Making the Most of Your First FloridaACE Conference Experience

Alicia Smyth, FloridaACE Information Management Director

I can remember my very first FloridaACE (known back then as FCPA) conference like it was yesterday. The year was 2000. We were in Key West, and there was no such thing as social media. To network, you had to actually talk to people! As a new professional and introvert, I felt disengaged and disconnected because everyone already seemed to know each other.

Over the years, I started to get more involved. I dipped a toe in by serving as a room host for a few years. I got to know more FloridaACE professionals by getting involved with the Colleges of Central Florida Career Consortium. Eventually, I chaired the conference evaluation committee. 10 years later, I joined the board. Year after year, I got to know more and more FloridaACE professionals and today, going to the annual conference feels like coming home to me. I regret not getting involved with FloridaACE sooner because many of my FloridaACE colleagues have become close friends and confidants.

I share my story as a cautionary tale. The new member experience today is a completely different one, thanks to FloridaACE online system advancements and social media (ideal for introverts and extroverts alike), along with some great ways for new members to network and engage at the conference.

Here are some tips and ideas for ensuring your first FloridaACE conference experience is a productive and fun one:

  • Follow and engage FloridaACE on social media! We are on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter gets especially fun during the conference.
  • Tweet and/or Instagram before, during and after the conference using #FloridaACE15
  • Log in to your FloridaACE account and start connecting with members by visiting the online social community (can only access if logged in). Update your profile, add a picture, and start connecting with members!
  • See who’s attending the conference before you go (must be logged in to view)
  • Join a conference committee
  • Set several goals or intentions for your conference experience – what do you want to get out of your time in St. Augustine?
  • Attend the New Member Orientation at the conference – this is crucial!
  • Get to know at least one seasoned member who can introduce you to people – our amazing Board is a great place to start! Connect with members through social media and the online social community before, during and after the conference.
  • Bring business cards – they will come in handy
  • Be engaged during the conference – attend the events, don’t be afraid to ask questions during and after sessions, and make it a point to introduce yourself every chance you get
  • Try to distance yourself from the office if possible. You can’t learn anything new if you are busy checking emails during sessions. Your work will be waiting for you when you get back, I promise!
  • If possible, stay at the hotel where the conference is being held
  • Share what you learned with your colleagues back in the office
  • Continue to interact with FloridaACE members long after the conference is over through social media, email, consortia, and professional conferences

If you are an introvert or just shy, think of this as a professional development opportunity. I cannot tell you how wonderful my FloridaACE experience has been since I became actively involved. It is empowering to get to know people in your profession who do what you do and share your passion for helping (or hiring) students. Regardless of where you stand on the Myers-Briggs, you will leave the conference with a renewed sense of purpose, ready to celebrate the triumphs and tackle the challenges that come your way in the semesters to come. And next year, you’ll be the seasoned member who helps show new members the ropes!

Articles Worth Reading:
10 Ways to Make the Most Out of a Conference (The Muse)
12 Ways to Get the Most Out of Attending a Conference (U.S. News & World Report)
Conference Attendees: How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck (HubSpot Blogs)

#TBT…Survival of the Fittest on LinkedIn

Kristy Amburgey, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical UniversityLinkedIn is a job seeker’s dream.  Even more so, LinkedIn is a career center’s dream: a free resource to encourage and show a job seeker how to network, identify leads, research and explore career options, search for employment and more.

In December 2008, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Career Services Office took advantage of this dream resource and created a LinkedIn group.  Over time, we conducted assessments of the group and the activities to identify both the best and the more ineffective practices.  Essentially, certain practices were deemed fit and  survived our cuts while other policies were changed or removed to better benefit the group.  Below, you will find practices that evolved over the last several years, calling to mind our version of the survival of the fittest.

All Are Not So Welcome

When we originally created the group, we allowed anyone to join, and we did not feel the need to approve people as members of the group.  We wanted to see our membership grow, increase the diversity of the group, attract employers and prospective students and get our name out into the LinkedIn community.  We maintained this open concept until recently when we saw a continuing trend of issues with non-ERAU contributors.  We had several people with no affiliation to the university make negative comments, and we noticed that many of the people requesting help, via job and advice requests, were not Embry-Riddle students or alumni.  In addition, we could not fully advertise available positions found in our career management system or our Embry-Riddle events since we had group members who were not allowed to use our ERAU-specific resources.

Now, we only accept Embry-Riddle students, alumni, staff, faculty and administration into our group, and we do encourage and accept employers as members.  Although there are still non-ERAU people involved, we have ensured that this service is value-rich to the constituents we actually serve.

Peer-to-Peer Support

When the Embry-Riddle Career Services group was implemented, the staff members tried to respond to every question, inquiry and comment.  These actions were in addition to adding relevant content, sharing jobs and growing membership.  The time that was devoted to the management of the group was a rather large undertaking, especially as it was just one of our many systems.  About a year ago, we decided to take a less “answer immediately” approach and leave the responses to the fellow group members.  Even though we were wary of relinquishing control, our fears proved to be relatively unfounded.   We saw more people start to step up and provide advice and guidance.  And, yes, there were things posted with which we did not necessarily agree, but we also found that advice was flowing from multiple sources and showing many opinions, which reflected the reality of a typical job search.

Even though we heavily monitor our group activity, we do allow people to express their opinions, concerns and advice freely.  We try not to interfere, unless we see erroneous or discriminatory information posted, and interrupt the flow of peer-to-peer support.

One is Better than Two

In the beginning of our LinkedIn history, we had two separate LinkedIn groups based on our multi-campus structure.  After consideration and staffing changes, we merged the two groups into one and embraced our third campus’ students and alumni.  The Career Services Office was able to maintain a consistent message across multiple groups, and it prevented staff from having to post articles and jobs in multiple places.  For our purposes, the one Career Services group s a great advantage.  For example, it encouraged experienced alumni to interact in the same forum as first year students, and it allowed employers to see the range of students and alumni we had.

Feeding our Group

One of the practices that we implemented was the use of the newsfeed option.  This tool allowed us to ensure a consistent stream of career and industry-related articles.  At first, we selected many different resources to feed into our group; these feeds brought members job advice, aviation and aerospace stories and other related        content.  Through feedback, enhanced LinkedIn options and careful thought, we decided to narrow down the newsfeeds to include only career-related sites as most members found industry news through other groups to which they belonged.  By removing many of the extraneous sites, we were able to really feature valuable career content and group discussions.

Advertising Employment Opportunities

One of the great functions of LinkedIn groups was the ability to advertise and share available positions.  At first, we used the job posting function of the LinkedIn group in a rather narrow way.  We occasionally added job content or relied on employers to advertise open positions.  With increased functionality of our career management system and some brainstorming, we improved how we advertised positions via LinkedIn.

We utilize this feature when we are supporting a company with a hard to fill opportunity, a looming deadline or other challenge.  We also add jobs for our populations that don’t often have a multitude of choices. Another function is the ability to get third party recruiters involved with our office.  Without complete job information, we do not typically add third party recruiting jobs to our career management system, so we encourage the recruiters to join our LinkedIn group and then post positions; our staff often posts the positions in the jobs section of the group as well.  With this method, we have found that interested candidates can pose questions to the recruiter, and the recruiters can connect with candidates who seem to match their needs.

As with any new system, you must evaluate it with an open mind, finding what works, what does not work and what could be improved.  The evaluation process should be on-going.  We have often taken the approach of “let’s try it” especially in the early days of our usage.  But we are always willing to concede that an idea or approach was not so brilliant.  We have also found that LinkedIn compliments other systems, including our career management tool, EagleHire Network as powered by Experience.

The Embry-Riddle Career Services LinkedIn group has evolved and continues to evolve.  We have taken advantage of certain functions of the system, and we have minimized the use of some options as we evaluate the fit.  Our group has grown considerably, and it continues to evolve and adapt to our changing needs.

Useful Resources:


Connection, Spring 2012 Edition

#TBT…Program Improvement Idea: LinkedIn Picture Day for Students

ace 2ace 1Program Improvement Idea: LinkedIn Picture Day for Students

Anne Meehan, Rollins College

This March during our Rollins Career & Internship Expo, we marketed and offered for attendees to have a  professional photo taken for their LinkedIn  profiles.  In February, we started offering LinkedIn workshops to help Rollins College students and alumni set up their profiles and learn how to utilize LinkedIn, but we thought this photo  opportunity would be a nice addition and marketing tactic.  Students and alumni were already dressed  professionally, and we wanted to help promote LinkedIn as well as provide a professional photo opportunity to improve their profiles.  We hired a student  photographer with the right lighting equipment and backdrop so that students could get their photos taken right after they checked-in for the Expo.  We used a sign-in sheet and had attendees write their name on a white board which they posed with in the first  photo.  The photographer then took several photos without the white board so as to get the best photo possible.  Our staff then cropped the photos to fit LinkedIn’s specifications, and sent them via email to the attendees within a week of Expo.

The LinkedIn professional photo idea was a hit!  Out of the 318 students/alumni and 78 employers who attended Career Expo, 103 students/alumni, 10 employers, and 7 staff had their professional LinkedIn photos taken.  Students, alumni, employers and staff all supported the idea and encouraged us to provide this photo service at other venues throughout the year.

We are now looking to offer this professional photo service at our Etiquette Dinners and may consider other events to promote LinkedIn and having a professional photo online.  Feel free to try this fun professional photo opportunity at your next campus or organizational event!

Connection, Spring 2012 Edition

5 Reasons Why Blogging Will Make You A Better Career Counselor

Val Matta, Vice President of Business Development, CareerShift

Career counselors, you’re probably wondering, “How can a newsfeed of gifs and memes possibly make me better at giving career advice?” Well, if you use your professional blog that way, it probably won’t.

cloud of words or tags related to blogging and blog design on a

Image Courtsey of PixelsAway

Sixty percent of businesses use a business or company blog to communicate with the information-seekers of the world, and these blogs receive 528,000,000 page views each month. That’s a lot of exposure for a brand. Why aren’t all career counselors doing the same?

Blogging offers professionals and students a unique way to network with others on a global scale. Here are a few reasons you should blog to connect with your job-seeking audience: Continue reading