A Look Back: The Mind of a Young Professional

Des Moines skyline at night.

NOTE: I’m introducing a series of old posts I wrote for Juice from 2006 until 2008. This post was written on February 23, 2006, during my first week blogging. The topic for this entry is about what is a young professional in Des Moines.

The uptick of young professionals in Des Moines started to become the “buzz” in 2006. Companies, business leaders, and others started to take notice of YPs, and YPs saw opportunities to have “a seat at the table” in the community. I wondered if I fit the prototype of a “young professional” and what exactly a YP is to symbolize? The definition of a YP has evolved significantly from 2006, as this post from 2012 examined.

The Mind of a Young Professional

It’s amazing how Des Moines is embracing the growing number of “young professionals” that has made the Golden Circle their home. Young professionals are looked at as “up and comers,” “the ones to watch,” and “the new leaders.” There are several well-known organizations that are targeted to young professionals: Young Professionals Connection, Young Variety, and Impact Downtown, to name a few. These organizations are phenomenal resources and places to go to network with other peers, as well as establish friendships.

However, in the back of my mind, I don’t feel that I am a “professional”, a “leader”.  I don’t work in a corner office, don’t have a mentor, or is looked at as a rising star. I don’t beg for adulation or a celebration for myself. I do my job and feel satisfied when the job is done. 

When I think of a young professional, I think of attorneys, teachers, real estate brokers, advertising, and executives. Places like Principal, CBRE, Drake, and Bankers Trust, also comes to mind. Since I work in an administrative assistant position, I don’t feel that I am a professional. I should be a “professional”, but how do I get to be where they are at? Do those who work in blue-collar jobs considered to be young professionals? Artists? 

2014 candidates for Juice Young Professional of the Year. (From Left to Right) Sunni Swarbrick, Lincoln Dix, Liz Lidgett, and Gabe Glynn. Juice Editor Sarah Day Owen on the far right. (Juice)

What constitutes a young professional in Des Moines?

Do I have to be involved in so many organizations that people will notice me as an emerging leader? Do I have to live downtown? Should I be in tune with the arts (music, paintings, and cultural events)? Do I need to have all of the professional connections to be a mover and a shaker in this town?

Is accomplishing all of this too much to handle? Or should I do several of these to feel that I’m doing something not only to help others, but to make me feel better about myself?

At times, I feel like an impostor. I go to social functions to network with my peers, attend and support the arts, volunteer in community projects, and as Cavan (Reagan Reichmann) noted I’m involved in the social fabric of the young sector of Des Moines. But, when I look around, it feels like it’s not enough. If I don’t stay in the public eye, I become irrelevant and of little value. 

Which begs the question: what value do I offer by networking, being involved in the community, doing good things? To build and enhance my profile so I can have the chance to move up in the world, or does it really matter?

That’s a question I can only find for myself. 

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