IEEE Member Mario Milicevic enjoyed a lot of success in the past year running a local section of IEEE Young Professionals—formerly Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD)—in Toronto. When Young Professionals decided to rebrand in 2013, Toronto was the first to test the new name, bringing in more than 300 people to each of its events when it normally drew just a fifth of that number. Now, as the incoming chair in January of IEEE Young Professionals, Milicevic has been tapping into this local network as a testing ground for what the affinity group could look like on a global scale in 2015.
Under this year’s chair, Young Professionals made great strides in attracting members. Tailored toward IEEE members early in their careers, the group helps those who are up to 15 years out of school find jobs, network, and develop professional skills. It provides webinars on practical skills like leadership and public speaking, and helps with career services like résumé building and mentorship.
“All of this success is a segue to what we want to accomplish next year, which is to emphasize entrepreneurship among our members and a sense of community among all IEEE regions,” says Milicevic, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto. “I had the luxury of playing with these new ideas and seeing firsthand whether young professionals cared or even noticed what we are doing. So far, it’s been ‘yes’ all around.
“One of our goals is to encourage more student members to join Young Professionals once they graduate,” he says. “We are showing them the value of renewing their memberships and staying with IEEE once they’re out of school.” When the group went by the name of GOLD, it took some time to explain just what Graduates of the Last Decade meant and why people should join. Now the name is crystal clear and people are approaching the group on how to sign up, he says.
“The name Young Professionals speaks to them—they are signing up for the webinars, coming to events, spreading the word to friends and colleagues, and getting others to sign up,” Milicevic says.
There will be even more underway in 2015.
A GLOBAL INCUBATOR
One of the projects that Milicevic will help implement as incoming chair is a professional development series. It will cover such things as how to “dress to impress” and, as part of an etiquette class, even how to use a knife and fork properly. Videos and webinars on the topics will be posted online.
The main thing he wants to teach its members next year, however, is how to become entrepreneurial, a skill that he says “can be learned.” This will include a discussion of the theory and practice of entrepreneurship, and how to implement new ideas and start a company. The group plans to provide free training programs to help members with some of the challenges they’ll face when launching a start-up, such as fund-raising and building a team.
“It doesn’t matter where you are,” Milicevic says. “Whether you live in a major city or remote region, you can start a company. I’d like Young Professionals to have access to free trainings, talks, and more.”
Another effort next year will be to create strategic partnerships by connecting members to one another no matter where they live. “The mentorship opportunities are endless,” he says. “In the age of the Internet, the best way to engage members is by encouraging them to work together and learn from one another.”
To accomplish this, the group plans to develop a mobile app in which members can find local groups and events wherever they are—“networking on the go” when traveling, he explains. Moreover, it will be upping its communications to update members on the latest news and events via social networks, e-newsletters, and the website. Young Professionals will also launch a new video series, which will inform members about the latest happenings through one-minute clips. “The focus for next year is reaching out to members and communicating with them the many opportunities that are available.”
BUILDING A NETWORK
For Milicevic, Young Professionals has become like family, one in which the people are in it for something greater than themselves. “It’s more than building your skills and your career,” he says. “It’s about building up everyone together and creating something greater than we could on our own.
“Knowing that there is someone from the group in every part of the world is what makes it special,” he continues. “Members can attend Young Professionals’ events when they are traveling, and meet people who share the same interests and passions despite distance and cultural differences.
“That’s the vibe I want to instill in the Young Professionals group for next year.”