Organizations Connecting Young Professionals in the Community

Landing a steady nine to five job after college is a career goal of many young people. For even more young people, their priority is to find a fun place to live with exciting opportunities, cool hangout spots and scenery. Lansing is lucky to have plenty of new housing opportunities, bustling businesses, creative neighborhoods and more for its residents. For young people who are new to the area, making friends and building connections isn’t always easy, in and out of the workplace, and that’s where a few groups are looking to help out young professionals of the area.

When Grand River Connection was conceived, the Lansing area was lacking resources for young professionals to connect outside of the typical job setting. Current Grand River Connection (GRC) President Brian Gallagher spoke about the early beginnings of GRC, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in July.

“There were many resources for college students and there were many resources for families and established professionals,” Gallagher said. “There was really nothing that focused on those of us making the transition.”

The organization saw the need to fill that void, so the grassroots group began gathering members and volunteers and formed a board. According to Gallagher, one of the reasons why he thinks GRC was able to withstand, despite other organizations coming and going over the years, is because of their passionate members.

“We’re a very open and welcoming group,” he said. “We try to keep things low-key. We realize that young professionals are extremely busy, so we don’t require pre-registration, we don’t have any attendance requirements and most of our events are free.”

The GRC also partners with local area groups including the Lansing Chamber, NextGen@Wharton, and Lansing 5:01. Hosting events like Wharton Center outings, Tigers and Lugnuts games, tailgates, local bar and restaurant samplings and holiday galas, GRC is always planning its next event.

One of their biggest events is their partnership with the Lansing Chamber, the 10 Over the Next Ten Awards, which began in 2007. Developed to give special recognition to young people and their professional contributions, the awards encourage all to make a difference in their communities.

The award has honored an impressive 100 young professionals, now considered alumni. Gallagher reports that over 85 percent of the recipients are still in the Greater Lansing region and continue to make a positive impact.
Aside from providing fun activities on the nights and weekends, GRC is successful in connecting young professionals with a new network of people and places. The Capital City is fruitful in its opportunities for young professionals to stay and play, which is ultimately beneficial for the area itself.

“When people feel connected to each other and the region, they are more likely to stay and contribute toward the area’s positive momentum,” Gallagher said. “Without question, talent follows jobs. But talent also follows talent. Young professionals want to live, work and play in a community where there are many other young professionals.”

Another organization that brings young people together is the MiLife Sports & Social Club. This club doesn’t gather team members around the office water cooler, but rather, the locker room. Greater Lansing Sports & Social Club is the local chamber of MiLife Sports & Social Club, which hosts co-ed team sports for adults. With sports offered yearlong, ranging from kickball, volleyball, soccer, flag football, dodgeball, basketball and more, the Lansing Sports & Social Club has a program for everyone.

The club invites young people, ages 21 or older of all athletic levels, to participate. Aside from the sports, the club also utilizes social media to encourage interaction, both on and off the field. Partnering with local bars after games, the teams all head to the same watering hole and play games and spend time with each other — regardless of which team they’re on.

Tyler Reading, Director of Operations of MiLife Sports & Social Club of Lansing and Ann Arbor, said his favorite part of his job is getting to meet all the players and see their friendships form.

“I’m definitely a people person,” he said. “I’m not sitting behind a desk for 12 hours a day, I’m out every night, I get to talk to people every night.”

Reading also said the relationships that grow from the sports teams are also a plus to the organization. “There are some people who’ve been playing in our club for longer than I’ve been working here,” he said. “People met in the club and got married. That’s kind of crazy, but it’s a good way to meet people.”

What sets the club apart from others like it, is the camaraderie and easygoing rules of play, which level the playing field, according to Reading.

“Another cool thing is that we have our league shirts. Every team has their own shirts that we provide for them. It’s kind of cool because you don’t know if someone is a lawyer or a garbage man really. There’s not a status thing, they’re just all out there having fun.”
Newcomers to the area can sign up without a full team and meet friends and teammates through the club. Local companies have also signed up and sponsored teams, paying for their registration as part of the business’ health benefits.

Reading said the sports offered over the years have expanded, and he is looking forward to the upcoming leagues. “The more we grow, we can see different sports and stuff we can run for people,” he said. “Which may be different than most of the other stuff that’s offered in the city.”

For more information on GRC, current events and how to get involved on the board, visit grandriverconnection.com. To see current listing of sports, sign up for a league or more information on MiLifeSports & Social Club, visit glsscsports.com.

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn received her degree in Journalism from Lansing Community College. She’s a concert junkie; living and breathing in both the local and national music scene. She is proud to call Lansing her home, finding a new reason every day to be smitten with the mitten.

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