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IGNITE January 2019

The state of Rockford’s young professionals

What I see is a desire to give back to the community they call home

I recently attended a dinner in which the keynote speaker cracked jokes during the presentations that Millennials are simply disinterested, unengaged and possess a poor work ethic. This was not the first time I’ve heard this in a presentation, and not too long ago, there were full seminars on how to work with Millennials.

While I’ve heard this rhetoric many times before; this time it struck a nerve with me a little more than other times, simply because I know what’s going on with our young professionals locally.

So with that being said; I wanted to share some numbers with the membership on the IGNITE young professional group for the year.

I’m pleased to announce that we had a banner year for IGNITE in all areas. We had more than 200 young professionals engage and participate in the Ignite Cup, which pits teams against one another in friendly competition that promotes a new way to network and forge new friendships.

In conjunction with these competitions, we had a fundraising effort called Penny Wars that saw our young professionals raise more than $2,600 for local charities of their choice. This number represents an increase of more than $1,600 from 2017.

A Benchmark Year

It’s not all fun and games though. We saw our young professionals donate more than 415 hours of their time to various local organizations in an effort to give back to the community. This is the first year that we’ve tracked this number. So it is a benchmark number for the years to come, however this number far exceeded the IGNITE board’s expectations.

We’ve also seen our YPs engage in global initiatives, such as coat and school supply drives. In addition to that, young professionals participated in learning more about life skills through our Adulting 101 series that helped them learn more about buying a home, city council, investing, negotiating, and even how to change tires. Last but not least, YPs engaged in our lunch with a leader series, which put them in front of some of the most successful and admired professionals in the Rock River Valley.

So as we close out 2018 and head into 2019, I’d like to congratulate and thank the Ignite young professional membership and the Ignite board (Phoebe Morris, Emily Hardy, Zakera Nanabawa, Britney Lindgren, Kim Thielbar, Sydney Turner, Paul Happach, Lauren Jones, Hannah Schoenberg and Matthew Brandt) on an exceptional year. A special thanks to our previous board members, as this sort of success has been years in the making. In fact, current Mayor McNamara led this group early in his career. Finally, to the local chamber restaurants, presenting sponsors and leaders who led those lunch presentation; words do not adequately describe our appreciation, so I’ll just thank you again!

It’s exciting to see the level of success that we have had, and I look forward to building on that success in the years to come. In preparation for 2019, the IGNITE board has met to finalize upcoming events for this year to encourage membership growth, community outreach, education as well as the attraction and retention of young professionals to the Rockford region.

With all that being said, I think you would agree that our young professionals are anything but disinterested, unengaged, and they do possess a solid work ethic. In fact, I would put their desire to give to back to the community they live in as exemplary. Are there Millennials that created this stigma, sure… but I would argue that anyone within any given generation can possess those same lackluster qualities as described in the beginning.

If you are experiencing issues in working with the younger generations, have a serious open talk with them. In talking with the CEO of a local organization recently; we talked about this very issue. His advice and solution was to be curious … Find out why. And who knows? Maybe from that conversation, you’ll find some solutions you’ve never thought about before.

Happy New Year from IGNITE young professionals group!