Just Another Day in the Life!

By Ben Heins, M.F.A. Internship Coordinator, Career Services, USF Sarasota-Manatee

The semester has been crazy busy but also crazy good. We launched a ton of new, fun initiatives – the most notable of which would be our very own version of USF Tampa’s leadership series (featured at FL-ACE 2016) wherein students are paid for completing a series of sessions presented by executive leadership at a prominent organization. Also, our employer outreach has been in overdrive lately thanks to our Career Advising team getting into a groove and working closer with the rest of Career Services. And the students! Goodness, they never cease to amaze me.  🙂  Just met a young gun who “retired” from playing chess at 18 because he won a national championship and “got bored.” Ha!

Thank you Ben for your submission!

Picture of Ben and student Katie Ciemniecki taken on site at her internship with Gasparilla Inn & Club on Boca Grande.

Three Ways to Take the Headache Out of Creating Your Fair Floor Plan

David Nicol, Co-Founder, Career Fair Plus

Do you dread assigning your employers a table at your Career Fair? Do you worry about career-expo-attendee-mapleaving someone out or not putting them in the right place? What about making changes at the last minute? And after all that… will your attendees know how to use it?

We see several hundred floor plans and table assignments at Career Fair Plus each year. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep it all straight and make it work for students.

  1. Plan for for overflow

The last thing you want to be doing right before your event  is moving tables around. Plan your table layout to use the space you have and allow for some extra tables in case you have last-minute sign ups. That way you don’t have to squeeze in extra tables on the map or shift them around at the last minute.

  1. Number your tables logically

Many layouts have rows in the middle and a perimeter of tables on the outside. Try to keep consecutive numbers as close as possible to each other. This will help you understand who might be next to each other at the planning stage and help your students find each booth.

  1. Use a spreadsheet to assign booths

When it’s time to assign booths, start with your list of registered employers in a spreadsheet. Typically, you already have a list of employers in your registration system, so the best thing to do is create a new column for your booths and assign them directly in the spreadsheet. We have seen countless errors crop up when people try to assign the booths using a list that is not based on their registration data. The most common mistakes we see are typos, missing companies, and duplicate companies and these can cause a lot of frustration and confusion right before the big event.

We believe that if you follow these three guidelines, you will have a more successful and satisfying career fair with significantly less frustration for both you and your attendees. I hope you found this useful and invite you to check out Career Fair Plus (www.careerfairplus.com). We give you the power to put all of the necessary career fair information directly in the hands of your students.

Ensuring Your Professional Dress Materials are Inclusive: How do gender, race, age, class, ability, body type and culture intersect with professional dress?

Melena Postolowski – Director of Internships and Employer Relations, Eckerd College
Winner of the highest rated session from our 2016 Annual Conference 

I first entered the field of career coaching while I was in the process of completing my graduate degree in Counseling Psychology. At the same time that I was learning about the potential detriments of cultural assimilation in class, I was figuring out how to navigate conversations about professional dress with the clients I was working with on job search preparation. There was some obvious in-congruencemelena-photo between what I was learning to be “right” in the classroom versus what I was learning in my professional realm. This always caused internal tension for me.

One of my most memorable experiences was working work a bright, kind, highly competent international student from India. This particular student was a career coach’s dream: she always showed up to appointments with the utmost preparedness and followed all suggestions surrounding networking, following up and tailoring her resume to each job she applied to. The candidate had substantial past work experience, including running her own business, and an incredible transferable skill set. However, she continued to struggle with finding a job.

When it was time for the career fair, the student asked to meet with me to show me what she planned on wearing to the event. She arrived at my office in a beautiful, exquisite saree and I didn’t know what to say. The conversation ultimately resulted in encouraging the student’s freedom to choose for herself, but acknowledging that recruiters at the event would be expecting candidates to wear western style business suits. I went through all of the components of the outfit with her and even helped identify local shops where she could find something affordable. Days later she showed up to my office in the most typical, grey two-piece suit and my heart broke. I told her she looked great and wished her the best at the fair. Sure enough, she got a job offer almost immediately after the event and is one of the international students who was successful in remaining in the U.S. after graduation.

Was this candidate’s job search success solely based on whether or not she put on that grey suit? No one could ever be sure. But this experience, and my experience working with a variety of other students from different walks of life, really made me think about the concept of “professional dress.” Where do these ideals come from? Who are we helping by maintaining these ideals? Who are we hurting?

Obviously the student’s goal was to find employment and by those means, she was successful. I just wonder if her heart broke as much as mine did when she had to hang up the saree.

This past year I decided to start discussions on the topic of professional dress as it relates to diversity and inclusion. I wanted something to change in the way that we approach these conversations and the most obvious fix (to me) was beginning by removing the gender binary that is so often associated with this concept. Traditionally and typically in career services, professional dress is taught in a way that separates out what is considered appropriate male and female dress. Nonbinary students seeking career advice may feel limited by these explanations. Because research has shown that feelings of acceptance and belonging have a large effect on student learning, engagement and retention, updating professional dress materials to be more gender inclusive will allow for more students to be engaged in the professional development process. In turn, students will become more likely to benefit from career services offerings.

I presented on how to include the gender spectrum within professional dress educational materials at the 2016 FloridaACE Annual Conference and was blown away by my audience’s response. After the formal presentation, everyone in the room came together to discuss other ways in which diversity and inclusion are affected by professional dress standards and there was a call for a 2.0 version of the presentation. I had the opportunity to present again during the FloridaACE Drive-in Conference in the fall and included a variety of other recommendations based on the feedback I received from my industry peers over the summer.

Some of these additional diversity-related considerations are as follows:

  • Within your professional dress educational materials, do you have variety in racial representation? It is important to feature models that reflect your student body, not just one particular type of student.
  • Age may be less relevant for more traditional campuses, but there are plenty of blended campuses in which age diversity would be important to think about. Ensuring your veterans, for example, are feeling included as well as your more traditional graduate is something to keep in mind. Also, on the flip side – you can’t just have pictures of “adults” at work because younger students will not resonate with that.
  • In regards to socioeconomic class, are you also offering tips on finding affordable professional dress options within your community? Some schools offer consignment clothing that students can borrow for an interview.
  • Are you representing people with physical differences? Do students in wheelchairs have an example to look to? Also, in regards to body type, do all of your images depict GQ models? If so… you may want to rethink that.
  • Have you ever thought of including professional dress images with someone wearing a hijab? How about a yarmulke? If not, it may be worth reflecting on why this decision was made.

The reality is that there are industry expectations and business suits are not going out of style anytime soon, but there are ways in which we can handle the concept with some more flexibility. I don’t have all the answers and I know that it would be a difficult task to ensure that everyone feels included, but I also know that we can all be better at making sure more people feel included. Regardless of our own personal belief systems, political affiliation or culture of origin, we work in an industry that serves people and each day we show up to work we act as role models for the next generation entering the workforce.

So, what message are you sending about professional dress? Make sure it’s one you’re proud of.

Why FloridaACE is for YOU!

Megan Hollis, Florida Association of College and Employers

The FloridaACE membership renewal period is now open for 2017! Current members can dsc_0133renew their membership by logging on to their FloridaACE Account, powered by MemberClicks (2016 memberships expire January 1, 2017). In addition to membership management, MemberClicks also offers features such as exclusive members-only content, discussion boards, email listservs and a social networking platform to enhance your membership experience.

FloridaACE provides professional networking with Florida-wide visibility, enhances professional development through leadership opportunities, delivers updates on Florida workforce initiatives and trends, and promotes recruitment resources and strategies. Some other advantages include: Continue reading

Good Times, Valuable Information, and Great Networking at FloridaACE Drive-In

By Robert (Bob) Nealon, Career Coach – Lynn University

Let’s start with some honesty.  Waking up at 3:15 a.m. was no fun at all, especially considering that my fiancée had a similar wake up time earlier in the week as she left for a business trip.  Two exceptionally early starts during the week can lead to a tired body and cranky spirit if you let it and, I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me.  I quickly reframed my attitude as I started my journey to meet my Lynn University (and FloridaACE) colleague, Stacy Lanigan.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I left my house at 4:00 a.m. to head to my first FloridaACE event on the UCF campus last Friday.

Shortly after arriving to meet Stacy for our carpool effort, I got to meet her dog, Savannah.  I felt like I already knew her as I’ve seen her pictures and videos on social media.  She is even cuter in person; just ask Stacy.  I was excited to meet her because I’m a dog lover as we have a black Labrador mix named, Chloe, and also the name of our Wi-Fi home network honoring our crazy hound dog.  We can’t be the only ones who have done this, right?  The only downside to meeting Savannah was that she didn’t seem to warm up to me as I had hoped.  Although truthfully, I don’t blame her.  I’m sure I was incredibly scary looking as it was before 5:00 a.m. and I was without my first cup of coffee so she probably sensed my lack of energy and enthusiasm.

We arrived on the UCF campus and made our way to the Career Services & Experiential Learning Building.  What an incredible building!  We were greeted warmly by the UCF career staff including Dr. Bill Blank, along with FloridaACE President, Alicia Smyth.  This was only the start of the great morning to come.

The keynote address from Dr. Calvin Williams, Putting on the Ritz, was informative and impactful and provided the over 80 Drive-In event attendees with several valuable takeaways.  The only thing that could have made his presentation better would have included a smoke machine, special lighting, and pyrotechnics so he have had the entrance he wanted and deserved.  This might have been the only thing that the UCF Career Center didn’t have.

I also was fortunate enough to attend Tim Harding’s breakout session, A 21st Century Mindshift: Cultivating a Culture of Career Readiness and Competency Development.  It was enlightening and exciting to hear about the great work being done at the University of Tampa.  UT students leaving not just career ready (“Spartan Ready”), but ready to succeed in their careers.  There was much to consider and plenty to be excited about as career services evolves to better serve our students.

It was also an honor to help moderate one of the breakout sessions with my colleague including four local employer representatives answering questions about hiring practices at their respective companies.  I had fun and gained further insight into hiring practices that I can offer to the students I serve on my campus.

While I was new to the group, I was able to meet some new connections during the event too.  All of the members were very friendly and open to conversation.  I’ve been to numerous professional association meetings, conferences, and special events during my career.  However, this event was really well done.   I congratulate the FloridaACE steering committee on a fun, informative event.  Great job!

I am excited to be a FloridaACE member and am already looking forward to upcoming events including the 2017 Annual Conference at the Saddlebrook Resort and Spa in Tampa taking place June 14-16.  Hope to see you there!

Tune in Tuesday: FloridaACE Honors CCFCC with President’s Award

Alicia Smyth, 2016-17 President, Florida Association of Colleges & Employers

CCFCC LogoAt the 2016 Annual Conference in June, 2015-16, FloridaACE President Adam DeRosa presented the Colleges of Central Florida Career Consortium (CCFCC) with the Florida Association of Colleges & Employers President’s Award. The President’s Award is awarded at the discretion of the current President and may not be given every year. It is intended to recognize the member or group’s contribution to FloridaACE and serves as an example of their impact to those in our profession.

“For years, CCFCC has been a major supporter of FloridaACE.  This support has been both monetarily through the President’s Council and administratively through consistent volunteering at the board and conference committee level.  CCFCC members are the spirited heartbeat of FloridaACE, always the life of the party.  The support from CCFCC has helped FloridaACE grow and thrive,” stated 2015-16 President DeRosa.

CCFCC MembersThe CCFCC consists of career centers from the following SACS-accredited ICUF institutions in Central Florida: Bethune-Cookman University, Eckerd College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Flagler College, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Southern College, Rollins College, Saint Leo University, Southeastern University, Stetson University, The University of Tampa and Webber International University. The organization began in the late 90s and has continued to grow and thrive over time thanks to strong leadership and an annual Career Expo, an event that brings in revenue used to support members with professional development opportunities and to sponsor conferences such as FloridaACE and SoACE.

derosa_sheehyThis year, CCFCC not only sponsored FloridaACE at the President’s Level ($3,000 and above), but also incentivized CCFCC members to submit proposals to present at the conference by providing four conference registration scholarships. Additionally, CCFCC hosted a reception for members and employers during the conference and will be partnering with FloridaACE to serve as a co-sponsor of the SoACE Conference in December.

CCFCC Chair John Sheehy accepted the award on behalf of the organization. When asked about the partnership, he shared the following:

Although separate organizations, the CCFCC and FloridaACE are very much connected and possess similar goals in regards to the professional development of our members and the overall career development of our students within each of our respective schools.


I have witnessed and participated in the growth of both organizations over the past eight years, and am proud to have assisted in their advancements.


The ongoing sharing of information and collaboration between the two organizations and their member institutions is without a doubt a strong, driving force within our profession; not only in Florida, but also nationally, as we interact with those outside our region during conferences and symposiums.


As Chair of the CCFCC, FloridaACE has been a critical component of the development process for members. Cross-organizational participation is heavily encouraged and supported by programs, such as providing conference registration fees for members whom are selected to present during the annual conference. I am a strong believer of creating new initiatives, but when a catalyst is already in place, which will reach the same goal, let’s not “re-create the wheel.” – John Sheehy

2012 marked the inaugural year of the FloridaACE President’s Award.  This award was established to recognize FloridaACE members who go above and beyond throughout a given year to meet the needs of membership and provide an opportunity for the association to reach the next level. A list of past recipients is available on the FloridaACE website.

The Networking Hurricane of FloridaACE

Tara Stevenson, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers

captureThe past week shook me up a bit, to say the least.  I realized in a split second, the city and college I dedicate more time to than I really want to calculate, quickly came into focus a little more clearly.  Flagler College and Saint Augustine have been my home away from home for about seven and a half years now.  I love coming to work (and I am not afraid to say it!).  Of course, there are times I get frustrated and angry, just like everyone else, but I can honestly and wholeheartedly say, I love what I do.  I even wrote about it before!

I followed the media on the impending and approaching Hurricane and it made me think back to one of my first weekends as a graduate student at Florida International University. This New Jersey transplant had just moved from Colorado and spent a few of her first days in Florida watching Hurricane Katrina go through the state, feeling overwhelmed by what Louisiana was experiencing.  I quickly got a taste of hurricanes myself as I sat in the dark while Hurricane Wilma came through campus.  By candlelight, I worked on my responsibilities as a graduate assistant, simply to pass the time after watching other students play dominoes in the residence hall courtyard.  But by comparison, this was nothing to what others experienced, in other areas and as time went on.  Over the past 11 years, I was extremely fortunate to not experience another hurricane.  It all changed over the past week.

matthew_track_zoomAs we all watched Hurricane Matthew make its way to the Florida coastline last Monday, I contemplated our events scheduled for the week.  Our biggest Career Expo to date was planned for Wednesday, October 5th and as employers began contacting me in the beginning of the week, I made the executive decision to still host our event.  The storm was far enough away at that point (perhaps in the future we can talk more about decision making and whether or not this was the right one to make!).

It was Tuesday, October 4th when the true meaning of FloridaACE became an instant sensation and will now forever hold a place in my heart.  Three different colleagues from various institutions across the state reached out to me personally to see if we would be rescheduling our Expo as they contemplated cancelling their own.  I felt heartache for them as one by one I saw massive events, months of planning, staff dedication and overtime come to a startling halt as career offices began cancelling their events due to the storm.  FloridaACE provided a network to safely reach out to others and, even if briefly, discuss the pros and cons of event planning and hard decision making processes.

Hurricane Matthew slowly made its way closer to Saint Augustine and I watched as the state prepared each city filled with my fellow FloridaACE members.  On Thursday, October 6th, we began preparing locally for a storm, in my own opinion, I do not think many of us were prepared for.  These friends, not simply people I know from other colleges or Annual Conferences, started texting and messaging again to see how we were doing in our small, historic town.

Then a simple, yet powerful, video surfaced showcasing exactly what was happening to the heart of campus.  Again, my FloridaACE family reached out to me one by one through texts, social media outlets, emails, all of the above!  My heart warmed as people cared about our safety, our school, the place where we came together to celebrate 50 years as an association.

More photos from the area came through various media channels and still, more communication came from my FloridaACE network.  People checking in on people.  It was not even asking about how the school was…it was asking how I was doing, how my home was doing, how my family was doing.  I tried my hardest to continue reaching out to other FloridaACE members just as they did to me.  I wanted to check in on our member schools up and down the coast and see how they were doing, how were their homes, schools, families.

It’s tough times like these I realize FloridaACE is more than getting together a few times a year to chat about what we do everyday.  It’s about offering support to one another in our personal lives, checking in to see how we are doing in the aftermath, and even opening our office space as a shelter for others (don’t think that email went unnoticed and you better know who I am talking about!).  Flagler opened back up this week and we look forward to continuing to move forward.  I look forward to being a part of the planning of the upcoming Drive-In just 3 weeks away and beginning the preparations for #FloridaACE17 in Tampa.

From the bottom of my heart I hope our FloridaACE members, institutions, and employers are safe following the storm.  It affected us all as a state and from it, we can only become stronger.  I look forward to connecting with you all again at future events.  I can’t wait to chat more with people about various aspects of our jobs, the struggles we all face, the ups and downs we persevere through each day.  Why else are we a part of this great organization?!  If you experienced any similar story or would like to share your FloridaACE success, please reach out to me soon.  I hope to hear from you soon.