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The Network for Springfield’s Young Professionals is a Chamber committee with a mission to attract, retain and engage young professionals. Over the last seven years, it has also served to provide a voice for young professionals on decisions being made in our community, and earlier this year, it achieved a significant milestone when Paige Oxendine was hired as the first full-time staff person dedicated to helping The Network fulfill its mission.
We sat down with The Network’s current Chair, Teresa Coyan of CoxHealth to get her take on The Network’s accomplishments over the last seven years and to learn more about what’s in store for the committee’s future.
How has The Network impacted you as a young professional?
The Network has really helped me grow as a professional, a community member and personally. I view The Network as my gateway to better understanding the needs, opportunities and potential in our community. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at the support this community has for young professionals and the desire for our input and voice on issues.
What are some of the challenges that you see for The Network in the coming years, and how is The Network adapting to meet these challenges?
The Network has a very unique niche, in the fact that it strives to attract and retain young professionals. Since Springfield has several colleges, we have access to a large pool of very educated, driven young professionals. This is a great opportunity, but also a challenge in knowing how to retain and attract these individuals. What is meaningful and ‘attractive’ to young professionals in Springfield today, is going to be very different in years to come. For The Network to really attract and retain this group of individuals, it needs to be very agile to the wants, needs and desires of those individuals. This is not just a challenge that The Network faces, but also businesses as they seek young talent.
This is the first year that The Network has had a dedicated full-time staff member—where do you think this change will have the most impact?
Having a full-time staff member, dedicated to The Network will definitely have impact on this organization. Some of the key areas that I feel will be impacted most relate to attraction and retention of the young professionals in Springfield through awareness and engagement. There is a great opportunity to better engage our members and understand what is meaningful to them and how The Network & Chamber can be a resource. Also, another component is for this staff person to be able to connect Network members and Chamber members to each other. My experience has been that our community is very receptive of young professionals, and they want to hear our point of view. So continuing to link the young professionals and experienced professionals to each other will add much value for both parties.
Where do you think The Network will be in five years?
The Network is celebrating seven years of being an organization this year. Those seven years have been wonderful and we have learned a lot, however I think we are on the verge of something even better. We have shifted from not only focusing on professional development and networking but now further engaging membership in a variety of ways. Whether that be volunteering with local charities, engaging college students, adopting the diversity chapter of our City’s strategic plan, or having members of our organization have their voice heard with programing and membership engagement. We have been agile to the needs and expectations of the young professionals in our community. With continued efforts being made and dedicated resources and time devoted to The Network, the sky is really the limit with what this organization will do.