Monday, April 2, 2012

Leadership Lessons from a YPO

After relocating to Minnesota over two years ago, I didn't know a soul. I had just begun a position at a local college and was slowly growing a social network there, but I desired to branch out and get to know others similar in age and industry. I had heard that the local Chamber of Commerce supported a young professionals organization (YPO) so I thought I would join to check it out and see how much my career would benefit from the opportunities they provided.

Lesson #1-Get involved: A lesson I had learned years ago, you can't expect someone to take you by the hand and guide you toward opportunities for leadership and civic participation. Proactively seek them out and-if they resonate with you-get on board with them.

I hadn't even gone to an event yet when they contacted the membership to solicit new applicants for their leadership council, the board-like entity that helped guide and direct the organization. With an air of "why not?", I shot them an application without really expecting to be accepted. In fact, I had just skimmed the email that informed me that I was accepted, almost deleting it. It looks like my gamble paid off, and I was about to go on a new leadership journey.

Lesson #2-Take the risk: In my mind I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain by becoming more involved with the organization. I didn't question my worthiness or buy in to any other self-created "rules" about why this group wouldn't benefit from my contribution. It's great to be a member of an organization, but joining its leadership team will provide even greater opportunities for personal growth.

I had been with the group for less than a year when one of the members wanted to coordinate an event for a week-long fundraising campaign for local nonprofits. Having been a transplant from St Louis, MO-home of the trivia night-I proposed that we coordinate one to raise money for another local organization. Together with a small group of volunteers from the YPO, we put on a wildly-successful trivia night that raised over $2000 for the organization, helping to put it in the black and helping our group gain more notoriety.

Lesson #3: Make your mark: Don't keep your ideas to yourself because you never know which ones may be the ones to take you and your group to another level.

There is something that you can take from every experience, so long as you stay aware of the possibilities presented to you and don't underestimate your impact. My résumé is much stronger due to my experience in this YPO. Stay aware, present, and go for the opportunities.

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