YOUNG LEADER, EMERGING LEADER OR YOUNG PROFESSIONAL- often these terms are used interchangeably and mean different things to different people. If you enter "emerging leaders" in a search engine, you get more than a billion results. When you narrow the search by adding "hospitality," you still get more than half a million results. This tells me identifying leaders is a high priority within many industries today; it’s clear everyone is talking about the future of their profession.
But how are we defining this group within our profession? While we have used the terms future leader and young leader, the most commonly used term is emerging leader. Some organizations use age as a definition. For example, the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives International (SITE), which has a SITE Young Leaders initiative, defines young leaders as industry professionals aged 35 and younger, or industry professionals having less than five years of experience. However, the more accepted belief within the industry is that age should not be an eligibility factor because experience carries more weight. If you change careers in your 40s, you should not be excluded from these organizations and opportunities. The more commonly accepted definition for an emerging leader in our industry is someone with seven years or less of experience.
Today, there are many resources available for emerging leaders. Industry associations are recognizing emerging leaders in varying degrees, and at different levels. Some like Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) are more active at the international level, whereas others like Meeting Professionals International (MPI) are more active at the chapter level. Checking out the association you’re currently a member of is a good first step. If you’re not a member, but looking to join an association, one that supports emerging leaders might offer you more at this stage in your career.
If you’re not in the position to join an association, select groups will welcome nonmembers to some of their events. The MPI Minnesota chapter has an emerging leaders group that welcomes anyone to its free, quarterly education sessions, regardless of their membership status.
Another great industry resource is the Global Emerging Leaders Community (GEL). It is a Web-based community that provides resources and tools for emerging leaders, promotes programs and opportunities nationwide and provides scholarship opportunities. This membership-based group is only $25 per year and is a cost-effective entry into the industry.
Young Professionals of the Twin Cities, The Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce DRIVE Emerging Leader and Torch Community are also great resources for emerging leaders outside the industry.
For those who aren’t emerging leaders, but still want to stay informed on organizations that support these industry rookies, social media is an effective tool. Most don’t restrict their Facebook and LinkedIn groups and will keep non-emerging leaders on their email lists. Ask the group you’re interested in how you can connect with their activities.
In comparison to other industries, it’s taken some time for us, as an industry, to actively support emerging leaders, but we’re well on our way. Now is a great time for students and emerging leaders to gain access to great opportunities through groups and associations.
Julie Ann Schmidt, CMM, CMP, is a veteran planner and owner of Lithium Logistics Group, a Minneapolis-based, third-party planning firm. She’s also an advocate for emerging leaders and created the RISE Award-winning MPI Minnesota Emerging Leaders Program.
This is the first in a series of emerging leaders-focused articles that we’ll be running in our new, quarterly Leadership column. The next column will focus on mentors-how they can help your career and how to find one.