You might be new to town, a budding entrepreneur, building a side hustle, a successful franchisee, or part of a well-established company. Wherever you are in your career journey, a young professionals network can provide you with invaluable resources as you connect with like-minded individuals, experts and industry peers.
Here in Huntsville, there are many ways to connect with other business professionals that can help you develop your own networking skillset, build meaningful relationships, and raise your company’s profile. In this post, well will explore ways to get involved in the Rocket City’s business networking groups as well as the overall benefits of expanding your professional horizons.
Even though we are advocating to get out in your community and get involved, we want you to do so safely—for yourself and for others. The CDC has set forth guidelines that encourage wearing face masks, practicing good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing. State mandates for Alabama require masks to be worn in public when interacting within 6 feet of people from another household and dictate strong sanitation and social-distancing rules for public places. Check before you attend any event or gathering and be sure you are adhering to the proper guidelines. As always, use your best judgement, avoid large crowds, quarantine when necessary and stay home if you feel sick!
HYP is a business networking group for young professionals ranging from their 20s to 40s that sponsor both paid and free events. The times they aren’t a-changin’, at least not anytime soon, so all HYP happenings are currently virtual. If you’ve got rhythm (or even if you don’t) you can attend a Zumba class or POUND® cardio jam session. For something a little more low-key, grab your favorite takeout and settle in for their virtual “Let’s Do Lunch” networking event where you can meet other young professionals and learn more about other YP organizations. In very millennial fashion, they also offer an “Adulting 101” series that covers a wide range of topics like financial planning and buying a house. (I feel personally attacked but also I would attend.) This year, the series digs deep into local governance with special guests like Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who discuss advancements within our local government and what local leaders are doing for their community. If you want to stay updated on everything they’re up to, you can visit their website, join their Facebook group, follow them on Instagram, Twitter or subscribe to their newsletter.
The Chamber is a massive resource for anyone new to the city or those Huntsville OGs who are looking for better ways to get involved or are on the job hunt. Their professionals network is extensive and worth being tapped into, especially for their business networking groups and events (over 200 a year!) like the ones we’ve listed below.
You might just come for the pancakes or you might just learn something. (just kidding, this is virtual, you’ll have to make your own pancakes.) This business networking group encourages active discussion and the chance to collaborate with the other attendees (via Zoom). In groups of 4 to 6 people, each participant is given a chance to speak about their own organization, product or service, and then rotate into a different group. Each group rotates its members at least five times throughout the event so everyone gets a chance to roam the room. Admission is $5 for members of the Chamber and $10 for non-members.
This is where the big kahunas come to chat and share their wealth of knowledge. C-Suite level leaders – like CEOs, CFOs, and COOs -- from the greater Huntsville area bring their particular expertise to the table and open themselves up for questions and lively, engaging conversation. Admission is $5 for members of the Chamber and $10 for non-members.
Geared towards small businesses, this series hosts workshops for professional development and business planning that cover digital marketing, social media, cyber security, HR best practices and customer relations. If you want to be one of those Excel wizards or a PowerPoint mastermind, they also offer monthly computer training courses as well. Online registration is required. Admission is $5 for members of the Chamber and $10 for non-members.
You’ve got to be in the club for this one. These events are varied and obviously held exclusively for members of the Chamber but not all of them are virtual. Networking meet-and-greets, advanced course offerings and certifications, as well as informational presentations show up on their calendar several times a month. There is no set pricing; some events are complimentary to members while others require additional fees.
The WBC leads events throughout the year that support and advocate for woman-owned businesses and spotlight important female business owners and key contributors within the community. If you’re interested in joining the council, you can submit an application here.
With all these young professional networking events you’re attending, you’ll need to look the part. It is empowering to walk into a room (or turn on your laptop video) and immediately make a good impression. Command the respect you deserve and shine with confidence not only in your tone and demeanor but also with your clothing style. Check out our guide on business attire for suggestions on fashion choices that will not only jive with your personality but also be suitable for the event that you attend. Even if someone will only see half of you for that Zoom lunch and learn or virtual workshop, it is important to dress appropriately.
Leadership Greater Huntsville defines itself as “an inclusive community of enlightened and engaged servant leaders” that aims to “identify, educate, inspire and connect leaders to build a better community.” They offer four distinct programs that cater to different seniority levels and age groups within the business professional community. Focusand Connect are the two most relevant programs that specifically target young professionals. Focus is a 2.5-day program that will give you a crash course and behind-the-scenes tour of all things Huntsville where you’ll meet movers and shakers within the local government, health care and education sectors. Connect is definitely more in-depth, spanning the course of ten months. You’ll get to see and do everything that the Focus program provides but with larger scale group projects, educational seminars and direct community involvement. Connect members get to hear from influential leaders who represent many of Huntsville’s diverse industries, bringing awareness to all areas of the community and how they support our local economy. Connect also organizes philanthropy efforts and initiatives through volunteering and fundraising to support local charities and non-profits. The two other programs offered -- Flagship and Management Academy – are more geared towards the heavy-lifters and senior leaders but if that seems up your alley, you can find out more about them here.
Huntsville has several non-profit organizations that are always looking for individuals to jump in and lend a helping hand. Getting involved in a program that really inspires you can not only make a lasting impact within your community but give you the chance to meet people who share the same passions as you do. We’ve put together a short list of local organizations with active volunteer programs, but if nothing calls out at you, conduct a little solo research and find out which non-profit speaks to you.
Last but not least, we’ll give a shout-out to the underdogs out there. There might be a Huntsvillian niche group of peers in which you’ll find valuable connections. MeetUp and EventBrite list smaller, more exclusive groups and gatherings that might just be the thing you’re looking for. Search by keyword, category or location on either on these event platforms and a plethora of pop-ups, happy hours, mixers, classes, trainings, and certifications (virtual and in-person) will appear.
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