In the fall of 2016, AmericanHort’s GenNext Community realized our industry had a potentially huge problem that hadn’t yet fully surfaced — our industry’s brain-drain of fresh, innovative, young talent.
This realization came after a discussion between Lauren Snyder of AmericanHort, Doug Schuster of Kingwood Center Gardens, and myself, where we lamented about two colleagues leaving the industry. Both professionals had volunteered their time to AmericanHort. Each one was a HortScholar, passionate about plants, and had been recognized and awarded as industry rising stars.
Why did these bright stars decide to leave the industry? What sparked their disdain for their current careers and motivated their move to what appeared to be polar opposite industries (realty and automotive sales)?
Pondering these questions, we started thinking about how the GenNext Community could promote young professional development, engagement, participation, and inclusion, while preventing further erosion of talent. This led to the creation of CareerUp, which we started by putting together a taskforce of 10 young professionals from every sector of the industry.
Spreading Out the Roadmap at Cultivate’17
Our original mission was simple: to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential. Emerging professionals want to develop their skill sets and careers, but they are seeking a roadmap of how to level-up.
Time and time again, colleagues have asked, “How do I grow my network? Where do I go to access further education? What does it take to become a better leader? How do I prove to my boss I’m ready for a new challenge?”
Our group developed a full-day session at Cultivate’17 in the style of a TEDTalks workshop. The morning session, presented by Nancy Fisher of The Ohio State University, focused on high-stakes communication tactics. We followed that up with inspirational career stories from industry rock stars Kelly Norris of Des Moines Botanical Gardens, Bridget Behe of Michigan State University, Steve Black of Raemelton Farm, and Tyler Baras of Dallas Grown and Farmer Tyler LLC.
Publicity Via Social Media a Success
Needing to sign up attendees, the GenNext Community took to the virtual streets, marketing CareerUp through social network platforms including the Facebook Group Emergent, Twitter and Instagram, as well as through email blasts. We approached university horticulture clubs and connected with recent college graduates. Our approach succeeded, with a quarter of the 150 attendees hearing about CareerUp from a fellow colleague, and more than 75% of them working in the industry for less than five years.
What CareerUp Is Not
While the GenNext Community had industry support for CareerUp, we were surprised to hear business owners, managers, and leaders express some concerns about this type of young professional development. Why should they welcome such a program when it could mean losing their young talent to new opportunities and ideas that their employees might be exposed to at an event like CareerUp?
We created CareerUp as a means for young professionals to feel rooted in their current place of work, to enrich their fellow teammates, and grow their potential as an important asset to their current company. CareerUp is the rooting hormone for the young unrooted cuttings in your company.
I do not subscribe to the Millennial stereotype of job hopping and disloyalty to an employer. Young professionals do not want to leave their jobs. They seek challenges and the opportunity to trial new approaches to solving problems. As AmericanHort’s GenNext Community continues to further develop CareerUp for years to come, I hope you will encourage the emerging professionals in your company to participate in our industry. I couldn’t think of a better way for leaders such as ourselves to give back to the industry that sprouted each and every one of us.
What is Emergent?
Emergent is a group for growing professionals where enthusiastic horticulturists can meet, greet, coordinate, and create a new movement in the Green Industry. The group’s goal is to work together to make big, positive changes to raise awareness and appreciation of gardening for future generations. It doesn’t talk politics or religion; instead discussions center around what growing professionals are doing and how they can build the Green Industry for a brighter future.
You can join the Emergent group and find out about its activities by searching for “Emergent: A Group for Growing Professionals” on Facebook.