MIL­LEN­NI­ALS MAK­ING MOVES

Young pro­fes­sion­als groups pro­vide venues for growth

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY KLAU­DIA BALOGH

Mil­len­ni­als are swap­ping busi­ness cards and net­work­ing more than ever. They have be­come much more than the go-to ex­perts when their par­ents and grand­par­ents get stuck with their iPhones and iPads. Mil­len­ni­als— also known as Gen­er­a­tion Y or Gen­er­a­tion Net, born be­tween the early 1980s and early 2000s—are now reach­ing the age when they’re fig­ur­ing out their ca­reers and build­ing suc­cess­ful fu­tures. They have also re­al­ized that the road to suc­cess isn’t only about what you know, but rather who you know and, more im­por­tantly, who knows you.

Florida has al­ways been the spot for the Amer­i­can Dream re­tire­ment plan, but Mil­len­ni­als are in­creas­ingly see­ing the state as a place to open busi­nesses and move into lead­er­ship po­si­tions. This young gen­er­a­tion seeks out of­fice gath­er­ings and the late-night bar scene to con­gre­gate with like-minded in­di­vid­u­als, and more re­cently many have formed net­work­ing groups where they can get to­gether and share ideas on a more for­mal ba­sis, with the goal of grow­ing both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. In Lee County, the Young Pro­fes­sion­als of Fort My­ers – Es­tero – Cape Co­ral and the Young Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion of Sani­bel & Cap­tiva of­fer var­i­ous net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties monthly.

Laura Richard­son, founder of the Sani­bel and Cap­tiva group, says young pro­fes­sion­als are re­al­iz­ing they can­not wait for op­por­tu­ni­ties to come their way; they need to be ac­tively en­gaged in their com­mu­nity, learn to net­work, build upon their con­nec­tions and fo­cus on their own pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. “As young pro­fes­sion­als are fin­ish­ing school and join­ing the work­force, we are look­ing for or­ga­ni­za­tions to be­come af­fil­i­ated with, and if they do not ex­ist or cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tions are not meet­ing our needs, we have re­al­ized we can build our own,” she says.

Richard­son, 30, started the young pro­fes­sion­als group on the is­lands in June 2015, which makes it the new­est such group in Lee County. She got the in­spi­ra­tion af­ter start­ing a job on Sani­bel in Jan­uary and notic­ing she wasn’t the only Mil­len­nial work­ing on the is­lands. As she met peo­ple of her age in the first few months, she came to re­al­ize that the is­lands at­tract not only vis­i­tors and older gen­er­a­tions, but also a large group of young pro­fes­sion­als who live and work there. She played with the idea of start­ing the group and got a lot of sup­port from other young pro­fes­sion­als.

Since the first net­work­ing event in June, Richard­son has al­ready seen growth in par­tic­i­pa­tion month af­ter month. “I’m im­pressed with the at­ten­dance,” she says. “I think it’s the con­nec­tions peo­ple make that brings them back the next time.” Each month

As young pro­fes­sion­als are fin­ish­ing school and join­ing the work­force, we are look­ing for or­ga­ni­za­tions to be­come af­fil­i­ated with, and if they do not ex­ist or cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tions are not meet­ing our needs, we have re­al­ized we can build our own.”

—Laura Richard­son

the group meets at a restau­rant on the is­lands; how­ever, down the road Richard­son plans to par­tic­i­pate in a va­ri­ety of events, in­clud­ing fundrais­ers and com­mu­nity gath­er­ings.

The Young Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion is not the only such group on the is­lands. Kasey Al­bright, born and raised on Sani­bel and now a real es­tate agent at John Nau­mann & As­so­ciates, started the Young Pro­fes­sion­als Net­work for the Sani­bel & Cap­tiva As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors in 2014. She thought that the is­land needed an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­moted her gen­er­a­tion. “My mom has al­ways had great mem­o­ries dur­ing her 20s and 30s on Sani­bel get­ting to­gether with other pro­fes­sion­als her age, and I wanted those same ex­pe­ri­ences,” she says.

The first young pro­fes­sion­als net­work­ing group in South­west Florida was Young Pro­fes­sion­als of Fort My­ers – Es­tero – Cape Co­ral, founded in 2002 by Dan Sin­clair. The idea for the group came to Sin­clair af­ter a so­cial gath­er­ing. “I ran into a cou­ple of friends, re­cent grad­u­ates, at a lo­cal cham­ber func­tion, who just moved back to the area,” he says. “Ev­ery­one ex­cept us was in their 60s, so they wanted to find a way to net­work in a busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment with peo­ple their own age.”

As a re­sult, the group was born, and since then it has es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion in Lee County, with at­ten­dance at most of its events reach­ing in ex­cess of 100 par­tic­i­pants. Sin­clair says there has long been a need for such groups, but the older gen­er­a­tions didn’t al­ways rec­og­nize it.

Am­ber Maines and Paige Wood, both 25, at­tended their first Young Pro­fes­sion­als event, Busi­ness and So­cial Af­ter Five, in Septem­ber. They work as train­ers at Sit Means Sit of South Florida, a dog-train­ing fran­chise in Es­tero. “We are new to the area,” Wood ex­plains, “so this event sounded like a great op­por­tu­nity to net­work with peo­ple our own age and let them know about our busi­ness.” Mis­sion ac­com­plished.

Melissa Shan­non checks in par­tic­i­pants at the Busi­ness and So­cial Af­ter Five event of the Young Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion of Fort My­ers – Es­tero – Cape Co­ral.

The Af­ter 5:30 net­work­ing events of the Young Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion of Sani­bel & Cap­tiva are well at­tended.

(Top left) Trent Peake, Sarah Lathrop, Dar­rin Gro­trian, Re­becca Gro­trian and Robin Roberts net­work at the Young Pro­fes­sion­als As­so­ci­a­tion of Sani­bel & Cap­tiva. At­ten­dees at an event of the Fort My­ers – Es­tero – Cape Co­ral group in­clude (top right) Tyler Leleux, Jonathan Martin and Dan Sin­clair, the group’s founder; (bot­tom right) Ri­cardo Ro­driguez and Jonathan Fa­vorite; and (bot­tom left) Shi­den Kafei and Stephanie Tinoco.

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