Engaging Young Professionals

Posted by Greg Michlig Tuesday, January 21, 2014 8:43:00 AM

Age is both very specific and also relative. Depending on the situation, we may each cast ourselves as young or, um…otherwise. This goes for business careers as well.

What is a young professional? Is that label defined by the cutoff for the 40 Under 40 lists or the 30 Under 30 lists? The young professional groups we see and hear of today are said to have evolved from the Yuppies of the past (according to Wikipedia). For reference, Yuppies were defined as being in their 20’s or 30’s.

Depending on your path of entry into the credit union world, you may be a current young professional or, as the calendar has illustrated in my case, a former young professional. Either way, there is a point of reference for each of us and it is important that we recognize that in our industry.

It’s no secret that senior management in credit unions has matured along with the movement. Statistics will tell you that a large number of credit union CEOs are preparing for retirement in the next few years. While some of those positions may be filled by outside talent, many of the next CEOs will come from within. And hence, the position that person leaves will be filled, and so on and so forth.

As a leader, what steps are you taking to be sure that those in your organization are prepared to step up when the opportunity arises? As a young professional (YP), what are you doing to set yourself apart as a rising star? Together, are we effectively building our credit union community with top tier talent that understand and believe in the credit union difference?

You may have read in yesterday’s Daily Exchange that Aspire FCU's Melissa Nesi has been selected as N.J.'s representative for the “Crash” CUNA's GAC program, supported by Filene Research Institute and the Cooperative Trust. (In this case the magic YP age cutoff was 30.) As a participant, Melissa will attend exclusive events, network with the N.J. delegation as well as other YPs from throughout the country and have fabulous exposure to the largest credit union event of the year. She is also going to write about her “Crash” experience in her own words from the perspective of a young credit union professional. We will share her thoughts and photos in a feature story following the GAC.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Melissa, but it is also a quite limited opportunity in that N.J. can only have a single “Crasher.” That said, there are other ways to be involved.

The recent launch of NJCUL’s Creative You presents a YP development opportunity. While there are no age or experience designations for Creative You, the program has certainly engaged some of N.J.’s ambitious YPs in this, its inaugural year. Those participating will have the opportunity to hone their planning skills, delve into innovation processes, and develop and showcase their presentation talents.

Chapters offer an opportunity for YPs and non-CEO’s to be involved on a more local level. They also offer the possibility to gain experience through serving in leadership positions. I have seen chapters and regional groups thrive throughout the country through the engagement of YPs.

This past November, the North-Central Chapter held a meeting in Clark, N.J. where executives, vendors, and YPs were invited to network while enjoying an open bar and buffet. This unique and very informal event was specifically designed to engage YPs. Allowing for opportunities for peer-to-peer connectivity results in sharing of best practices and ideas, and growth of the “community” environment that has always been a tenet of a strong credit union presence.

We also strive to facilitate these peer-to-peer connections through the NJCUL roundtables. While the roundtables are not age specific, there are opportunities for professionals to make connections based on their areas of expertise. In some cases this may result in a YP connection or, perhaps, even a mentoring-type environment where a more senior leader is able to impart valuable knowledge from experience that would assist someone junior.

As I reviewed our educational offerings for 2014, I also had this in mind. You will find the same core operational subject matter throughout our education calendar as in past years, but we have also expanded to include more strategic and developmental topics. Most specifically, keep an eye out for Webinars related to tools for analyzing and assisting emerging leaders as well as some on delving into problem solving techniques and individual skills development.

If you are a “former” like me, how are you engaging your YPs in an effort to develop the next leaders of our movement? If you consider yourself a current YP, step up, be a credit union advocate, express your ideas, and ask the questions on your mind. The evolution of the credit union industry is ongoing, and together, through development and planning, we will ensure there are future leaders who are instilled with the values that make credit unions unique and essential and the skills that foster success. 


Thursday, January 23, 2014 4:35:29 PM
Tom Quigley

re: Engaging Young Professionals

This is an excellent article that all employees should read.  It reminds us that it's important to allow frontline and back office staff to attend Chapter meetings.  It reminds us that the future of our industry could lie in the hands of current employees from around the state. We need to get to know these young talents and they need to know us.  It's good for the Chapter, its good for the employees and it's especially good for the industry.  As we age and start to consider retirement, we need to pass the torch on.  But we also need to assure the next generation understands the purpose of credit unions-people helping people.  Nice article, Greg!

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