Career development (advancement, networking, etc.) is all about being in the right space in the right time, having a few fairy godmothers along the way and oh… working really hard when given the opportunity to do so.
I am involved in a couple of organizations within the ASSP (Association of Safety Professionals). One of those is the Emerging [emphasis added] Professionals in Occupational Health and Safety Common Interest Group – formally known as Young Professionals in Occupational Health and Safety. The current Administrator asked me to attend this conference on her behalf (typically only Chapter Leaders and Administrators / Assistant Administrators attend). It was a great opportunity, and luckily my employer supported my attendance. I was tapped for being a part of this panel too – a panel on Engaging Young Professionals, and I said, “I would be happy to!”
It was offered twice, back-to-back, and both sessions were pretty well attended. People seemed interested in what we had to say – it was quite an honor. I thought I might share the initial questions/prompts and my answers in case someone else might find them helpful.
- How did you start on the path to your current leadership role?
In my first position out of college, I had a mentor/supervisor who advocated for me relentlessly. In order to take me to a national conference for an organization she was a part of, she shared a room with me, and justified to our employer how important it was that I attend. While there, she introduced me to her professional network and community, and took me out with them to the networking events. She worked hard throughout the year, and encouraged me to be involved with the regular meeting calls and the national change she was making. I love her for the investment she put into my professional excellence, and credit her for my current involvement. She held my hand in some of the most lonely times of my life (I moved to Michigan without knowing anyone in the entire mid-West), and gave me a lens into the community that I could have, professionally. When I transitioned to EHS, I attended my first PDC (Professional Development Conference) in Denver. I sought out the same kind of community that she had introduced me to. I found it in Young Professionals. The advisory board members were so inviting and welcoming. I eagerly volunteered to be a part of that group, and they followed up with me both during the conference and shortly thereafter to keep me involved. It was through them that I was inspired to be a part of other groups (Women in Safety Excellence and my local chapter of ASSP).
2. What do you find most compelling about being an [ASSP] leader?
The relationships and the immense amount of experience and knowledge that ASSP has within its members is its best value, in my opinion. Being in a leadership role enables me to build relationships with some of the most excellent and passionate EHS professionals in the world. I am thankful for that opportunity, eager to learn all that I can, and look forward to continued collaboration with my cohort as we increase our own professional excellence.
3. What is one thing you recommend an [ASSP] community do to get more young professionals involved in leadership roles?
Adulting is hard. (*Cue laughter, but fo'real…) A lot of young or new EHS professionals have to take on roles in places where they may not know a single soul in the entire state. As someone who's done that multiple times, I am intimately familiar with the loneliness that comes with it. The best thing someone might do is to build a relationship with the young professionals in your chapters/areas. Say hello, ask a young professional out to coffee. See what their interests are, what their challenges at work are, what their most and least favorite things about their position are… Introduce them to others, get to know them… treat them as people. They will be eager to support an organization that aligns with their values, and where they feel like they belong. You may have a huge role in that and never even know it, just by saying hi. Who knows! The shy person in the back of the room who is mindlessly using their cell phone, probably to distract themselves from the fact that they don't know anyone, may become your future President-Elect.
Another great resource is to have an Emerging Professional Liaison / Young Professional Liaison on your Chapter Board. This person can be a point of contact between the national level Common Interest Group (Emerging Professionals in OHS), your chapter leadership, and the YP/EP's that are in your region, and support chapter initiatives to increase Young Professional Engagement.
Are you an Emerging Professional who is interested in getting involved?