Toppel to TV: How the Toppel Career Center guided Laralyn Jackson to success

Laralyn Jackson poses in the NBC 6 studio as her internship comes to a close. Photo courtesy of Laralyn Jackson

Senior broadcast journalism major Laralyn Jackson walked the graduation stage today with a successful internship with NBC 6 South Florida under her belt thanks to the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center.

Jackson’s narrative not only showcases her achievements but also underscores the untapped potential awaiting students within the School of Communication. From initial skepticism to tangible success, her journey illuminates the vital role of mentorship, networking and preparation in achieving professional goals.

Recognizing the importance of networking in journalism, Jackson initially questioned the relevance of Toppel to her journey.

“I was like, ‘Girl no way this works,’” Jackson mused. “At first, I thought our whole career was based on networking, so why use the career center?”

However, it didn’t take long for Jackson to find the answer to her own inquiry. She realized that precisely because networking held such significance, connecting with Toppel’s staff was vital to her success.

Jackson began working with Toppel as a Guest Experience Assistant in August 2023 where she greeted visitors, informed them about available services and shared her personal journey.

During her time as a Toppel employee, Jackson forged a close bond with Keashla Marengo, the staff advisor for the School of Communication.

“I learned how to make organic relationships in a professional setting,” said Jackson.

Once a week, Jackson would meet with her for scheduled check-ups, where they collaboratively crafted her career journey and established achievable goals.

“She helped me plan a roadmap, and would frequently send or recommend me positions to look into,” Jackson said.

This routine allowed Jackson to track her progress and make any necessary adjustments to ensure she stayed on the path to success.

Beyond presenting Jackson with opportunities, her advisor also helped her rule out a few. As a senior contemplating her next steps, Jackson was curious about pursuing further education.

“We started looking at the expenses for law and grad school. Then we looked at the salaries of journalists who graduated with just a bachelor’s or just a master’s and they were the same, so we were like not gonna do that,” Jackson recalls.

Alongside traditional in-person networking, Toppel provided Jackson with access to online mentorship through their digital networking platform, Cane2Cane. This platform allowed Jackson to connect with UM alumni virtually, expanding her network and gaining valuable insights into her chosen field.

“I would only look for people who were doing what I wanted to do. So I would just filter out all the available people based on that, send a chat and follow up with an email to meet virtually,” Jackson recounts.

Meeting ESPN radio producer Michael McCoy on Cane2Cane proved transformative for Jackson. He encouraged her to seize every opportunity, stressing the importance of venturing beyond her comfort zone for professional growth.

“He pushed me to try radio since he knew it would help with broadcast,” Jackson said.

Following his advice, Jackson joined the UM student-run radio station last semester, 90.5 FM, and refined her communication skills. She says the experience transformed her TV presentation style.

“Radio made me focus on using the best words possible to create an image in my audience’s head. That skill helped me take it to the next level when I went on TV,” she noted.

Jackson is especially thankful to Toppel for its role in preparing her for her initial interview with NBC 6.

“My interview went amazing because I practiced first at Toppel. I feel like it had a lot to do with why I got my internship in the first place,” she shared.

During a mock interview session at Toppel, Jackson received invaluable feedback. She learned the importance of relaxing during the interview process and speaking at a slower pace.

“It’s naturally very stressful so if you aren’t nervous it shows confidence,” Jackson said.

As Jackson finishes her last year of college, her story serves as a rallying cry for fellow students in the School of Communication, urging them to explore the resources offered by Toppel. She leaves a resounding message for her peers:

“Do not be intimidated by those resources and opportunities – use them while you can. If you can carve out time for TikTok, you can carve out time for Toppel. Future you will thank you for it.”