People and Community University

Jumping into the job hunt

Experts from the Toppel Career Center offer students searching for their first post-college position some pointers.
Students interact with a recruiter at the Toppel Expo.
Students speak with a job recruiter at Toppel’s spring 2024 Job and Internship Expo held at the Watsco Center in February. Photo: Sophia Kyriazis/University of Miami

There’s no time like the present.

For students graduating this spring, the job market is ripe with opportunity, experts at the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center shared, but students who have yet to start applying need to set aside time and energy to be successful.

“From an early talent perspective, recruiting is robust,” said Christian Garcia, associate dean and executive director of Toppel Career Center. “While there may be some reductions in workforce happening, especially in tech, that tends to be at higher level positions, so that bodes well for students looking for entry-level jobs.” 

Garcia and his staff of career coaches encourage all ’Canes to take advantage of the many tools that are available at Toppel, both in person and on their website, to find jobs and internships.

“It has never been easier in the history of society to apply for a job,” Garcia said. “All you have to do is push a button, but often we take that for granted.”

Students must carve out time to look for a job or internship, and ideally, seniors looking to enter the workforce should have started the process by now.

“Students need to be in the driver’s seat,” Garcia added. “They need to have a plan, and be strategic, organized, and want to do it because this is one of those things no one can do for you.”

There are many tools he recommends taking advantage of during the job search process. First, search for jobs in your chosen industry using the University’s job search tool, Handshake. Then, Garcia said students can tailor their resume to the job descriptions they are interested in using AI tools such as Jobscan, available through the Toppel website. They can also use generative AI tools to help draft a cover letter. 

Once they have applied for a job, students should track their own progress with each position by using a spreadsheet, like this one, or others on Handshake, Garcia added. And when students start the interview process, there are practice programs available too.

But most of all, students looking for a job or internship this summer simply need to begin. 

“There are plenty of jobs out there, so if students haven’t started looking, they need to do it now,” he said. “You can’t get a job if you don’t apply for it.”

Here are some other tips about navigating the job search from Toppel staff:

What are the industries thriving the most today?

One of the best ways for students to identify the top industries for job opportunities is to take a look at internship and job postings. For example, Handshake has more than 8,000 positions currently posted for the health care industry, which is a very stable field for students to consider. Education, government, and internet and software are a few other industries with over 1,000 openings right now. Keep in mind that every industry offers a range of positions and requires a variety of skills. For example, health care needs accountants, IT professionals, communications specialists, and more. 
—Carly Smith, Toppel’s director of career education

Look into employment trends across your preferred career paths. The Job Market Data Tool gives you an overview of the number of jobs in a career field for the past two years, the current year, and projections for the next 10 years. You can look into employment trends nationwide, by state, or by county. Lastly, to help identify the best industries for you, I recommend you explore your values, needs, and interests. Our Career Explorer’s career test can help you explore these topics and match them to careers. This assessment can be taken on your own or at Toppel. 
—Keashla Marengo, Toppel’s associate director of career readiness

Which are the best job search sites?

Handshake and LinkedIn are the best job sites that I would recommend for students to find jobs, internships, or to just connect with their field of interest. With Handshake, Toppel can verify the kind of jobs and companies available to students and be able to meet with those employers throughout career fairs and events each semester. LinkedIn is also a great tool to connect with employers and to find opportunities that might not be available on Handshake. 
—Valentina De Gennaro, Toppel career coach and biomedical engineering major

Get familiar with your career's industry-specific job sites and ask your peers or professors to get in that loop. For example, an education major will have more success finding a solid, high-paying position on the Chronicle of Higher Education, rather than a general Indeed search.
—Peter James, career education graduate assistant, M.M. in Studio Jazz Writing

How can you help your resume move to the top of the digital “pile” or set yourself apart as a candidate?

Make sure that you are looking at the job description and using the same skills mentioned there on your own resume. Your resume should be customized to each individual job by using industry keywords. If a job says it wants strong communication skills, your resume should be referencing that also.
—Joba Odediran, Toppel’s assistant director of coaching and outreach

Take extra steps beyond just submitting your resume online. Identify UM alumni at the organization by using LinkedIn or Cane2Cane. Then, initiate connections or request introductions with the goal of getting your resume in front of the hiring manager.
—Ali Rodriguez, Toppel’s executive director of employer engagement

Are cover letters or cover emails necessary? And if so, can you offer some tips?

Yes! If you've ever avoided submitting a job application because it required a cover letter, you are not alone. Cover letters may seem tedious, but it's a great opportunity to connect the dots for employers, express your interest in the organization, and help you stand out. Stay prepared with a master cover letter and tailor it for specific applications. Be sure to include a short introduction, relate the position to your career goals, and leave your contact information. 
—Marlon Bermudez, Toppel’s assistant director of internships

Definitely necessary! Your resume is a quick insight into your qualifications, but it's not what makes you stand out. You always want to put your best foot forward and market yourself as the perfect fit. Your resume says, 'Yes, I can do this job,' but your cover letter says, 'Not only can I do this job, but I want to do this job, and you should want me to work for you.'
—Mary Gorski, Toppel career coach and architecture major

How can candidates elevate themselves to be noticed by recruiters?

Students should maintain a strong online presence by having updated and active professional profiles like on LinkedIn and Handshake. Messaging recruiters via email or through LinkedIn and Handshake also significantly increase a student's chances of getting noticed along with participation in networking events as often as possible.
—Justin Vallardes, Toppel career coach majoring in philosophy, political science, and economics

Candidates should start by researching companies they're interested in to prepare ahead of career fairs, information sessions, interviews, etc. LinkedIn is also a powerful networking tool. It's important to create a strong profile and connect with professionals you meet. This is an easy way to stay updated and connected. Candidates can also utilize Cane2Cane to find a career mentor and connect with University alumni. It's estimated that over 85 percent of jobs are found through networking and the “hidden job market.” You never know who someone is connected to, so treat every conversation as an opportunity!
—Bermudez, assistant director of internships

Are there specializations, certifications, or micro credentials that students should pursue?

Each discipline and industry has top specifications, so it depends on your career goals. However, some top specifications for 2024 include project management, data analytics, user experience (UX) design, digital marketing, and AI (artificial intelligence). A few resources to help you gain skills and certifications across these areas include Forage (free job simulations), LinkedIn Learning (free for all University of Miami students), and Google Certificates. I recommend you identify the top skills (technical skills and core competencies) associated with your career of interest by utilizing resources like the Job Market Data tool.
—Marengo, Toppel’s associate director of career readiness

Specializations or skills will depend on the student's field of study as well as the field of interest. However, try to avoid basic skills such as Microsoft Word or Excel. Instead, programming languages such as C++, Java, and Python are encouraged as well as industry-specific skills, whether that'd be project/product management skills like risk management or budget planning. For marketing or design, you can include platforms like Photoshop, social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), or Adobe. 
—De Gennaro, Toppel career coach and biomedical engineering major

Should you include a headshot with your resume?

Unless you are asked to include one because it's related to the role, don’t do it. There are a good number of employers who frown upon using photographs on a resume. Besides, your resume is supposed to be a snapshot of your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments, so adding a photo wastes space you should really be using to sell your achievements.
—Smith, Toppel’s director of career education