People and Community University

Toppel helps recent graduates market their skills

New summer programs support Class of 2020 alumni who are navigating a difficult economic and employment landscape.
Toppel Career Center

When senior Mollie Cole visited the spring career expo on the University of Miami’s campus in February, she dressed professionally and brought her resume but had few expectations. When she visited the recruiting table for Ygrene, which helps fund sustainable home improvement projects, she listened to some information about the company, dropped off her resume, and left.

“I genuinely expected to never hear from them again, but when they called, I looked at the role and agreed to do a Zoom interview,” she said.

Mollie Cole
Mollie Cole

A few weeks, and several virtual interviews later, Cole was hired as a business analyst and has now been working at Ygrene for over a month.

“It’s been really great so far,” she said. “It’s also been weird to get to know everyone completely online, but everyone has been helpful and welcoming, which is really cool.”

Cole’s success comes at a time when many graduates are struggling to find jobs. Career advisers at the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center said Cole’s decision to speak with a company that is expanding—even amid the COVID-19 pandemic—was a brilliant one. It is a move they are encouraging others to make.

“While there are industries in decline now, like tourism and hospitality, there are also industries on the rise because of what is going on, like technology companies, logistics, and transportation,” said Carly Smith, Toppel’s director of career education. “Those companies have a lot of needs, so we’ve been trying to refocus students on those companies that are hiring.”

This summer, Toppel is focusing on connecting the University’s 2020 graduates with companies that are hiring during this challenging economy. As soon as graduates log in to Toppel’s online job search platform, Handshake, there is a section that indicates jobs that are “fresh,” and they can then filter their search for those jobs by location, Smith said.

Smith said that a recent search generated more than 800 postings located in Miami, at places like Zensah and Restaurant Brands International—the parent company of Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim Hortons.

Toppel also has organized a few other programs for recent ’Cane grads, Smith added. In early June, they launched a “Job Search Power Hour,” where alumni can attend a weekly Zoom meeting focused on a certain topic related to the job search and discuss personal challenges openly with Toppel’s career advisers and other recent grads. Upcoming sessions will focus on resumes and virtual recruitment, and the sessions will continue through the end of July.

“Any May 2020 graduate who wants to be a part of it can come to any or all of the sessions,” Smith said. “This is about goal setting and teaching important strategies for approaching the job search.”

In addition, Toppel staff are finalizing the rollout of their first Summer Skills Advantage Program. This is a series of free online courses or certification programs that may help current undergraduate students or recent graduates distinguish themselves from other job candidates by helping them gain “hard skills” needed for specific jobs. For example, Smith said, if a student is an English major but wants to work as a data scientist, there are online courses that will teach skills needed for the position. There are several tracks in the program, including digital marketing, computer coding, and nonprofit and grant writing, and most range from 10 to 20 hours long, said Ismaris Ocasio, assistant director of career education. Courses start on July 1 and end on August 12.

“We are creating plans for students to learn skills that will help them in marketing themselves in resumes, interviews, and other professional documents,” Smith said.

In addition, on June 25, Toppel and the College of Arts and Sciences are co-hosting a virtual event, Graduating in an Uncertain World: Pathways through the Pandemic, about options for recent graduates in the current economic climate, such as gap years, internships, graduate school, continuing education, and managing student loan debt. Featured speakers include Christian Garcia, Toppel’s associate dean and executive director; Maryann Tobin, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and representatives from the University’s Office of Continuing and International Education and Office of Undergraduate Financial Assistance and Employment. Those interested can register here.

Cole said she recommends that students looking for work develop specific expertise, like those offered through the Summer Skills Advantage Program, to really catch the attention of recruiters.

“For the most part, people have a lot of time now, so if they spend the first four hours of the day job searching, spend the other half of the day getting a certificate in Photoshop, for example,” she said. “It’s a lot harder for the company to turn down someone who is bringing something tangible to the table.”

To learn more about Toppel’s programs visit the website.