Rising Up: The Growing Young Professional Community

By Abby Jamison

May 10, 2023
Originally published in The Forestry Source - March 2023 issue 

Young professionals understand the ebbs and flows of life quite well. From the time we shift from student to young professional, and as we transition into our mid-careers, many of us are experiencing great changes. We are growing as professionals, leaders, communicators, managers, and team players – discovering our own philosophies and styles, while also confronting the realities of the working world in its contrast to what we might have expected as we trained for it. 

We are also growing personally, moving to new places, building or buying homes, creating families, discovering new passions and hobbies, caring for loved ones, and more. All the while, our communities are changing too. As we seek to navigate those ebbs and flows of life while developing a fruitful and fulfilling career, it is invaluable to have a steadfast community of peers and friends to turn to for guidance, support, understanding, and connections. 
Young Professionals on the SAF Board
Over the past few years, young professionals (YPs) in SAF have been building a steadfast community. We have created space for collective learning and comradery, while honoring the multitude of experiences we, as YPs, are having in our shared realm. In 2021, Audrey Maclennan, the first YP Representative on the SAF National Board of Directors, learned that YPs desired to create this community and use it as a foundation for growth, learning, and leadership. Amber Marchel, the 2022 YP Board Representative, and a team of YPs from across the nation sought to create a space for that community to grow through a reoccurring opportunity for them to convene. 

Young Professionals in SAF
In these meetings, YPs heard from leaders in our field and discussed topics important to them. These included professional development opportunities in SAF, transitioning from student to professional, and setting career boundaries without creating limitations. YPs from across the nation joined in during these mid-day virtual events and not only engaged with their peers, but also shared their stories, needs, and interests in continuing to grow these efforts. In 2022, a YP Meet Up was hosted at SAF National Convention and a panel discussed career challenges, successes, managing stress, and balancing a professional and personal life. At each interaction, and across each of these touchpoints, our community has been growing and SAF has been learning more and more about our profession’s emerging workforce, people, and leaders. 

Young Professionals at Convention
Join us in sunny Sacramento, California for the SAF2023 National Convention October 25 to 28. Like last year, we are excited to host an in-person YP Meet Up to be together, learn from each other, and build on our professional skills and tools. We also know that some of the most important work to be done in building our community doesn’t feel like work at all: it feels like having fun! This year, we are planning for an additional opportunity to spend time socially. We provide a chance to get to know one another, network, develop relationships, and make important connections that strengthen our community. 

Young Professionals on Tradewing
Our community is just a click away! Tradewing is an online engagement platform that SAF provides for its members to converse, share resources, collaborate, and connect. Tradewing filters members into “groups” based on SAF national involvement, such as a working group, or, in this case, a group solely for YPs! Upon creating your Tradewing account, as a YP, you will be welcomed into the YP group. There you may engage with our 1,600-plus strong membership. Ask peers a question, share a cool resource you found, tell a story about being a YP, share advice or tips, or upload a picture of a neat thing you saw in the woods. 

This space is for you, us, and our community.  It is a safe and welcoming place to connect  (just be sure to also follow SAF’s code of conduct to ensure we continue to keep the space safe and welcoming). 

Young Professionals Learning and Leading Nationally 
YPs also represent a sense of hope, innovation, and cultivation for our profession and for fulfilling the mission of SAF. We are current and future leaders. We represent our demographic and our community in all of our efforts as we seek to leave an impact. 

This year, bring your innovation and creativity to the table by engaging in SAF learning and leading opportunities. Check out ForestEd, an online learning tool hosted by SAF, where you can find recorded videos on a wide range of topics, and sign
up for upcoming live events. Join and get involved in a SAF national working group that focuses on a topic you are passionate about; you never know how you might spark new conversation, support a larger practical effort, or even find the opportunity to step into a leadership position. You may also express interest in a national advisory committee, where you will help lead the entire organization in the areas of certification, accreditation, policy, and more. These are just a few of the opportunities to get engaged nationally, but remember, too, that you can grow as a YP, develop as a leader, and engage the YP community right where you are locally. 

Young Professionals Learning and Leading Locally
At the local level, join in on chapter, state, or division meetings. Talk with local leadership about ways to get involved. Seek ways to participate in local leadership academies, if available, or offer to help with a local event. Identify other YPs in your local network at meetings or using a resource like Tradewing and connect. Where you are is where our community lives, thrives, and impacts our profession and our Society across its scale. 

Young Professionals Are Here for You
A beautiful thing about being a young professional is that we do get to work across scale. We represent much variety and hope for the future in our skills and passions. We exist across a continuum of diverse and dynamic experiences. Wherever you are along your young professional journey, and across whatever ebbs and flows of life you are navigating, know that there is a groundswell of YP peers and friends rising up to support you. We hope that this year you will dive into the YP community and be a part of that rising up, too!

Abby Jamison is the 2023 Young Professional Board Representative and works for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as a forest program specialist focused on planning, certification, and human dimensions.