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Make an Investment in You: Columbus Young Professionals Conference

When I moved to Columbus, Ohio, about a year and a half ago, I discovered a new term for myself: the “trailing spouse.” That means I’m the non-primary person in a couple relocating to a new location and/or job. I learned this term sitting in my sunny living room in Phoenix , laptop on lap, perusing websites like the Columbus Chamber, LiveWorkPlay, Experience Columbus and other sites designed for visitors and potential new residents of Central Ohio.

I remember being quite impressed that the Chamber has a specific staff person, newsletter and initiative all around Young Professionals. Because of this blog, I pay special attention to locations, websites and groups trying to help other Gen Y professionals find their way in the workplace and in careers. That’s not common in every city, unfortunately.

I could tell, I was in for a pleasant surprise in Columbus — and I was right. With multiple YP groups, a civic and business focus on attracting and retaining YPs and a vibrant community of people actually talking about a new generation of leaders, this city is doing something right.

Make an Investment in You

Now, under the visionary leadership of David Cofer of Cofer Consulting, Columbus is doing it again, and I’m proud to say I’m taking part in something new and exciting for young pros in my adopted hometown.

Make an Investment in You” is the theme of a half-day event encompassing professional education, networking and a keynote presentation by one of the top speakers in the country, organized around the specific needs of Gen Y professionals. Taking place at the Arena Grand theater on Thursday, September 19 from 12:30 p.m. – 7 p.m., it will bring together Young Professionals from the region, as well as civic and business organizations dedicated to helping YPs grow.

Participants get to choose out of a lineup of panels discussing topics geared towards young professionals, including:

  1. Personal Financial Planning
  2. Commitment to Lifelong Learning: Your Options for Graduate School and Continuing Education
  3. Living Green and Living Healthy.  Now that’s Livin’!
  4. Successfully Navigating Today’s Employment Landscape
  5. Mentoring for Success
  6. Community Engagement & Leadership: Do Well While Doing Good
  7. Personal Branding & Professional Networking

I’m excited to be a volunteer on the panel for #7, sharing a few of my experiences relocating to Columbus and building up my own professional network and brand. When the organizers first approached me about helping out, I was struck by the quality of the educational lineup.

It closely matches many of the major themes that slowly are emerging nationally in the context of Gen Ys in the workplace that I write about on this blog. I asked Dave , the main producer of the event, why that was. His response — collaboration:

Truth is, I had a few ideas but it was really the result of asking a lot of people, a lot smarter than myself what kind of programming they thought would be both attractive and beneficial to a YP audience.  I’m really proud of what we came up with.  I think it’s diverse and offers something for everyone.  I think many people will be challenged by having to make just 3 selections and will wish they had the opportunity to participate in more.  I suppose that’s a good problem to have.  The end result is truly reflective of many people’s ideas, thoughts, and perspectives.

Keynote speaker for the event is Simon T. Bailey, called one of the Top 25 “Hot Speakers” in the U.S. by Speaker Magazine, and author of  “Release Your Brilliance,” ranked 17 of the Top 100 books being read by Corporate America (Source – 800 CEO Read). Simon recorded a special invite to my peers here in Columbus, which is pretty cool.

I also asked David Cofer why he decided to do an event like this right now, knowing that many corporations have put initiatives to cultivate and manage a younger generation of workers in the back burner, in light of our current economic situation. He said:

Columbus was really ripe for something like this.  So much hard work has gone into building and supporting the local YP infrastructure, that it really made an event like this viable.  So many people and organizations have contributed to making Columbus so YP friendly.  The Columbus Chamber, Columbus Young Professionals, Young Professionals of Columbus and others have really worked to build the foundation that makes an event like this possible.

Secondly, I am from Columbus and the opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me was a no-brainer.  Early in my career I had the opportunity to attend and participate in events such as this, and I know first-hand how they can benefit your career and contribute to your professional development.

I’m impressed by this event, to say the least. Other YP groups — while offering fun and engaging activities like volunteering, sports leagues or networking opportunities — haven’t yet hit the mark with me, in terms of programming. This event stands a great chance of filling that gap.

Hopefully in the future, Dave and team will get more local YP leaders to take ownership in planning and marketing the event. I plan to be one of them.

If you’re a YP in another city who is interested in hosting a similar type of event,  I’d be happy to connect you with the event organizers (E-mail me).

The more we as Gen Y professionals can help ourselves and our peers to become better people, employees and leaders — the better off we’ll all be.

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