Are you one of the younger staff members at your agency and really want to get ahead in your career? Often, newer professionals feel like they are constantly a step behind their more “seasoned” colleagues. Many different challenges may present themselves at the beginning of one’s career — fortunately, they need not be faced alone. There is a large group of young professionals offering support from all over the country, and it is called NRPA’s Young Professional Network (YPN).
Who Is the YPN?
The YPN is comprised of hundreds of park and recreation students and young professionals that are 35 years old or younger. This includes people from all regions of the United States and any NRPA member meeting the age requirement can join this network.
What Does the YPN Do?
The YPN is a very active network and holds monthly conference calls throughout the year to discuss different agenda items, including writing articles for Parks & Recreation magazine or NRPA’s Open Space blog, social media, state association liaisons, other network liaisons and roundtables. Visit a Park Day is an initiative started by the YPN a few years back, with a mission to foster future enjoyment, visitation and advocacy of our park systems. Visit a Park Day presents a unique opportunity for agencies to share the many benefits of parks and recreation within their own communities. To help celebrate the big day, agencies have hosted numerous programs, from a park grand opening to an outdoor fitness challenge, or simply leading an interpretive walk through a park. The main goal is to keep the communication and appreciation for public parks flowing while generating support and excitement for the great things happening in communities across the country.
One of the biggest annual events for the YPN is the NRPA Annual Conference. On the first night of Conference, the network holds a retreat. In addition to meeting fellow YPN members right at the start of the event, new positions are appointed and the upcoming year’s goals are created. The YPN hosts a breakfast for the recipients of fellowships and scholarships. It also advocates for YPN involvement in other network meetings, suggests sessions tailored to young professionals and plans activities for young professionals at the Conference. The YPN is highly active in the NRPA Career Center, located in the exhibit hall, where YPN members help their colleagues search for jobs, critique résumés or just chat. Everyone is welcome to join each night for social events that are a great opportunity to meet new people, share ideas, connect and have a good time.
When Do I Join?
Today, obviously! While many consider the YPN the future of NRPA and the park and recreation field, the reality is the YPN is also very much the present. Young professionals know that being involved, networking and staying on top of trends are all important.
Click here to learn more and sign up to join the YPN. There you will find information on when and how to attend the conference calls, volunteer opportunities, resources and contact info for other young professionals. Although YPN is a large and active group, it is important that it always welcomes new, fresh people to take on leadership roles. Each person brings a unique aspect to the group and everyone is encouraged to get involved. Join the NRPA Young Professional Network Facebook group and follow YPN on Twitter @YPN_NRPA to stay connected.
Why Should I Get Involved?
I have always considered networking to be the most valuable career tool. A few years ago, I was honored to receive the NRPA Young Professional Fellowship. I was able to go to Conference that year, received a wonderful mentor and learned so much about NRPA. During this time, I was encouraged by the chair of the Young Professional Network to join some of their meetings and events, which became the most beneficial part of this experience. Through this connection, l met many amazing people, learned a vast amount of information and came back with an experience that I will value for my lifetime. I was really able to relate to others in the YPN because even though people were from all parts of the country, or did a completely different job than I, they still thrived and struggled with the same things I did as a young professional. Today, as the current chair of the YPN, I encourage everyone to join the network, attend Conference and stay involved.
Whether you are able to make it to St. Louis this October or not, it is important to start forming connections with your peers in order to further your career. It is very easy to join the YPN, so don’t hesitate and join today! The future is now.
Karen Lussier, CPRP, is a Recreation Manager for the city of Fairfax Parks and Recreation in Virginia.