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VOL. 129 | NO. 139 | Friday, July 18, 2014

Youth Movement

Opportunities growing for city’s young professionals

By Andy Meek

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It’s a good time to be a young professional in Memphis who wants to do more than punch a clock.

From the Greater Memphis Chamber to the New Memphis Institute, plus groups like the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals and Leadership Memphis, among others, the tent of movers, shakers and impact makers has expanded considerably in Memphis of late.

Greater Memphis Chamber president and CEO Phil Trenary spoke at the recent event launching SoundCheck, one of the city’s newest leadership programs that targets and engages young professionals. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

And the voices of the business and nonprofit communities, for example, can be especially heard at the moment acknowledging that good ideas aren’t the sole provenance of an older generation, and that the contributions of young talent are indispensable to the city’s future.

To that end, the chamber has set up an organization it’s calling SoundCheck, a young professionals council that will plug young leaders straight into the ecosystem of the city’s business community. Participants will be able, for example, to interact directly with the chamber’s Chairman’s Circle.

That’s a group of businessmen focused on steering an ambitious civic agenda separate from the ordinary course of chamber business that includes supporting members.

The Chairman’s Circle is pushing a set of so-called “moon missions” – initiatives that include the promotion of early childhood education in Memphis, for example, as well as advanced manufacturing training. And through the new SoundCheck body, young leaders can have a seat at the same table, where they’ll interact with members of the business community in a position to advocate those big plans for the city.

Trey Carter, president of OCTI Training and part of the 2014 SoundCheck leadership, said organizations like it are important because they incubate the city’s future leaders.

“As a business owner and young professional, I want to be a part of growing Memphis’ economy,” he said.

SoundCheck is one of a few new programs that allows young leaders to interact with members of the Memphis business community who are in a position to advocate big plans for the city. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Meanwhile, other programs serve the same demographic, with varying twists on the mission.

The New Memphis Institute has Embark, a new program through which “promising 20-somethings” go through a three-month, cohort-based leadership experience that helps them set a course for their career and network with peers who want to make a difference in the community.

Embark’s goals include helping participants enhance their management skills, get more familiar with assets in the Memphis area, understand their strengths and weaknesses as leaders and grow their social and professional networks across Memphis industries and communities.

The next Embark cohort starts up in the fall.

“I found Embark to be very beneficial to my professional development,” said Madeline Patterson, an account executive with Sullivan Branding. “The personal assessment components of the program helped me identify my weaknesses as a manager and work with others to discuss strategies for self-improvement, and ways to work with different types of personalities. I’ve already used these tactics at my job and encouraged others to be more open about ways we can improve our work relationships.”

Beyond that, the New Memphis Institute also has a range of other programs with this demographic in mind. The organization’s Fellows program, for example, is a yearlong engagement that gives emerging leaders the “tools, experiences and connections needed to become change agents, inclusive leaders and qualified city ambassadors.”

Meanwhile, Leadership Memphis has its FastTrack program, which develops “emerging, high-potential leaders” and young professionals in classes whose participants include a cross-section of the local business, government, nonprofit and academic communities, among others.

According to the organization, FastTrack participants “gain a stronger understanding of how to elevate Memphis through an increased understanding of both self and community, through experiential learning and through exposure to high-profile community leaders.”

Brandi Richard, National Urban League Young Professional president, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker next month at the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals’ Empowerment Conference 2014. The group’s conference will include a mix of panels and workshops and let attendees hear from emerging leaders and how they’re making a difference in the community.

Memphis Urban League Young Professionals promotes the development of Memphis-area young professionals and tries to serve the community through initiatives like youth mentoring and development, and health literacy and advocacy, among others.

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