With Wisconsin’s YPWeek coming up April 22-29, Sarah Spang, a member of the board and marketing committee lead for the Young Professionals of Fond du Lac, has little time to sit still. (She also works for the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp.) She found a few minutes to meet with Insight Senior Associate Editor Sean Johnson to discuss YPWeek.
Young Professionals of Fond du Lac changed my life.
When I think about the value of young professional programs and YP Week, I think about myself and how they helped me. Four years ago, I was kind of that wild child that didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life, or if I even wanted to stay here. The connections I made and everything I have learned opened my eyes to the opportunities out there for me. Because of YPF, I want to stay in Fond du Lac, and I want to be involved and help the community.
Any time anyone asks if a young professionals group will be a good experience, I say yes, let’s talk.
While there is a lot of fun built into the events for statewide YPWeek, there are cool and creative things as well. This year, every organization taking part will have some sort of community project as part of the activities. For Fond du Lac, we chose a discussion about human trafficking. That’s going to bring out a lot of people from the community who will see what YPF does. On the fun side, we are also staging a kickball tournament to benefit the Solutions Center.
It’s that kind of thinking that gets us out in the public eye. People have a greater awareness, they talk about it, and it spreads from there, which is important both in terms of recruiting and retaining young professionals.
We need to keep doing more to get the word out this is a great place for young professionals to do great things. Some people still don’t know our organizations are out there, or that young professionals in the workforce are moving into leadership and starting to make the decisions in business and in our community.
This week is all about saying this state is a great place for young professionals. We have great cities that are doing this as part of YPWeek. You can go into any of those cities and have a great experience because there are people who want you to be successful and want you to be there.
Of course, we have some unique challenges. We do have four distinct seasons, and not everyone is a fan of all of them. That said, we need to concentrate on forging the friendships and connections that will keep people here.
A lot of it starts by reaching out even before they become young professionals. We have a great relationship with Marian University, and we have a lot of sessions there where the students can see from someone who is relatively in their same age range how to act in certain situations, how to network, how to build those all-important relationships, how to get connected with each other and follow up.
Having those types of connections at the collegiate level is important, but the high schools are also going to be important. They may not know what they want to be, but at least they will know that there are opportunities for young folks out there to do cool thing to get involved.
If there is one thing I could change to improve our attractiveness, it would be the willingness to try new things. We don’t always embrace that. YPs have started to shake things up the past few years, and that has not always been greeted positively. Let’s be willing to give things a shot and look at them differently. Just be willing to open your mind and be willing to embrace change and the possibility it may fail.
I think some employers have problems with my generation because of the perception that we job hop, or we only want to be in the bigger cities. But what we really want is a place that gives us opportunities to continue to advance and better ourselves. We want a place where the community is involved and wants to be better. If you can offer that, we will come here and stay here.