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To make a lasting impact on your industry, you have to keep up with the latest trends, topics and ways of doing business. And one of the best ways of keeping track of those changes and getting an inside look at what is important to future generations is to hire young professionals in your organization.

But how do you set your association up for success and give young professionals everything they need?

What is a young professional?

“Young professionals are the future of the professional workforce,” wrote the Department for Professional Employees. “They are more likely to be college graduates, work in fast-growing occupations, and be racially and ethnically diverse.”

For some, the first thing that comes to mind are interns, assistants, brand-new graduates and Generation Z.

However, the International Association for Energy Economics defines a young professional as “someone who, although he or she may be employed full-time, is within two years of graduation from a full-time Bachelors, Masters or PhD program and is under the age of 35.”

A young professional could be a low-level intern, they could be a C-suite executive, or they could be like me — fresh out of college but hitting the ground running with an already established career. 

Related: 6 Ways Associations Can Engage Young Professionals Learn More >

4 Strategies to attract young professionals

While there are plenty of benefits to adding young professionals to your organization, including innovative ideas and diverse perspectives, your culture plays a critical role in attracting and retaining young professionals. 

So, what can association leaders do to create a more welcoming environment? 

1. Be flexible.

If there’s anything we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic — and the resulting shift in work/life balance — it’s that people prioritize flexibility. Whether that is the ability to work from home, setting your own schedule, unlimited PTO, part-time options or things like maternity/caregiving leave, being flexible and understanding will increase the likelihood that younger professionals will come work with you. 

Related: 8 Ways to Prioritize Employee Work-Life Balance Learn More >

2. Take them seriously.

One of the biggest issues with younger professionals is being taken seriously by their colleagues and superiors. Just because someone is young or new to the workforce does not mean that their insight or ideas are any less important than others. 

It can be easy to feel like you don’t belong, especially when you are years, if not decades, younger than some of your colleagues and peers. It is increasingly likely that younger professionals deal with this, and exacerbating the issue by dismissing them prematurely will do nothing but drive young professionals away from your organization.

Related: 10 simple ways to beat imposter syndrome Learn More >

3. Loosen the reins.

As you may already know, one of the most common themes within association industry chatter is “that’s the way it's always been done.” Young professionals come to the table with bright ideas, passion, determination and an ability to think outside the box and experiment at an unprecedented rate. 

Stifling that creativity by sticking to outdated or vague rules and regulations will just drive the younger generations away, and impede your association’s efforts at staying relevant.

4. Accept failures.

With all the experimentation young professionals are eager and ready to do, there are bound to be a few missteps and failures along the road. But that’s just part of the process!

Don’t put too much focus on the failures when they do happen, and let your younger employees or members know that it is okay to not be perfect all the time. This will instill confidence in them to keep trying and will lead to bigger and better things for your association. 

Related: Why organizations should invest in their employees’ failures Learn More >

Creating a supportive environment benefits everyone

While creating a welcoming environment for young professionals can help you attract diverse talent, it has benefits for everyone in your organization. By encouraging flexibility and allowing for experimentation and innovation, your organization can grow exponentially and succeed in its most important goal – serving members.

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
June 14, 2022
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.