Toppel Career Center customizes advising for students

Peer advisor Ajiri Uzere talks with a student about his career goals through Toppel's virtual drop-in advising this week. Photo courtesy of Toppel Career Center/University of Miami.
By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

Peer advisor Ajiri Uzere talks with a student about his career goals through Toppel's virtual drop-in advising this week. Photo courtesy of Toppel Career Center/University of Miami.

Toppel Career Center customizes advising for students

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
The center is reorganizing the way it consults by using teams of advisors who will focus on certain industries and provide personalized advice.

Junior Jailah Williams decided she wanted to be a lawyer after her first year at the University of Miami. But she knew little about the preparation needed to apply to law school.

Luckily, as a front desk assistant at Toppel Career Center, Williams connected with Ismaris Ocasio, the pre-law advisor and assistant director of exploration and life design. She helped Williams learn about the Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) program for prospective students.

Jailah
Williams

That’s why this summer, Williams spent four weeks learning virtually from law professors at the University of Oregon, which helped solidify her interest in criminal and civil rights law. Williams said she may have missed out on the opportunity had she not connected with someone who knew about the requirements of law schools and the resources available to help her.

“When I first got to UM, I didn’t know about the pre-law track, or that Toppel had an advisor committed to serving pre-law students,” said Williams, a criminology major. “But between direct connections to pre-law opportunities, résumé critiques, and practice interviews with Ismaris, it's been a great resource."

Her experience highlights the need for more industry-focused assistance, especially in an environment where career advising is being done virtually. (To protect students and staff during the pandemic, Toppel is only offering online appointments this semester.) Toppel advisors noticed students’ desire for this change last spring, which led them to reorganize the way the center handles advising to better suit the online environment. 

The center’s team of staff members, peer advisors, and some of its front desk attendants are now divided into Career Circles that align with certain professional industries. These circles will tailor information sent to students based on their major or career preferences and will connect them to other students interested in the same careers. A few of the circles include Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Music and Communications, Health Care and Life Sciences, Humanities and Liberal Arts, Marine Science, Architecture, Neuroscience and Psychology, and Exploratory and Undeclared.

Smith
Smith

“Students really want career services staff members who are personalized to their career goals or their industry of choice,” said Carly Smith, Toppel’s director of career education. “So, we want students to know that there is now a team of people focused on their industry. And they can get more relevant information about jobs, resources, and events through the circle they are part of.”

Also, through the circles, Smith said, Toppel hopes to forge communities among students who hope to go into the same field. Therefore, circles will not just be for advising, but for students to share information and events that are relevant to that industry. Williams thinks this will be especially helpful.

“The word 'career' sometimes scares students, so having a peer to rely on through Toppel's Career Circles will help build a bridge between students and their career development,” Williams added.

This week, students will be directed to a specific circle through Toppel’s online platform, Handshake, based on their major and the areas of interest indicated when they register on the site. However, if they want to be part of another circle, they can certainly do that as well, Smith pointed out. 

Besides the Career Circles, Toppel is organizing several virtual programs this semester. The following are a few of the largest.

  • Sept. 30, Fall Career Expo: This will be the University’s first time hosting a virtual career fair, although separate industry-specific events are planned for later in the semester. Students can register here.
  • InternU: This is a program being piloted this semester, where some students with on-campus jobs will be able to get internship experience and class credit. If you are interested in getting an internship experience through your position on campus, click here for more information.

Students are still encouraged to visit Toppel’s drop-in advising via Zoom. It is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for any career counseling. For more information on any of Toppel’s programs, visit its website