By Lawrence Conneff
A town that grows quickly is going to attract its share of young professionals.
Seven years ago, the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce started a program that allows new residents, Lowcountry natives and those in between to network and learn ways to help their community.
“The Bluffton Chamber Young Professionals program exists to develop strong local leaders who enhance the community by helping them strengthen necessary personal and professional skill sets,” according to the chamber. “We engage area young professionals with the broader business community in order to help them establish a local professional network and equip them to give back to the community.”
Program membership is open to young professionals, usually between the ages of 21 and 40, with free attendance for the first event. After their first event, prospective members can join the program for less than $100 annually, the chamber said, or pay per event.
“The program is structured in a way that gives young professionals experience leading as they learn from the experience of seasoned professionals who serve as mentors and coaches,” the chamber said. “This networking group meets monthly to learn from an expert on a major topic of leadership and professionalism.”
Sophia Short, a broker with PMC Mortgage, chairs the program’s leadership team, which also consists of Derris Felder, Alex Gonsor and Anthony Nelsen.
“Our number one goal as a leadership team is to make networking more accessible for young professionals, whether that means (they’re) young within their careers, new to the area, looking for a new job opportunity, or just trying to expand your professional network,” Short said. “As a BCYP member, you get to attend all of our thoughtfully planned events and network with a vast array of local industry leaders that you otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to meet in your typical day-to-day professional setting.”
Short said a friend invited her to attend her first event and she “immediately recognized the benefits of being involved with a community-driven networking group.”
“On a personal level, speaking in front of groups of 30 to 40 isn’t something most people have a ton of practice in, but I’ve felt a true shift in my confidence,” Short said. “I have seen successful networking first-hand, as I am fortunate enough to have met my new employer and coworkers through consistent monthly attendance of BCYP events.”
Bluffton Chamber Young Professionals events are usually held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month. Keep track of upcoming events at blufftonchamberofcommerce.org/events/calendar or call 843-757-1010. Chamber membership is not required to participate in the program.
“I recommend BCYP to everyone, but especially those who are looking for a cost-effective way to be involved with the local Bluffton community,” Short said. “Networking aids in boosting professional confidence, which can empower members to feel comfortable in professional settings, assist them in asking for help, and help build their own toolbox of information that they can use within their own career.”