Young Professionals Blog

Monday, December 1, 2014
Volunteer: Transform Your Career
by Amanda Wiegel

Moving to Charlotte from a small town in Western Pennsylvania, I was itching to get my career started, get involved in my new city’s activities and grow my professional network. As a young twenty-something with little “real” job experience and a BA degree in English Literature, all of those goals appeared to be a difficult undertaking. Since my educational background wasn’t going to quickly boost me into the city’s professional circle, I decided to concentrate on creating a plan to expand my network and chances for personal and professional growth along the way. Sometimes, a well thought out plan can make all the difference; it can set you up with achievable short-term goals to provide incentives along the way and it can help maintain your focus on the bigger picture.

Besides the obvious priority of finding a job to pay the bills, second on the agenda was seeking out volunteer opportunities Charlotte had to offer. Volunteer opportunities offer a great way to network while making a humanitarian mark on your community! These experiences can provide the perfect (and cost free) platform for honing your social skills, personal growth development and getting your feet wet in a new environment with new people—all great assets in the workplace. Finding them is not that hard, but deciding which opportunity is your niche can be a little like Cinderella and the glass slipper—you may need to try a few before finding your “happily ever after.”  Here are a few focus points I found to be helpful when seeking out my philanthropic glass slipper.  

Consider your interests: Finding the perfect volunteer opportunity takes time, but if you are a person sure of your interests and hobbies, it can make your search easier. If you are more professionally driven, volunteering for the Chamber or similar local organizations could be your match. If politics is your specialty, consider volunteer opportunities with our Young Professionals public policy committee, and/or local government entities. And, if culture is your forte, Charlotte offers up all kinds of arts driven organizations to tickle your fancy. Some volunteer positions will require prerequisites and an application process. Be sure to consider this while conducting your search also!  

Assess your skillset: No matter what your age, continuous improvement and development are applicable across careers, organizations and industries. Be aware of the skills you already possess and the ones you would like to improve on. Be clear on what those are but keep an open mind also. A current opportunity may not exist at the time of your search, but maybe there are alternative positions which will allow you to learn your way around the organization while keeping an eye on that dream spot.

Be aware of your schedule and availability: If it seems you’ve found a volunteer spot which perfectly matches with your interests and skillset, but it doesn’t work with your schedule, don’t waste both your and the organization’s time. Likewise, if the commitment occasionally requires your time during normal working hours, be sure your employer is agreeable. The opportunity will not be helpful if you’re not able to fulfill the obligation or are jeopardizing the paying job you already have. 

Think about long-term goals: I’m not talking about just personal goals and the great feeling you get from supporting a good cause; that’s a great reason to be volunteering, but there’s also your own professional growth. Make sure to carefully consider which organization might best help you to achieve these goals. Ask yourself questions like “Will there be opportunities where me or my group will be publicly recognized?” or “Who already volunteers for this organization?”.

Above all, have fun! If you’re not having fun, it’s time to move on! Make sure you find value in what you’re doing and your passion will shine through always! 

Posted by: Amanda Wiegel @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Monday, September 8, 2014
Back to the Future: Navigating the Multigenerational Workplace
by Matt Connell

I am lazy, egotistical, emotionless, disloyal, and, most of all, did I mention entitled? Although in my heart I do not believe I harbor any of the previously mentioned attributes, it is hard to ignore the pre-programmed thoughts on millennials. I happen to work in an environment that lacks bean bag chairs, ping pong and free ice cream on Tuesday – all of the things deemed important to my generation through stereotyping. The reason I bring this up is because we are facing a crucial fork in the generational workplace road. We now have four different generations working under one roof, and hopefully toward the same common goals. How in the world will we all survive this generational apocalypse? We can start by doing these three things.

Respect Experience and Inexperience – The workplace does not have to be a history lesson for younger workers nor should it be a tutorial on the future for older workers. Too often previous generations feel the need to explain “how things are done,” which can come across to a millennial as an extension of parenting. I think I can speak for the majority of millennials in that we love our parents, but we do not need the same relationship in the workplace. On the flip side of that, to every previous generation member who thinks that their younger employees are trying to take their established company and turn it into Twitter overnight because they changed one part of your business plan, they are not; they are just trying to provide insight from another angle.

Find Some Sort of “Natural Common Ground” – It bears repeating that when I mention this, I am neither advising older generations to binge watch MTV to stay hip nor advising younger generations to subject themselves to every John Wayne movie ever made. The worst thing that can happen in a multigenerational workplace is the one employee who tries to “understand and assimilate” into another generation. It is usually extremely obvious, embarrassing and, most of all, completely unnecessary. This is because at the end of the day, regardless of which generation you cling to, there will always be common denominators through workplace goals and societal values. In order to find these similarities, it takes time and the ability to listen.

Company Culture – The most important thing that a company can do is to support a culture where commitment to the company goals and performance are the barometer of respect, not age. An example that comes to mind is Russell Wilson, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. When Wilson was drafted in the third round of the NFL draft, he was selected to a team that had invested all of its money in a "seasoned” commodity, Matt Flynn. Financially, it made little sense to even think about starting the inexperienced Wilson; after all, the Seahawks had just invested more than $10 million in Flynn. But what the Seahawks did right was foster a culture of “Always Competing,” which allowed Wilson to earn the starting job even with a lack of experience on paper. If more companies fostered the same culture, generations would stop looking to label workers as younger or older. Instead, by labeling everyone as a “co-worker,” companies might see results similar to the Super Bowl champions.

It is important to point out that I do not think the previously mentioned tips will immediately change the tide of the American workplace. Unfortunately, traditions and norms have been set in stone for some time. But on the other hand, we do have a great opportunity to break generational stereotyping because how often in history do you have four generations working side by side? The important lesson in all of this is to take the time to get to know your co-workers regardless of age and experience. I am confident you will be shocked at how quickly your workplace environment will change for the better.

Posted by: Matt Connell @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Monday, June 23, 2014
Style Secrets of Successful Leaders
by Jake Hoffberg

Do you dream of being powerful, successful, influential and wealthy? Do you fantasize about the day you'll be a C-level executive? Do you think about a future where you are an inspiring leader who leads a great business and develops people? Do you imagine leaving a legacy and making a significant contribution to your community? If your desire is to become a leader, to become a person who can influence others and create something remarkable, then you must do everything you can to refine your Executive Presence.

There are three main categories of Executive Presence: character, substance and style. The image you project, while just a piece of the overall puzzle, is a tool you can use to dramatically increase your ability to influence others. In this blog series, you will learn how to develop the style component of your Executive Presence so that you project the image of a leader.

The style secrets you will learn are the same ones I teach my top executive clients. When you learn and implement these secrets, you'll see a fascinating change in the way people interact with you and their desire to be around you. You will begin to stand out and be noticed by the leaders in your company as someone they want to promote. You'll have more influence in your company and be more effective as a leader. You'll feel more confident in yourself and your ability to achieve.

Style Secret #1: Perception is Reality

First impressions are formed in seven seconds or less and are firmly solidified in 30 seconds. These judgments can be very difficult to overcome. We generally assume that a person consciously and deliberately makes a personal statement about himself with every part of his appearance that he can affect in any way. Let that one sink in for a moment. That means any poorly matched outfits, color choices, ill-fitting clothing and your scuffed shoes are all assumed to be deliberate choices you made. The good news is that this is something entirely within your control.

The first step in the process of becoming a leader is to have a vision of what you want. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want people to think of when your name is said? How do you want people to interact with you? This exercise alone will impact the path you take when developing your Executive Presence, not just your style.

Every choice you make about how you dress and groom yourself should be deliberate. Regardless of the specific qualities you want to project, make sure you’re sticking to the following guidelines:

  • Wear clothing that fits your body type properly. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, find a good tailor. The fit is the single most important part of how people perceive you, so don’t mess this up!
  • Choose quality fabric that looks, feels and performs well.
  • It’s much better to be overdressed than underdressed. You never know who you’ll meet today – don’t miss a once in a lifetime opportunity because you look sloppy.
  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Make it easy for people to imagine you as a leader with how you dress.

While we will discuss how to build your wardrobe and dress yourself effectively in this blog series, you can also reach out to me with any questions you have at j.hoffberg@tomjames.com.

Posted by: Jake Hoffberg @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Monday, June 2, 2014
The Queen City Attracts Millennials
by Adrienne Schermer

I used to think I had a unique and courageous story about how I found myself in the Queen City. I moved to Charlotte almost nine years ago by picking a random city in the South. After graduating from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, located in the snow belt of America on the shores of Lake Erie, my only relocation parameters were it must be a larger metro than Erie, Pennsylvania (this was easily achieved), and, for heaven’s sake, no snow between the months of October and April. And no lake effect snow (if you’re from the South, lake effect snow may be a foreign term, but basically it snows so much you don’t know which direction the snow is coming from). I moved to Charlotte with no friends, family, job nor contacts — just the drive to find the perfect opportunity. I knew that my resume wasn’t going to get me anywhere — I needed to meet people. I made small business cards with my resume, started waiting tables, volunteering, attending networking events (thank you Visit Charlotte, The Business Journal and Charlotte Chamber), and talked to anyone I came in contact with about what I wanted to do. To my surprise, the people I met at the networking events invited me to more events, gave me job leads and held informational interviews with me. Within six months, I had a job at one of the city’s largest event planning companies.

My career has taken me from Charlotte twice. Once to Raleigh, which may be a great city for many reasons, but as a young professional it was tough. At the time, I found the demographic there to be either college students or young families, and their downtown didn’t provide for great night life. I came back to Charlotte, and I started working for Visit Charlotte. This was a company where I had originally done an informational interview. I fell in love with Charlotte all over again, this time experiencing the city through the hospitality industry. I stayed for another three years before I was promoted to a job in Washington, D.C. I had always wanted to experience a major metro. But a year later, I moved back home to the Queen City. While a larger metro is nice for several reasons, Washington didn’t have a lot of what Charlotte had. It certainly wasn’t affordable, it was difficult to find farmers markets and outdoor space, and commuting was terrible — making the quality of life stressful at best. I had a hard time digesting an hour commute each way, which affects your personal life: how much you see of your significant other, your time to relax and overall work-life balance. I couldn’t comprehend having a family and fighting traffic and a long commute to get to them in an emergency.

Now that I have been in Charlotte for a while, I have heard from other young professionals with similar stories. Charlotte is a great place to build a career and has been nationally recognized for it by NBC News. The cost of living is affordable, the people are friendly, and we have an amazing food scene (thank you Johnson & Wales), access to beautiful greenways and a major airport hub to satisfy anyone’s appetite for wanderlust or business travel. Speaking of business travel, Charlotte is home to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. But the QC isn’t just a great place for big business, small businesses thrive in Charlotte. Just take a look at Packard Place, a place where entrepreneurship and innovation is encouraged and cultivated. Our unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and we are bouncing back at a faster rate than the rest of the country. And let’s not forget sports — Charlotte is the home of not just NASCAR but the Charlotte Hornets, Carolina Panthers, Wells Fargo Championship, Charlotte Hounds, Mecklenburg Aquatic Center, The US National Whitewater Center, Charlotte Checkers, and, last but not least, our Charlotte Knights.

There used to be a saying in Charlotte that we were the best kept secret in the South... Well I think the secret is out. Just take a look at what Apartments.com and Forbes are saying about our beautiful city!

Posted by: Adrienne Schermer, CCYPs board member and Chair of CCYPs Campaign Team @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Want to Change the World? Networking Is the Answer
by Chris Turner

If you think that water cooler talk or networking happy hour is an inefficient way to grow your career, you may be thinking too small-scale. There are hundreds of ways to network and just as many reasons why you should do it. The best justification for organizational and social networking is that these associations are your best way to make substantive and long-lasting change within any workplace or society.

In “The Power of Habit,” author Charles Duhigg explains that permanent change within social structures occurs when an individual is able to tap into his or her strong AND weak ties to advocate for self-perpetuating social and organizational progress. While a strong tie alone (managers, mentors, peers and friends) can support the business plan or social change you are proposing, these ties are not able to ensure that the proposal is implemented and sustained because their influence may not be broad enough to reach all stakeholders. Weak ties within an organization or community are vital to long-term change since they do not promote your idea because they know you; instead, they do so because it is a good idea and someone they knew made the pitch to them in support.

The water cooler and networking happy hours are the best opportunities to grow your weak ties and even some of your strong ties within your office or professional society, thereby creating more people who are ready to listen to and support your next work project or social cause. So the next time you are networking within your social or professional communities, don’t just think of it as a way to promote yourself. Better yet, think of that new connection as the next step in your path to changing the world or the how the world does business.

Posted by: Chris Turner, CCYPs Board Member and Co-chair of the CCYPs Public Policy Committee @ 12:00:00 am  Comments (0)
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