Young Professionals pursue growth opportunities
It has been ten years since the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce launched the Young Professionals Network – a program designed to develop and connect young professionals in the Sioux Falls area. Nearly 3,000 members have participated in YPN, and as it looks to the future the program is expected to evolve and grow in order to meet its goal of developing future leaders in the community.
"A lot has changed in this community in the past decade, but the need to engage young professionals and support their development remains," said Chamber President & CEO Jason Ball. "From a workforce development perspective, the YPN is a great tool that can help us in attracting and retaining young professionals who are choosing the place where they want to put down roots and grow their career."
Since the beginning, events have been at the core of YPN. There are a variety of professional development and social networking events every month. Formats range from small group sessions to larger networking events with more than 100 people. Recurring monthly events include Morning Buzz and Off the Clock, which are held all over the city at Chamber member locations. The social events provide an environment for YPN members to form new professional connections in a casual setting.
Professional development and community focused events, including Community Connections Tours and Our Sioux Falls, are scheduled regularly to give members an inside look at a local business or project.
One of the most popular events is A Seat at the Table, which gives members an opportunity to meet with a prominent business leader and ask questions about their career and experiences. Recent A Seat at the Table sessions have featured leaders such as Mayor Paul TenHaken, Tim Sturdevant, President & CEO of Sturdevant's Auto Parts, and Kevin Tupy, founder of Crescent Capital Holdings.
"YPN has been integral in my professional development. It provided a channel for me to engage in the community, opened the door to new experiences, and allowed me to form lasting connections."
– Dan Doyle,
Cutler Law Firm LLP
The programming of YPN is driven by volunteers, and there are plenty of options for YPN members to serve as their time and interests allow.
A 24-member Steering Committee helps to drive the vision and mission of the YPN. The committee meets monthly and its members represent YPN at Chamber Ribbon Cuttings and other events. YPN members can also choose to volunteer on one of four Action Teams. Action Teams are tasked with executing specific aspects of YPN programming. They include Personal & Professional Development, Membership, Social and Civic Engagement Action Teams.
The success of YPN is demonstrated by the number of individuals who were active YPN members in the early years and are now leaders in the Chamber and their companies.
Dan Doyle, Cutler Law Firm LLP, said that involvement with YPN helped to jumpstart his career. "What drew me in is that I wanted to get involved in the community, to network, and to progress in my professional development," said Doyle.
He joined the YPN Steering Committee and served as its chair in 2014. Over time, Doyle became more involved with broader Chamber activities. He now serves on the Chamber's Board of Directors and is Vice Chair of the Board's Executive Committee.
"YPN has been integral in my professional development. It provided a channel for me to engage in the community, opened the door to new experiences, and allowed me to form lasting connections," Doyle said. "Because of YPN I began to engage in other Chamber activities, including Leadership Sioux Falls. These all helped open the door for me to become involved in Chamber leadership."
YPN strives to be responsive to what young professionals are looking for in the program. This means regular change as some elements of the programming fade away and new pieces are added. Recently, there has been a push to create more avenues to engage with YPN online.
A members-only Facebook Group was created as a platform for sharing ideas and connecting with others through social media. And most recently, an online book club was created for YPN members.
Dakotah Jordan, Northwestern Mutual, took the lead in creating the club, called YPs Read. "When I left college I knew the responsibility of constantly growing, learning and developing was going to fall on my shoulders. The idea of the book club was born out of a desire for young professionals to develop ourselves together instead of on our own."
Participants in YPs Read collectively choose a business or personal development focused book and read it over the course of six weeks. Discussion questions are posted weekly online through a Facebook group. At the end of each book, the group comes together in person to discuss what they learned. The group is especially beneficial for members who are unable to regularly attend YPN events but want to engage in the program.
"I've seen so many people grow complacent and stagnant in their lives and careers because they don't put a priority on their development," said Jordan. "The people that take the time to make themselves into the best version of themselves are the ones that will propel this city forward."