As a Young Professional (YP) in the up-and-coming city of Milwaukee, WI, I can tell you that it's very important to find a way to get connected in your city. It's important because in order to make a difference, you need to know who those difference makers are. To influence, you must know who holds the influence. Remember, there is influence in numbers, so you'll need to get connected with others that are like you. YP groups are sprouting up all over the country, none better than Milwaukee's own Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM).
I am an active member of YPM, and I can tell you that the biggest reason for our success is we offer something for everyone, and we are inclusive rather than exclusive. This is especially vital if you're looking to build a diverse group of like-minded individuals. We offer social events, cultural events at the art museum, independent film screenings, cafe style discussions about important issues facing YPs, opportunities to get involved with non-profits and behind-the-scenes looks at things nobody else has access to. So no matter what your interest, if you want to make a difference, YPM is a group that can help you get connected to the right people, not only people your own age but politicians and other high-ranking city officials who want to attract and retain top talent.
So now you know why a YP would want to connect with a group of like-minded individuals, but what happens if you don't have an organization like this in your town? Well for starters, talk to others at your place of business your age and mentality and see if they're interested in getting together after work. Touch bases with a few others you know at church, at the library, or elsewhere in your inner circle, and you'll quickly be able to grow to 30-50 individuals. Spend some time with the senior members of your company and show them the value in these groups, as evidenced by the Hot Jobs - Cool Communities reports Next Generation Consulting puts out every year, or buy an influential leader a copy of Richard Florida's great book The Rise of the Creative Class, after reading it yourself, of course. Partner with your local chamber of commerce if at all possible, or see if a few companies are willing to offer some funding for at least a few years until you can become self-sustaining. If you can demonstrate an ROI, chances are you can sell the idea to upper management.
Associates are less likely to leave where they feel connected and engaged, and connecting and engaging your associates with other like-minded individuals is the easiest way to keep them around. Additionally, these associates are more likely to get involved in the community they live and will make your company look good by doing good around town.
In conclusion, connections are good for the associate, good for the company, and good for the community, which is ultimately good for the dollars and cents on the bottom line. With a little luck, you might start something great and turn your city into the next Milwaukee, a great city by a great lake!
Phil Gerbyshak leads a team of people as manager of an IT Help Desk in Milwaukee, WI, and finds that sharing his knowledge is a crucial component for success as a leader and as a person. Phil's personal philosophy is paraphrased from Tim Sanders' fantastic book Love is the Killer App: "Share your knowledge, your network, and your love. The rest will follow." Feel free to contact Phil at http://makeitgreat.org or call 414.640.7445 anytime.