Young professionals need a space too

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?

2 Responses to “Young professionals need a space too”

  1. January 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    You know I can’t pass up this opportunity to mention YAP (http://www.yapstar.org), our unofficial community for young association professionals that has sprung up around ASAE. You only need to pop in there for 5 minutes to see how active the community is and how much of a valuable resource this kind of community is for young professionals! And the reason it’s “unofficial”? Because ASAE wanted to control their own YPC groups too much. I bet that’s a lesson learned…

  2. January 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm


    Thanks for your comment – and thanks for reminding us about this invaluable resource. For those who don’t know, YAP stands for young association professional. I highly recommend this site. Whether you’re looking for a job or you’d like to connect with others who are studying for the CAE (certified association executive) exam, there’s a group for you to join and dozens of people for you to meet.

    Also, I do think there’s an important lesson to be learned here. First, don’t underestimate the young professional community (either staff or members). If given the opportunity, there’s much value to be gained from this eager and enthusiastic demographic. Second, if you’re truly interested in maximizing this talent bank, it’s important to create an environment that promotes creativity and innovation, as opposed to one that stifles it.


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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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