AAWCC Toasts to Professional Development and Dressing for Success

On Wednesday, April 4, the Valencia Chapter of the American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC) hosted its annual Professional Development Day, where local professionals shared their secrets to success and attendees learned about how they can give back to the community.

The day started with Mindi Johnson, program director of Dress for Success, a local non-profit that provides professional attire to economically disadvantaged women who are attempting to enter the workforce. Mindi educated the audience about her organization, as she explained that there are many reasons women are looking for jobs now.

Dress for Success not only works to make sure the “outsides match the insides” of the women who come to them for help, Mindi said, but strives to help “build up women through the power of looking good.” The organization recently began a professional development program to help women improve their interview skills, write emails, accept feedback, and find access to other important resources that come along with finding and starting a job, such as childcare and transportation.

Five members of the local Toastmasters International club – an organization that helps members improve their speaking and leadership skills – were also featured and talked about the professional benefits of joining their network.

Introduced by April Holtzman, president of the Orlando International Toastmasters Club, each member spoke of their journeys from being terrified of speaking in front of groups to being effective communicators, able to give speeches void of phrases that will “weaken your position or discount your words,” as April explained.

April suggested attendees start eliminating phrases from their dialogue such as “I think,” which implies that what you are saying may or may not be true; “a few minutes,” which tells the listener that your idea is only worth a few minutes; and “but,” which will generate a “dark cloud” around everything you say after that, whether it is positive or negative.

April went on to introduce Brad Partridge, manager of corporate partnerships and marquee events at Universal Orlando, who was invited to speak to the AAWCC group not because he is one of the best speakers in the Toastmasters club, but for exactly the opposite reason. Brad sought out the Toastmasters a year ago after accepting his current position and realizing that one week into the job he might have to quit because of his poor public speaking skills.

Eventually, Brad discovered the Toastmasters club and was surprised to find a “very nurturing environment” that allowed individuals to advance at their own pace. He boasted of the resources, including an excellent value, which “mind you,” Brad said, “at [that] point, I would have spent thousands and thousands,” to improve his speaking skills.

The last presentation of the day was made by Tiffany Hughes, senior associate director of the Executive Development Center at the University of Central Florida, who walked attendees through her strategy for developing an individual leadership style. This is done by being a life-long learner, Tiffany explained, and to be a life-long learner, “You must always take time to listen to the person next to you.”

Her leadership advice to the audience was to “invest in yourself” and “guard your integrity,” which she explained is “your most precious leadership possession.” Tiffany went on to urge the attendees to 1) strengthen your skillset, 2) develop true potential, and 3) leverage strengths and talents.

The Valencia Chapter of AAWCC was founded in 1988, and was the first chapter in the state of Florida. To join the Valencia Chapter of AAWCC, please complete a membership application and send to Bareaa Darkhabani at mail code 4-21. Payroll deduction for your membership fee is also available.

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