Just as chief staff executives can benefit from collegial relationships and professional networking opportunities with other chief staff executives, the same can be said for young professionals.
In fact, I would argue that young professionals need this interaction even more than their seasoned counterparts. As young professionals, doors sometimes close more than they open. In many cases, we don’t have the years of experience to back our education and training. Our “gut feeling” doesn’t always inspire confidence in those around us.
Therefore, we need a space to develop our skills, talents and, most importantly, our work and leadership experience. And that’s where our peers can help. Young professionals need a designated safe environment where they can ask the “silly questions” and strategize with their colleagues before approaching senior staff with a new idea or proposal.
For many young professionals who have five or fewer years of experience, this may be the first time they’ve managed other professionals, delivered a report to the board, negotiated a contract, coordinated a program or facilitated a project. Indeed, it can be a stressful endeavor with little internal support or reassurance.
Currently, I’m working with the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) to launch an Emerging Professionals Committee for young association professionals in Michigan. The mission of this group is to cultivate future association leaders through the development of resources and structured opportunities that enable career advancement.
Which brings me to another important distinction among young professionals: we value opportunities for career development. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss with other young professionals things like resume building and cover letter writing, as well as how to request a promotion, how to network and how to job hunt effectively.
Young professionals have much to offer you, your staff, your association and the greater association community. Many young professionals are on the cutting edge of technology and use it daily to bridge their personal and professional lives. They also brainstorm and crowdsource some of the freshest, most innovative ideas and are contributing some of the best content both online and in print.
So, my question to you is this: How are you maximizing this talent bank? Is your association creating a space for young professionals (both staff and members)? What products, services and resources have you created specifically to recruit and retain young professional members? If you’re a young professional, what’s the single most important benefit you look for in joining an association?