By Brian Rooney, Branch Manager, Crescent Electric Supply Company
Making my second appearance at the local industry Christmas party, at 24 years young, I came to a harsh realization about something which was missing to my holiday attire. I was just about the only individual in the room not sporting the ever-chic grey hair. All jokes aside, the demographics were obvious and it forced me to think about the future of the industry and how to make our business attractive to the less-grey generations.
Fortunately at this annual gathering, much like a lost puppy, I was introduced to another industry newcomer, who’s now a great friend and confidante. It was there, over a cup of eggnog, that the brain trust for the Young Electrical Professionals (YEP) of Chicago was born. But at the time, we were just two young folks looking to help others do the same as us; connect, share experiences, network, and share a drink or two. We pooled our resources, compiled an email list of young professionals in the area, called our friendly neighborhood bar manager, made fliers, and invited the attendees—and so was created our first young professionals event.
We started modestly, 20-30 attendees per event. These were mostly just food and drink, along with a few folks making introductions and letting human nature take its course from there. We connected contractors, distributors, reps, manufacturers, engineers and more; all in the name of electricity. We made sure to have these events completely non-denominational. All in the industry were welcome, competitors and customers alike. Our role was to help connect others—no hidden agendas involved—and we made sure that point was transparent from day one.
Our events became somewhat popular, ultimately leading us to a partnership with the Electric Association of Chicago. They asked us to be a member organization, and so we became official: The Young Electrical Professionals of Chicago. Armed with their marketing and event organization know-how, our first event as a member organization was a hit. 90+ attendees to our first event with the EA (a Cubs rooftop game) and we were sold. A little millennial elbow grease and some industry backing and we could really make a difference.
Since then, I’ve gone on to serve on the EA board as the young professional’s member. We’ve held YEP community service events, CEO panel discussions, educational events with the local IBEW, and connected countless entry-level professionals who would not have had the opportunity to otherwise network and form meaningful relationships for themselves and their firms.
My message to all the young folks out there is this. If you see something you want to be changed, change it. If something needs to be fixed, fix it. Nobody is going to hold your hand. Something like this group we made in Chicago could very easily be duplicated in your market. It will only make you and your industry stronger.
To the industry organizations, get behind your young folks. Without the backing from the EA here, we would never be in the place we are today.
I truly believe organizations like ours help keep talent in the industry and make us a more attractive place to be. Your professional legacy will be in your relationships and the lives you touched. Leave this industry better than you found it.Tagged with Better Together, millennials, YEP, young professionals