel has several networking and industry-related events each semester. The truth of the matter is, in this day and age, simply sending your resume out to employers in hopes of a job is not a viable method for securing employment anymore. Having a network you can utilize is becoming more essential in choosing a satisfactory career.


  1. Use Handshake

Handshake is one of the best resources you have when it comes to finding internships as a UM student. Handshake is essentially a job-posting site affiliated with out university to help students find primarily off-campus employment. One of the best things about Handshake is that many of the companies who post job openings on there have been approved by our Toppel staff and are specifically looking to hire UM students. On Handshake you can filter internships by location, whether it’s paid or unpaid, seasonality, among other criteria. If you can’t find the exact internships you want on Handshake itself, you can utilize other resources like UCan Intern (internships in different parts of the U.S), GoinGlobal (internships abroad), WayUp (internships at start ups), and LiquidCompass (healthcare-related jobs), which are all also conveniently located on Handshake under the Resources tab. If none of these work, you can utilize,,,, and a number of other online resources to find the ideal internship.


The process of applying to internships is a long and arduous one, but by preparing and following these tips you can make the process easier. Good luck, Canes.


By Cayla Lomax, Peer Advisor

LinkedIn, Get Me an Internship!

By: Kara Davis, Peer Advisor

So you finally made a LinkedIn account, but you have no idea what to do with it.  One of the functions of LinkedIn is finding internships.  As a college student, internships are a great way to test out your desired career field and see if it really is the right fit for you.  When looking for future full-time jobs or applying to graduate school, that internship experience is almost necessary on your resume. Now that you’ve created a LinkedIn account, you’ve given yourself access to many more internship opportunities.

A basic search process on LinkedIn will show you internships in your desired field in whatever area you want. To utilize this social media site to your benefit, add as much about your professional self to your LinkedIn profile as possible. LinkedIn will use that information to tailor your searches to jobs that would better interest you. Another great tool on LinkedIn is being able to see how many alumni work at different companies you look at. Clicking this option shows you the number of alumni at the company and allows you to view their profiles. I think this is a great tool because it allows you the opportunity for further networking, but also gives you an accurate amount of how many people from your school have been successful in the field you are interested in.

Now that you’ve found a position you’re interested in, research and apply! Make sure all of the information on your profile is accurate and up to date because potential employers can, and usually do, view your LinkedIn profile.  Personalize your URL so that it’s easily accessible and include it at the top of your resume.  Before submitting your application, try reaching out to some of the alumni that you’ve found working at the company you are interested in.  Ask them what they love about the company, how they’d describe the company culture, etc. They will probably be able to provide you with more information than the short job description usually posted with the application. Reaching out to the alumni may also help you stand out more during the hiring process. Good luck!

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.



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!

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