by Justin Aufdermauer
For most people, February brings to mind chocolates, bouquets and other thoughts of Valentine’s Day. But this year for me, my excitement is shared with another February event: the launch of Young Pros Tillamook.
Young Pros Tillamook is a network of likeminded young professionals who work together to grow, connect and engage with each other and the broader Tillamook Community. Through events and programming, the group offers a way to meet and foster relationships with other young professionals; develop your personal and professional skills; and make a positive impact on the community through volunteer work and service projects. It is targeted at people aged 21 – 40, but it can also include people looking to re-enter the workforce or people who are making a career change.
We are officially kicking off the Young Pros network and programming on February 25 with a launch party at the Chamber office. Anyone who is interested in learning more about Young Pros is invited to attend. There will be drinks, appetizers and a lot of really great people.
My vision for the Young Pros is to create a sense of community for emerging leaders and young professionals here, so they feel like they can invest in Tillamook for the long-term. This is especially important for people who are moving to the community from other places. Those of us who have lived in Tillamook all our lives know this is a good place to raise a family, find friends and build a career. But that isn’t always the case, and it’s not always clear for someone who is new here, either.
There are tons of town with tons of jobs all over the country they could choose to move to instead, so why should anyone choose to live in Tillamook? We want the Young Pros to be part of that answer. There’s a network of likeminded young professionals here who want to make a positive difference in their community. And if you join that network, you’ll find it easy to meet new friends and feel supported. All of that encourages talented young professionals to stay in our community, because they will come to know and champion how wonderful it is to live, work and play in Tillamook.
If all this talk of a young professionals group gives you a sense of déjà vu, that’s because this isn’t our first time launching a young professionals network. Our plan for starting a group like this date back to 2014, when a small group of young professionals first floated the idea by the Chamber. We loved the vision, but at the time, we didn’t have the capacity to take on a brand-new program like this.
About five years later, in 2019, another small group came to us with the idea of starting a young professionals group. This time, the Chamber was positioned well to help support the program, and we helped spread the word and coordinate events as interest in the program quickly grew.
The 2019 young professionals group started strong but eventually faded due to one big challenge: The leadership team for the program were volunteers who operated autonomously from the Chamber. That gave the team a lot of freedom to mold the group how they saw fit, but it also made it difficult to support consistent programming for as many as 75 members while they focused on their own jobs, community involvements and families. With no organizational tie to ensure there was at least one person dedicated to overseeing the programming when life got busy for the leadership team, the group eventually fizzled out.
Now we’re back with another attempt at creating a young professionals network. And naturally, we expect the community to ask us, “What makes this time different?”
That’s an honest question with a few answers. First, we’ve had time to look back at the first two tries and honestly evaluate what went well and what didn’t. We know that there needs to be some organizational ties, so there’s a consistent leader who can focus on planning events and managing the network full-time, and not as a volunteer side gig. Our goal is to hire a program manager that will oversee Young Pros as one of their projects.
Second, we have cross-community support to get this program going. It’s not just a small group of young professionals who want to see this group launched. It’s also large employers and community partners. For example, the Tillamook County Creamery Association is sponsoring the program this year, so all our young pros can have a free membership to test it out. Our support also comes from the brand-new Tillamook Chamber Community Foundation. The Young Pros program will operate under the Foundation, which just raised $16,000 at the Community Awards Banquet to launch programs just like this one.
The vision and the drive for a young professionals group is still present, but now we’ve got a solid plan, organizational capacity and widespread support to make that vision a long-lasting, fun and viable reality.
If you’re interested in learning more about Young Pros Tillamook or how to join, we hope you’ll join us for the launch party at 5:30 p.m. February 25 at the Chamber office. You can also find more information at youngprostillamook.com.