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If you’re looking to attract young people as chamber members, one of the best ways to do that is to help them see themselves in your midst. And that means not just having young people at your events but working for you too.

Why Hire a New Grad at the Chamber?

There are several reasons the chamber can benefit from hiring a recent graduate. The one we just mentioned can help dispel a possible reputation of the chamber being a place just for “old” people but that’s not the only one. Nor is cheap labor a reason to hire a new grad. Surprisingly, their salary expectations may far outweigh a thirty-something parent who has responsibilities and can’t be as selective in waiting for the right job to come along.

Here’s what a new graduate can bring to the chamber:

  • ​Fresh perspectives and innovation: New graduates often bring fresh ideas and innovative thinking to the table. They have been exposed to the latest knowledge and research in their field and can offer creative solutions to business challenges. Their unique perspectives can help the chamber adapt to changing market dynamics because new grads aren’t hampered by ideas of doing it the way it’s always been done, nor are they aware of best practices in the chamber industry. They are unencumbered by the past in a way that few of us are.
  • ​Adaptability and willingness to learn: Graduates are generally more adaptable to new technologies, processes, and work environments. They are accustomed to learning and adapting quickly, which can be beneficial when you’re faced with new challenges. They are often eager to acquire new skills and knowledge, making them valuable assets if you want to implement new strategies or audition new technology/processes.
  • ​Cost-effectiveness: Recent graduates may require less training compared to experienced hires, as they have already been exposed to relevant academic coursework and internships. There are some areas of study (like digital marketing) where recent changes have meant new grads are more up to date than people working in the field. Often those of us working are self-taught or we piece things together. We don’t know what we don’t know. New grads should have a good grasp on wider components and possibilities.
  • ​Long-term potential: By hiring new graduates, chambers can shape and develop their employees from an early stage in their careers. Investing in their training and professional growth can create a strong foundation for long-term loyalty and commitment and if they do leave you for a member, you’ve contributed to workforce development.
  • ​Technological proficiency: Yes, this can be a bit of a stereotype, but young people are typically well-versed in the latest technologies and digital tools relevant to their field. They are comfortable with using technology for communication, research, and problem-solving. This proficiency can be leveraged by chambers to streamline operations, adopt new software, or drive digital initiatives.
  • Diverse skill sets and flexibility: Graduates often possess a wide range of skills acquired through their coursework and extracurricular activities. They may have developed expertise in areas such as project management, data analysis, teamwork, or leadership. This diversity of skills benefits chambers because their employees often wear many hats. Having a recent graduate who knows things above what’s in the job description is helpful, especially in a small operation.

Hiring new graduates can be advantageous to chambers but what can chambers do to become more attractive to a generation of kids who want to work for large employers? Like any David versus Goliath undertaking, you must play to your strengths.

Ways to Make Your Chamber More Appealing to Recent Grads

If you want to hire new grads, you need to market to them differently than just slapping a job description on Indeed. Here are a few ideas on how to leverage content and play up the chamber’s strengths.

Be a Part of Something Larger

Young people want to believe they’re working for an entity that is making a difference. Bring focus to how you help. Don’t assume they know what you do for businesses. Speak specifically about how you assist businesses and why that’s important. Many younger people understand the value of shopping small and supporting local.    

Lead an Important Program or Initiative

If your chamber is taking on a huge initiative like DEI or workforce development, talk about how they can be involved in making a difference and designing the path to get there. Part of what young people find so intriguing about large companies is their huge impact. But what they don’t realize is that as part of a large company, they may not get to be involved directly with that big project or impact. At the chamber, they can shape it and get the kind of experience in a short time that would take decades at a larger firm.

Be a Jack of All Trades

Chambers offer opportunity. You may not be able to chart a direct path to the next rung on the corporate ladder, but you can ensure that they continue to be challenged in new ways as you both work on how to make your community a better place for business. You can promise them that they will not stagnate in the position.

Exhibit a Healthy Culture

Previous generations were focused on the position and opportunity—get your foot in the door and go from there. Today’s new grads are looking at the total package: salary, benefits, opportunities, brand, perks, and culture. While you might have a tighter budget than your hiring competition, and it may be difficult to compete on salary alone, your chamber can create a culture that people want to be a part of. Are you a fun office? Do you offer work-from-home days or work-from-local-coffee-shop mornings? Do you treat your employees as well as you treat your members? If so, showcase those things.

Address Growth Opportunities Head On

According to Monster’s 2023 State of the Graduate Report, 54% of recent graduates polled said they would turn down a job offer if they didn’t see advancement opportunities. This is an elephant in the room that must be addressed to be a competitive employer. If you’re a small chamber, they may be looking at you as the CEO and wondering how long it will be before you retire. If you’re nowhere near retiring, you need to bring up the advancement topic before they do. What can you offer if not a new position? More responsibility? A pay increase? Leadership over an area of interest?

Knowing what to offer may come down to understanding your applicant’s goals. Take some time to find out their passions and interests as well as their ideal long-term career progression. Maybe they want to be an entrepreneur. Coincidentally, the chamber is opening a business incubator and you’ll need someone to spearhead that initiative. They might be the perfect fit down the road. Offering these types of well-matched opportunities can be a great way to sway them into looking at you differently. Small operations are more agile. You can promise the right candidate things that a larger company would have to run through several departments before committing to.

Talk Leadership and Exposure

What leadership opportunities are there at the chamber? Do you have a leadership program that they can work on? Do you have a subject matter experts’ series that the new graduate would spearhead? Many young people crave excitement and exposure. How can your chamber provide that?

Show You’re Fun and Embrace Change

Right or wrong, there is a perception among some people that chambers are a boring business organization that host coffees and happy hours for people in suits. For those of us in the chamber world, we know this isn’t true. But you can’t tell someone you’re not stuffy. You must show them. Invite your candidate to one of your events. Introduce them to members of your Young Professionals Group. Show them your chamber isn’t their grandparents’ chamber.

In addition to breaking the stuffy stereotype, illustrate your flexibility. What are you doing to be a chamber of the future? How are you innovating and leading the innovation in your community? If the new grad feels like the chamber is at the forefront of an exciting initiative, they’ll get more excited about the opportunity.

If you want to become an employer of choice among new grads, play up the things that mean the most to them. Just as you adjust your marketing to the demographic you are trying to reach, you want to do the same with your job candidates. What you choose to talk about when selecting a membership chair with ten years of experience is different than what you’ll highlight if trying to entice a new grad. If all else fails, show them the giant scissors. Who doesn’t love those?

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