Nathan Litt, account director at Quill Creative in Oshkosh, was chosen as the 2017 Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year. He sat down with Insight staff reporter Jessica Thiel to discuss community involvement and why it’s important for young professionals to position themselves now for leadership and why current leaders should encourage them to do so.
It was a big honor (being chosen as the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce Young Professional of the Year), and it was very humbling when you think about all the people in the community that are out there doing good work.
I found that was a benefit of the recognition: I could use it as a forum to say the Fox Cities does value young professionals and young leaders, and it’s more than just lip service. On the flip side, I can use that position as Young Professional of the Year to say to the community: “We need to think about the future.”
My challenge has been, from the young professional standpoint, we need to stand up and get ourselves to the table if we don’t have those opportunities. From the perspective of people who are already at the table, make a point to get future leaders at the table now, even at first if it’s just for them to learn and to listen. Because someday, the baton is going to be passed, and it’s going to be up to the next generation.
It’s really this three-pronged challenge of young professionals sticking out their hand for opportunities, the current leaders to extend their hand and to listen and try new things, and the third prong of the challenge is the community taking a look at who’s present and who’s not present and all working together to make sure more people are present in the dialogue and decision making.
I was part of the (Creative Downtown Appleton and Appleton Downtown Inc.) team that rebranded downtown Appleton as “One Great Place.” For a lot of people, it is, but then you have to think about it from the flipside. For some people it’s not a great place when they feel like they’re marginalized. How do we make statements that show we’re an inclusive community, and we look different, and that’s OK?
I think, just from a promotional standpoint, we’re too Midwest nice, too humble in terms of attracting. We need to go out and not be bashful. We need to be proud about it. It’s not just one accolade for the Fox Cities. It’s multiple and year after year, so why wouldn’t you want to live in a community or area that’s like that?
(My parents impressed on me) that it’s really important that you are involved in the community where you live. That can be at any level, whether it’s voting or volunteering or participating in different organizations. If you see a problem, don’t just point out the problem, come with a solution or way to make it better or help out.
When I was at Lawrence, I studied government and international relations, and obviously communities and municipalities are the foundation of government and institutions. To me, community is important that way, too. How a community is structured influences the government.
I do think it’s an exciting time in a lot of different ways for the community — the startups, the ecosystem for entrepreneurs, the young professionals — just living in the Fox Cities community as a whole, I think there’s a lot of opportunity. There’s certainly challenges, but I think the biggest challenges we have are also our biggest opportunities.
Now more than ever, I think it’s important to get involved and engaged in your local community where you can actually have an immediate impact and have a voice and effect change. You have to make things happen, and you have to put effort into action behind the words.
I think that’s the biggest thing I’d like our community to realize and get working on for the next year or two. We have to be active in our involvement and engagement. Words are one thing, but we’ve got to get to some more doing.