Young Professionals Conference comes to Bridge View Center

Young professionals gather to learn about job networking.

OTTUMWA — Smiles were on young adults dressed in business attire as they prepared to mingle for coffee and muffins, bobbed their heads to pop music and eager to learn about networking and succeeding in the professional world.

At the Young Professionals Conference, Emily Richardson, incoming chair of Iowa Young Professionals (YP) started off with a welcome speech.

“One of the things we love about this conference is going to different parts of the state and getting to see the communities and the amazing things going on in these communities,” Richardson said. “Meeting the people from around the state is one of my favorite things that I’ve experienced as part of YP Iowa.”

Richardson said the theme for this year’s conference was “learning to be better together,” which was in reference to learning to not get upset over differing political views or not get discouraged over the division between different countries and even how to better work with colleagues.

“We are a statewide organization that is designed to connect, engage and educate,” Richardson said. “We work with YP groups around the state of Iowa trying to get started up to attract and retain young professionals to their communities and help make them vibrant places that raise the overall profile of Iowa as a whole.”

After the attendees sat in on the welcome session and mingled, they broke out into different sessions to learn about job recruiting, retention of people in their organizations and how to converse with people who have opposing views.

After a year and a half of planning the conference, Maw was thrilled for the attendees to learn about YP and how to better their careers. Even though Maw said many attendees learned from these different sessions, he was a person who also took away insights.

“I am looking to learn from other people’s experiences,” Maw said, “and something else I am looking to take away from this is just looking for better ways to bring people together and grow a community, whether it’s a local community or statewide group, we got a lot of young people that have established a network. That’s something we can really latch onto and grow and make some positive things happen in Iowa.”

At one session, Jamarco Clark, Jessie Cruise and Mary Bontrager talked about their own experiences, but focused on personal and social media connections and taking risks to branch out into the community.

Bontrager said there are three keys to bettering one’s career: accessibility, affordability and availability. She said these points provide an opportunity to engage with people in their careers and even using these to tap into these skills.

Clark emphasised on the importance of branching out and pinpointing what young professionals want in their careers and find ways to get into the community, which can be done through volunteerism.

“Really just find that small group of young professionals,” Clark said, “whether it’s in your community or within your organization or on your campus that you are interested in and find those things that have become that kind of drive that force to be better. ”

An attendee asked Clark if he had any advice when job surfing and about social media, to which Clark said “everyone has a marketing campaign.”

“With job surfing look at the town’s FaceBook page and see what pops up and what stories are being told,” he said. “There’s a lot of value in that because it’s a first hand account of the folks who are living within the story and day. Social media is the value.”

Bontrager added to Clark’s view. “Get more people to be ambassadors and build the buzz,” she said.

Chelsey Haynes who works for Fairfield Chamber of Commerce said it was her first time coming to the YP conference and even to conferences similar to YP.

Haynes was glad she came and said she learned a lot from the conference, especially from Clark, Bontrager and Cruise. For her, telling one’s story was what she took away especially since she uses that in her career.

“Back in the chamber that’s something we do a lot anytime we visit with our chamber members or have an ambassador visit,” Haynes said. “It’s important to know their background to connect with them and find what they are looking for in order to invest in the community.”

Jaclyn Olson said she’d like to see YP conferences expand in the future. “I’d like to see more people attend and see it held in different towns so their town can show off on what they are about so other people can take away things back to their community.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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