by John Shertzer
I’m the youngest member of my Kiwanis club. Like many of our clubs, most of the members are late in their careers, near retirement or retired completely. There are a few 30-somethings like me, but a visitor to the club would likely see us as outliers. Every once in a while, a friend of mine will ask me why I decided to join Kiwanis, instead of other organizations that are thought to be meant for younger people. For instance, most cities now have dozens of “young professional” organizations or social circles, at which someone like me is expected. Why hang out with older folks when I could instead be networking with my peers?
Here’s my take: If I want to advance in my career and learn more about life, Kiwanis is definitely the right place to be. While young professional groups can be fun and engaging, they can also deprive those new professionals from the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of those with more life experience. I spend my Kiwanis meetings captivated by the stories and reflections my fellow Kiwanians share. I see, in action, those qualities and skills that have made them successful. This includes their ability to build relationships, establish camaraderie and develop trusting partnerships.
It’s an observation of mine that our society is segmenting the generations more and more. The workplace still may have a wide variety of differences in age and experiences, but our civic and social activities are more often only with people of our own generation. The eagerness of the younger generations to accomplish big things may be preventing them from seeking out valuable lessons from their elders. I love my Kiwanis club because we have all of the generations represented.
My advice to young professionals is this: Seek out a service club like Kiwanis. You’ll find fellow young professionals like me, but you’ll also find men and women who have built a career, celebrated great success, faced down tough challenges and now see life and work in a much more holistic way. They are willing to offer you friendship and mentorship. You’ll see how quickly those things can change your life.