Starting out in the workforce can be overwhelming. Whether you are ready to begin a new career or going back to work after time away, there are many things to consider. How will I market my business? How will I meet people? How can I balance my career and my family?
In Gig Harbor, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Young Professionals of Gig Harbor, a group of members under 40 who are eager to connect with one another and share experiences and ideas.
Erin Abrigo, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said the Young Professionals has been revived over the last year and is now going strong with monthly meetings that are attended by approximately 25 people.
Initially, it was difficult to find a meeting time that allowed people to regularly attend. “We found that lunch meetings are much better,” said Abrigo, citing the demands of parenthood that often require young professionals to be home in the evenings.
The monthly gatherings allow the members to get to know one another, share ideas on everything from marketing one’s business to balancing family life. “Each meeting we also have a speaker,” said Abrigo of the educational aspect of the group.
The topics of presentation are vast and have included social media, planning for retirement, what it means to be a board member of a nonprofit organization and leadership skills. At times it is members of the Young Professionals who speak, and occasionally outside speakers will present.
The meetings take place the second Wednesday of each month at 1pm, and the group rotates places monthly, providing exposure for different restaurants and coffee shops that are chamber members.
“We try to spread the love,” said Abrigo of providing business to various locations.
Each person is responsible to purchase his or her own lunch if they choose to eat. The meetings typically last a minimum of 60 minutes but no longer than 90 minutes.
The Young Professionals group is not only an opportunity for networking and education, but it also gives the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce an opportunity to learn more about the function of the chamber and how it can benefit them.
“Nationwide, the biggest struggle among chambers of commerce is to reach the younger people,” said Abrigo. “This group is our future chamber.”
Chamber and Young Professional member Jamie Taylor shares that the group is vibrant and growing. “Membership in Young Professionals is a great way to grow professional relationships, experience personal development and engage in community service contributions,” said Taylor of the group. “Membership is a great way for new and existing young professionals to get connected.”
Currently, there are no dues to be a member of the Young Professionals; the only requirement is that one’s business be a member of the chamber.
Being a member of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce and of the Young Professionals has been a wonderful experience for Abrigo, and she encourages more young people to become involved.
“I have gotten to know a lot of people from other businesses and have met key people in our community by being involved in the Chamber,” said Abrigo. And of course there is the benefit of increased business, but that is not something that happens overnight. “You have to do the work, and it will actually start to happen.”
There are three points that she states are key to business growth through the Chamber, “Be consistent, do the work and be yourself.”
Abrigo said it is refreshing to meet other professionals her age who share the same struggles, and she has been blessed with not only the great business relationships, but also the many friendships she has established through her involvement with the Chamber and the Young Professionals.
Taylor said that the group is consistent in numbers, and they hope to continue and expand over the upcoming year.
“We would like to identify projects or events in the community that we could be a part of, partnering with a nonprofit organization to help raise funds,” said Taylor. “ We want to make a difference in our community!” She adds that leadership and educational training is also something the group would like to focus on in the immediate future.
Current members of the Young Professionals invite others to join them.
“We are a very open group that looks to each other when deciding where we see the group going as we continue to grow,” said Taylor. “Start living local and being a part of your community. We have more control than we think, and we have the ability to make a difference that will not only help us be better neighbors, but it will also help grow your business.”
For more information, contact the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.