Young Professionals And Their Powerful Rural Impact



By Brittnay Dawson, Norfolk Area Chamber Director of Talent Development & Recruitment


Why do you believe it is important for young professionals to make an impact on their communities?

First of all, I think the term “young professional” gets misused frequently. Many young workers across the state (and country) don’t necessarily see themselves as professionals if they are not sitting in an office or wearing a suit and tie. We like to think of young professionals as a group of like-minded individuals who come together for a common focus and conversation on issues specific to our demographic, regardless of profession.

As for the importance of these young professionals making an impact, I think that is self-explanatory—it creates engagement. Statistics show that the more people are engaged, the happier and more connected they feel with their community. If you were to walk into a party and not have a single conversation with anyone there, would you stay? Most likely not. Think about how you feel when you have multiple conversations, or even just one really good one. Now you have found a reason to stay, or a reason to invest and continue that conversation after the party. The same concept applies to community engagement. The more involved you are, the more you want to see the community grow and prosper. It becomes a part of your identity.


What are some of the most effective ways for young professionals to get involved in their communities?

If your community has an established young professionals group, start there. This will be an incredible resource. If there is no organized group, just start talking to people! This can be your mayor, a teacher, or even a family member. There are endless ways to get involved, and the amazing part is you can focus on what matters to you the most. Volunteering is a great way to get involved, but also consider civic engagement. Many communities and businesses are getting on board with the “millennial” mindset and love to have younger people serving on their boards or councils.


How can young professionals make a positive impact on rural?

There is a lot of talk about urban and rural divide. While there will be obvious amenity differences between two different communities, it is important to remember that most of us still want the same thing, regardless of location and size: a sense of belonging, purpose, maximize our potential and abilities, and plant some roots. Thinking about starting a business? More entrepreneurs are considering startups in smaller communities. Craft breweries are trending, and you would be surprised how well they do in rural areas with the right team behind them. That is just one example, but these types of business endeavors have a positive impact on rural communities, and serve as a great attraction piece for new talent and other young professionals interested in relocating to your community.


In what ways can young professionals uniquely excel living in rural communities?

In a rural area, what you say and do truly has an impact. There is not as much red tape to get through when seeking new endeavors or projects, but you do still need to be passionate and driven. The world is changing, and many communities are growing older. The survival of shrinking communities depends on attracting younger individuals to move back and start families, and are supportive of that “young energy” you bring. If you have an idea that would greatly benefit your community, speak up! There likely are many elders who would love to hear your ideas and support you in making those happen. If you have the drive, you can be a total game changer in any community.


What are some examples of the young professional impact you’ve witnessed in the Norfolk community?

We have many young professionals that have taken leadership or director level positions in Norfolk. There is a sense of pride when you go to a community event or festival, and you recognize many of your friends’ names who took lead on a project—from fundraising to event planning, everyone has a very important role to play. The support here is amazing, and there are endless opportunities for our young professionals to step up to the plate.

A specific example that happened recently involved a young woman named Emily Afrank. She felt the need to have a handicap accessible park in the community, so she did everything from concept planning to fundraising, and oversaw every aspect of implementing the project. She had the vision, made a plan and created something powerful for an entire community to enjoy for years to come. When you hear a child say at the opening event that this was his first time ever on a playground—well, that demonstrates the kind of impact just one young professional can have on a community. Now take that type of energy and passion and team up with other like-minded individuals, and think about all the possibilities.


What advice do you have for young professionals looking for ways to get involved?

My advice is to just get started. Dream big, but start small. Have attainable goals along the way. Don’t be afraid to have conversations with everyone you meet. The best way to learn about a community and involvement opportunities is to put yourself out there. If you are more on the timid side, ask someone you trust to introduce you to one other person who is already involved in something that interests you. Make that first connection, then make another one. Just know that everything you do is valued, if you see the value in your own work, no matter the perceived contribution size. Whether your preference is getting your hands dirty or sharing your ideas, you can, and will, make a real difference.


How do YOU define “young professional?” Let us know!



Brittany Dawson

Brittnay Dawson

Director of Talent Development & Recruitment | Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce
Connect with Norfolk Now on Facebook & Instagram.

Brittnay Dawson attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where she received her BA in Psychology, focusing on advertising and public relations. Following graduation, she launched her own photography and marketing business in Destin, Florida, working with small businesses on their image branding and digital marketing content. Brittnay has worked for national clients including the New Balance line for Heidi Klum (HKNB) and Rachele Brooke Smith. She is currently a monthly contributor to JMG Lifestyle, a millennials and entrepreneurs resource magazine.

Back in Nebraska, Brittnay is the Director of Talent Development & Recruitment for the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Program Director for Norfolk Now where she works to attract other young professionals and families to the Norfolk area.




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Why Taking Time to Plan Pays Off



Why Taking Time to Plan Pays Off

By Selena Aguilar, Nebraska State Fair Entertainment Assistant and CYN Steering Team Member

As someone who helps plan one of the largest events in the state I spend my days planning for anything and everything. What shade of blue are the volunteer’s table toppers? Where does one refrigerate butterflies? Where can I find a forklift? How much time is between two entertainment acts? Now, even though some things that I plan may be a little “out there,” there is one thing I plan that everyone can relate to—and that’s life.

When I say life-planning I’m not talking about wanting to be married in five years and have 3 kids within the next 10—or owning a business in 18 months. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just plan everything? I’m talking about day-to-day needs. Planning for daily activities relieves so much in-the-moment stress and allows more time in the day. Believe me, with the kind of hours I pull, you take every second you can.

As somewhat of a professional planner, here are three steps I’ve found to be the most helpful:


Create a Daily Routine.

It may seem repetitive, but when you create a routine for yourself, a decision never has to made. Think about when you first start a job. You’re slow as you start to learn, but once you know the drill you can fly through the work. When you translate this into, say, getting ready in the morning, you open more time for things you love to do—like catching some extra z’s.


Think Ahead.

Using a little bit of your free time to think ahead, makes life so much more efficient. Meal planning is becoming increasingly popular. Honestly, it’s magical. Sacrificing an hour of my Sunday so that I can pop some grilled chicken pita pizza in the microwave for 2 minutes instead of heating up a T.V. dinner or, worse yet, cooking a meal every night, is worth it. But meals aren’t the only thing I prepare ahead of time. I also hang my outfits together for the week so I can grab and go. I even plan which days to mow and clean the house.

The result? A whole lot less stress, and more free time to do what I enjoy.


Turn off Work.

This is a big one. When you are at home, you are at home—that means you’re not work. Obviously this doesn’t always work, believe me. You never know when one of the State Fair Queens is going to win Miss Nebraska…Congrats, Allison, by the way!

But do your due diligence to create some sort of separation.

Don’t feel guilty about leaving once your hours are logged and your work is done. Remembering yourself and your family is important. I promise you work is not as important. (Just don’t tell my boss I said that.) Make sure that when you are at your son’s football game or a pumpkin patch this fall with the family that you are actually present mentally as well. Whether it’s a big presentation or something else that’s been bothering you, turn off work. Live in the moment.

Lastly, despite the regimented life I may have led you to believe I have, I promise no one has it together 100 percent of the time.

But overall, when you open up more time for yourself, you also open up more leeway. Didn’t get to something tonight? Guess what, now you have more time and flexibility to do it tomorrow. If all else fails, remember to wake up every day like it was on purpose! Oh, and have a little fun.

How will you plan to create more time?

Selena Aguilar

Selena Aguilar

Entertainment Assistant | Nebraska State Fair
Join Selena on LinkedIn

Selena Aguilar is originally from Grand Island, Neb., where she returned after graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications in December 2016. Selena works as an entertainment assistant for the Nebraska State Fair, and serves as a member of the CYN Steering Team. She is passionate about fostering diversity and contributing to her community.



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Get a Business Card and Use it Effectively


By Chelsea Luthy, Central Nebraska Community Development Specialist, and CYN Steering Team Member


Let’s talk about business cards—and how to network effectively with them.

First off, networking is interacting with another person. I commonly think of networking as a face-to-face interaction with someone you most likely don’t know. It is a way to create a link between you and that other person. A business card is a professional way of sharing printed contact information with that new connection.

We have all heard about the importance of making first impressions. While I believe a smile, eye contact, and a firm handshake are at the top of the list, a business card can easily create an impression. Don’t have any business cards? Did you forget your cards? That is saying something. Does your card consist only of words and nothing extra? Is it completely black and white? That says something also. What if all your coworkers use the same outline and only substitute their name and e-mail address? How easy is it to read the font or text style?


Let’s talk formatting and layout.

The standard size of a business card is 2 by 3.5 inches and printed on some type of premium paper. Business card layouts vary widely and numerous templates are available to use or gain inspiration from. At minimum, yours should include a name, address, phone number and e-mail address. It is also recommended to include a position or title, company or organization and a website if you have one. Including a fax number or multiple phone numbers such as any combination of work, mobile or home number is a personal preference. Basically, business cards should contain all of your pertinent contact information. If information is not current, then updating it immediately is a must! Please don’t “use up” the old cards or strike out and handwrite new information!

The entire layout does not need to be text. It is acceptable to show a little personality with your business cards and add some color or an image. On the other hand, too much activity can be distracting or costly to print. Tip: A business card has a front side and a back side – use both! Also, switching cards from horizontal to vertical is another way to make a card unique. Just remember, these can become a challenge to print yourself. In my opinion, printing your own business cards is just as effective as ordering them from a company or online. If you do print your own, I recommend changing your paper type and ink output in printer settings to reflect the quality of cards you desire. Ordering them online can be less hassle and it may be faster.


When should I whip out my business card?

There are multiple ways that you can make your business card work for you. Hand a card to someone you are just meeting. Use a card to remind someone you met previously about who you are, but didn’t get a chance to talk to in depth.

My personal favorite: when you hand out a card give them two instead. It’s common for the recipient to acknowledge that they must have received two by mistake, but let them know that the second is for them to share with a friend. This is a way to continue networking through others even when you aren’t present!

Use your business cards in a group setting or give one to a speaker at a conference. Exchanging business cards doesn’t just have to take place in face-to-face situations. Send your card in the mail with a thank you note, clip it to a press packet or place it on a table with printed materials and other business contact information.


Someone gave me a business card—now what?

On the flip side, what should you do with the business cards you receive? Personally, I keep them all together in my desk. I write something short on the back of each card as I accumulate them.

I am a visual learner so it can be challenging to pair faces and names of new acquaintances. For example, each business card has a date, the location where we met and something memorable about the encounter. For some people, visiting and meeting new people is outside of their comfort zone.

I use business cards as a gauge and reminder to always keep meeting new faces and focus on building relationships. Do you have any thoughts on business cards and networking? If so, I’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page.



Chelsea Luthy

Chelsea Luthy

Community Development Specialist | Central Nebraska Economic Development District
Join Chelsea on LinkedIn

Chelsea Luthy is the Community Development Specialist for Central Nebraska Economic Development District (CNEDD). She grew up in Cody, Neb., and graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She hopes to share her love for community improvement through Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) and influence her peers to continue making a difference in our work. She believes that CYN is about motivating our young people, facilitating progress within our local community and how that creates additional impacts, and a way to bounce ideas off other like-minded leaders all for the betterment of our state.



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