FloridaACE was My Rocket Fuel

Kathryn Kirkpatrick, Program Manager, Career Services, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
As I prepared for my first FloridaACE Conference, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I assumed there would be the constant chance to network. I knew there would be great opportunities for professional development. However, I couldn’t have possibly imagined the overwhelming air of enthusiasm and energy that radiated throughout the duration of the conference.

Several of my coworkers (and my boss—Alicia) were heavily involved in planning the conference and I was encouraged to get involved, which absolutely influenced my first Kathryn Kirkpatrickconference experience. The opportunity to serve on the registration committee and host a roundtable made me feel instantly connected to the event. This allowed me to meet colleagues from across the state and share my knowledge and experiences as a career advisor.

What was so amazing about my experience at FloridaACE was how inspired I felt when I left.  Who knew that spending a few days in Miami could motivate a person even more to want to get up and go to work every day?! We all do what we do for a reason—we are passionate in some way, shape, or form about helping, supporting, challenging, and encouraging our students in reaching their professional goals. As we learned during the FloridaACE conference, especially from our tour of the University of Miami Toppel Career Center, our mission as career advisors is to provide ‘rocket fuel’ to our students’ dreams.

On a personal note, during the conference I realized I
needed a little rocket fuel myself! Attending the FloridaACE Conference was my rocket fuel. It served as a friendly reminder of why I love my profession and it connected me to like minded individuals whose experiences and contagious passions reminded me of my purpose as a career advisor. I left the FloridaACE conference feeling so professionally rejuvenated—and maybe a little tired due to excessive dancing at the after party! I cannot wait to return to the FloridaACE conference for round two next year!

My first, but definitely not last FloridaACE Conference

Jennifer Utroska- Assistant Director of Career Planning

 ‘FloridaACE’… I had heard of it, but I had never experienced it; that is until this past June, when I attended the 2016 Annual FloridaACE Conference in Miami, FL!  The conference Jennifer Utroskahad a lot of hype leading up to it- and as I sit here today typing at my desk on yet another Monday morning (with my coffee of course), I am realizing how it completely exceeded my expectations as a new member.

My conference experience began well before June 22nd.  With the support and encouragement from my colleagues, I quickly began to serve as a member of the Communications & Outreach Committee.  I had the pleasure of supporting a great group of career professionals who are so passionate about their membership and work collaboratively to spread the word about FloridaACE and its benefits.  Through the power of the internet and advanced technology, I started to form a relationship with these individuals and began to understand what FloridaACE meant to them and now means to me.

The Conference…

This three-day event was executed beautifully from start to finish.  As a new member and first-time attendee, there was never a time where I felt lost or unwelcomed.  Each member I interacted with, including the leadership, were nothing short of friendly, professional, and courteous.

Being a young professional, I understand there is a wealth of knowledge out there in the field, from both industry employers and career services’ representatives.  Attending the FloridaACE Conference was a professional development opportunity that allowed me to openly brainstorm, network, and connect with professionals from all over the state.  With such a variety of engagements offered, like the Breakout Sessions, Round-Tables and Closing Ceremony, I was able to make the most of my experience!

Now it would be awful of me to conclude this note right here without mentioning how fun the conference was! The FloridaACE leadership and its committees did an amazing job of balancing work & play.  The food was delicious, the venue was outstanding, and I think everyone appreciated the awesome photo booth and red carpet that proceeded the after party filled with great music and good times. (Superlative for ‘Dancing Queen’ goes to Alicia Smyth – Hands Down.)

So, FloridaACE is now something I will begin to look forward to each summer.  I now view it as an opportunity to get out there, to get thinking, and to get energized for the upcoming academic year!  I came to FloridaACE with an open mind, and left with so much more… new connections, amazing programming ideas, employer relations strategies, and a more meaningful sense of my ‘WHY’ (shout out to Closing Keynote Molly Nece)!

After such a positive experience, I encourage any and all career services professionals, as well as industry employers within the state to become involved with FloridaACE. If you are looking to build your professional network, spark collaboration, and create meaningful partnerships- this is the organization for you.

I hope to meet you at events to come!




Personal Branding




Lauren Apgar
Graduate Assistant
, Florida State University




Pick three words to describe yourself.  Did you get stuck choosing words, or did you identify these words before you finished reading the sentence?  As professionals, personal branding is an important concept to utilize to help you connect and network with employers and other professionals in the field.  Personal branding is your trademark, your values and your story all wrapped into one term.  In other words, what can people expect from you in both personal and professional interactions?  When you can articulate your personal brand and and how to convey your values to others, you increase your chances of landing the position, supervisor and company culture that will help you thrive professionally and personally.

You may ask, how do I create a personal brand?  Think about your own personal story, because we all have one!  Are you still on the same path you started?  Did you take any detours?  Where do you want your journey to ultimately take you?  Start by answering these questions, and if you’re having a hard time answering them yourself, ask a trusted mentor or colleague for insight.

Thinking of strong brands in our culture can also assist you in answering these questions.  When you think of companies that have strong brands, which companies come to mind?  A good example would be the store Target.  Target’s slogan is “Expect more. Pay less” and prides itself on customer service, affordable prices and quality goods for sale.  Target’s brand demonstrates consistency and congruence between the values of the organization and the experiences of customers in the store.

As a professional, you can do this exact same thing.  When employers interact and communicate with you what kind of experience are you giving them?  Is it a high quality experience that reflects your values as a professional and person, or does it leave the client confused and asking what your brand truly represents?   Answers to these questions can serve as the foundation for your personal branding philosophy, which can help you at any point in your journey.

My 1st FloridaACE Conference

Natalie Montilla Portes, Coordinator of Career Services Events and Experiential Education
Johnson & Wales University

This past March, one of my colleagues sent me an email about registering for the 2016 Natalie Montilla PortesFlorida ACE Conference. I honestly had never heard of the organization. She immediately came to see me and began bragging about all of the wonderful information she received from the organization through their emails and blog posts. She urged me to take the first step and register to become a member, which got me excited. She said that due to the nature of my position, I would benefit greatly by becoming a member. She was right.

From the first time I interacted with the team during the online registration until the last day of the conference, my experience was nothing but positive and enlightening. Everyone was extremely welcoming and the conference agenda truly allowed for professional development, brainstorming, and networking with other university career services’ representatives and industry employers.

I was able to learn from fellow colleagues, acquire new ideas, and best practices on topics relevant to my department’s current issues. Additionally, I was able to connect with employers who offer wonderful career opportunities for college students. I was able to take immediate steps to bring them on campus to recruit our students!

The Florida ACE Conference has been the best experience I’ve had since I began working in career services. I suggest that if you reside in Florida and are currently part of a college or university career services team, that you join Florida ACE and start attending their wonderful events. You won’t regret it! I can’t wait to attend next year’s conference!