Connect and empower

Outlets abound for Nashville’s young and hungry to launch leadership roles

Nashville’s post-recession boom has been fueled in large part by a surge of young professionals entering our workforce. From technology and health care to entertainment and dining, millennials are shaking up the demographics of Music City and its business community.

Young adults now make up 30 percent of Middle Tennessee’s workforce, according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s YP Nashville initiative. That statistic was backed up by Forbes earlier this year, when it ranked Nashville 10th in the nation in young adult population growth.

All those burgeoning careers have spawned more than 70 young professional organizations around Middle Tennessee, said Alex Hughes, talent retention manager for YP Nashville (pictured here on the right with Mary Beth Ikard of the MPO). Ranging from industry-specific networking to cause-based volunteering, young professional programs in Nashville are building our next generation of leaders.

While YP Nashville does not have its own membership base, Hughes spends much of her time funneling Nashville's professionals aged 22 to 40 into the perfect group. Two of the entities featured here — the Junior Chamber and Young Leaders Council — were part of the original YP Nashville advisory board, along with Society of Leaders in Development, Nashville Emerging Leaders and the Urban League of Young Professionals of Middle Tennessee.

Through networking events promoting a wide and diverse range of organizations, YP Nashville connects young professionals with their likeminded peers.

“Our mission is to engage, connect and empower young professionals to shape our region,” Hughes said.

Here are snapshots of three groups doing the same on a smaller scale and providing future leaders a chance to start making their mark.

Junior Chamber

The Nashville Junior Chamber is a networking and philanthropy group made up of young professionals under the age of 35. “Our mission is to develop our members personally and professionally,” said president Frank Miles. “We have three core values; professional development, networking and philanthropy.” Featuring a number of fundraising events chaired by members, Junior Chamber is not industry specific, but emphasizes unexpected connections in a social and volunteering context. “It's not just bankers or just engineers,” Miles said. “It's teachers, attorneys, all across the board. At a minimum, you're going to make great relationships.”

Membership: 180 members, $250 to join, plus $200 per year
Programming: Monthly networking events and lectures, yearly philanthropic events
Benefits: Leadership experience, diverse networking, volunteerism
You should apply if: “You want to improve your community and yourself, if you want to build relationships with young leaders and people who want to make a difference.”

Young Leaders Council

The YLC is all about Nashville's nonprofits. The biannual program trains young professionals between 25 and 40 to serve on the nonprofit boards around Middle Tennessee. “Our goal is to replenish the volunteer leadership base for nonprofits in Nashville,” said Executive Director Diane Hayes. Members complete an 11-week course and are placed on a nonprofit board for one year as a non-voting member. Networking is secondary to volunteering, Hayes said, but strong: “It's an important fringe benefit.”

Membership: $475 for the biannual 40-person program
Programming: 11 weeks of classes and a yearlong internship on a nonprofit board
Benefits: Nonprofit leadership, volunteerism, community engagement
You should apply up if: “You have been involved in volunteering and nonprofits already, and now you want to take to the next level through leadership.”

Leadership Health Care

An arm of the heavyweight Nashville Health Care Council, LHC is an initiative aimed at up-and-coming industry professionals. “Our mission is to foster emerging health care leaders,” said Katie Schlacter, director of communications. While the Council's membership is for companies only, LHC features individual memberships. The organization is industry-specific, but can boast of internal diversity, with members specializing in IT, population health, hospital operations and professional services. “It's all about access to thought leaders and decision makers,” Schlacter said.

Membership: More than 750 members, $150 per year plus programming costs
Programming: Finance, policy and industry executive briefings, tours, lecture series
Benefits: Access, networking, professional growth
You should apply if: “You're emerging in your health care career, you want to learn more about the industry and you want to make connections.”