MEMBER BLOG: Engaging Young Professionals


March 19, 2020

Engaging Young Professionals

By Kelli A. Meyer, Director, Center for Student Involvement, University of Bridgeport; Board Chair BRBC's THRIVE: Emerging Leaders

Over the past few months, I hear more and more talk about the challenge of retaining young talent in Connecticut. Top students attending some of the top universities in the Northeast, and yet, we see recent graduates leaving for opportunities in neighboring states. A survey conducted by InformCT this summer found that 47% of people said they will likely leave the state within the next five years, most of those either preparing for retirement or, you guessed it, Millennials. 

The Millennial Generation, those born between 1981 and 1997, are now the majority of the workforce. As a business community, we need to adjust to a new community of workers – those who crave creativity, innovation, real time feedback, collaboration, and work that matters.  As the nature of work and career development evolves, we see more people staying in positions for fewer years and relocating for job opportunities. These factors together are a recipe for high turnover and create an uphill battle for businesses to retain young talent.

As a community, what can we do? Research shows that the more employees are engaged in both their work and community, the more likely they are to stay for extended periods of time.  We engage employees by creating business networks, social connections, and ways to make an impact on the community for the next generation of leaders.

As a Millennial myself, getting connected to my community has been paramount to my success in Bridgeport.  Like a “typical” young professional, since completing my graduate degree in 2011, I have had three different jobs, at three different institutions of higher education, in three different states. Connecticut is not my home state, and to be honest, I wasn’t convinced I would stay very long.  But, I have come to call it home in the last four years. A major contributor to my settling in was joining Thrive: Emerging Leaders, the young professional affiliate of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC). 

In 2016, I joined the founding board of Thrive which was established as a way to create a space for individuals in their 20s and 30s to develop as professionals and as leaders in the greater Bridgeport community. Since our official launch in the fall of 2016, we actively bring communities together across industries to get rooted, grow, and give back.  Derived from our symbol of the tree, these three pillars represent our mission as an organization.

Get Rooted. Building relationships is one of the best ways to build community. We are dedicated to creating a space where the region’s emerging leaders can connect with one another – both personally and professionally. Through happy hours and networking events, we strive to develop roots in the community and among our members.

Grow. We want all of our members to be the best professionals, leaders, and people that they can be.  We are committed to hosting events that develop professional and leadership skills needed to get ahead in any career.

Give Back. Thrive believes that creating partnerships with the community can only make us all stronger.  Through donation drives, direct service, and participating in community events, we aim to make a lasting, positive impact on our region.

Thrive has been a place where I’ve stepped into my own as a leader. Where I have met some of the top business leaders in the region that have offered their advice and mentorship, and who see the value in investing in the next generation of community leaders. Thrive gives me the opportunity to work alongside some of the most innovative and inspiring individuals dedicated to making the region the best it can be. It has become, for me, a place where networking connections become friends.  Where a city becomes a home.

Together that we can shift the trend, to retain talent, but we need to get young employees engaged in the community. To show them that the Bridgeport region has so much to offer, personally and professionally. Thrive is uniquely positioned to be the catalyst for change, leadership in the region, and overall engagement. I encourage you to reach out to us, attend one of our events, and be a part of the movement!