In May, the ARA announced that they’re expanding access to their Young Professional Network. For the first time, associate members from 18-40 will be included in the YPN.
We talked to Marcy Johnson, the ARA’s COO/CFO, about the YPN, its origins and purpose, the reason for the change, and how people can get involved.
If you’d like to sign up for the YPN – whether you’re an associate member or a general member – you can do so here.
Brian: Can you first tell me a little bit about the ARA’s YPN – the young professional network? What are its goals?
Marcy: The YP group evolved from the next generation group, probably around 2012. It really started with just a couple of annual conferences, that brought together young professionals, that we provided educational and networking opportunities for them. Interest continued to grow in that, so we formed a membership committee around the YP group – around 2016 – and they started giving us more input on what they wanted this group to be.
So overall, the goals for the group are to provide resources to help young professionals in the industry to have successful careers, throughout their lifetime, and offer educational and networking opportunities to them to do that. It also gave them a platform to share ideas, experiences, frustrations – anything that they’re experiencing in their daily work lives, to help work through that. We found that it helped them develop trusting relationships that they will rely on for years to come.
That’s one thing that I’ve noticed about the industry, is just that interconnectedness, that willingness to help one another.
Yeah, and then since we started the committee in 2016, the committee set specific goals that they wanted the group to reach each year. Some of those included expanding the annual conferences – we used to do only one, now we do two each year; growing the group, which we’ve expanded and probably doubled in size; adding a closed Facebook group discussion so people have a platform to have those conversations; starting a monthly newsletter to get information out more frequently; and now to expand to include the manufacturers and suppliers to continue to grow.
So I know in the past, we obviously didn’t have the associate members included in it. Was there a reason for that? You were worried about us advertising and being obnoxious? I can understand that.
(laughs) Well, the conversation around that has been going on for a couple years, actually. Initially, the group was just focused on the rental side of the industry, so all of the content and everything that we were really providing didn’t fit the associate member side. But we continued to have those discussions and the group has continued to evolve, and you’re right – they didn’t want it to be a sales platform, so that was one of the big discussions, and one of the big holdups, part of why this has taken a couple of years to get off the ground and to launch.
But we believe that all young people in the industry, whether on the manufacturing side or the rental side, have the same issues and will benefit from the same educational content that we’re putting out, so we think it’s time to be all-inclusive and to help form those relationships and provide some benefits for everyone.
Cool, so that explains it. In the past month, you’ve opened it up to associate members – and that was just a gradual thing – it wasn’t a specific instance that caused this?
No, so like I said, we’ve been talking about it for a couple of years and just…probably would have done it a year ago, if the pandemic wouldn’t have hit and everything kind of went on hold. But now, knowing that everyone is connecting remotely – even moreso – and are used to that and know how to do that (not that young people didn’t do that before) anyway, now just seemed like the right time to push this out with the show coming up and we’ll have an in-person event there, so it’ll be a chance for everyone to get together.
Cool. So, it’s been a couple weeks since – at the time we’re recording this – since it’s opened up. How’s the response been since opening it up? I know I signed up, but I’m guessing you had goals beyond just me.
(laughs) Yes, we did. And the response has been overwhelming. It’s only been open about two weeks, and we’ve already had over 130 applications come in for associate members to sign up. So we’re extremely excited about the response, and the interest – you know, we’ve had a couple requests come in over the past few years of people wanting to join, but it’s probably been less than five. So to get that initial response is very encouraging and just kind of reinforces the idea that we did this at the right time.
Are there any big plans for YPN moving forward? What’s happening at the ARA Show with YPN? I’ve always kind of tried to avoid looking too much at it because I know it’s not for me, so I don’t want to get – I don’t want to get the FOMO going on.
Well, I can see why you were disappointed – the events at the show are always great. There’s tons of networking, fun activities, the last one was at TopGolf, so I get why everyone wants to come to those. I’m not a YP and I’m always excited because I get to go to them. But y’know, with the pandemic, we’ve all been locked down for the past year and we’re looking forward to having a live, in-person event in Las Vegas. Registration opens July 13 and you can get your ticket to the YP event when you register for the show.
We’re also working on a winter YP conference…details aren’t out on that yet, but there will be details to come on that later this year – probably a January event. And in the meantime, things you can do until we get to those live, in person events…log into the Facebook group, get signed up for that. Look for those monthly newsletters, those are coming out, and start connecting with other young professionals.
Sounds good. Was there anything else you wanted to mention about the YPN? It seems like you were just adding some stuff right there, but…
Yeah, there’s just a ton of things. Go out on the website, check out the benefits and everything that’s offered out there. If you haven’t signed up, definitely do that. The website is ararental.org; click on the Connect header and the YP page and fill out the application. It’s really short, a short application to do, and it’s really that easy.
I was gonna say – yeah, I did it, it was pretty easy; I think most people could handle it.
Yeah, I think they can. I think everyone will be excited about the conversations that are happening – definitely go out on the Facebook and start sharing ideas, making posts, and talking with other young people.
But don’t start being that selling person.
No selling. Yes, that’s right. And there’s some specific guidelines – when you sign up for the Facebook group, and even, I think, when you sign up for the application, there’s just some guidelines put in there of what the group is meant to be. It really is meant to be a networking – make those connections – obviously, the sales can happen later, but this is really just meant to be meeting people and sharing ideas and growing professionally.
Alright. Well, thank you Marcy, for joining me today.
Yeah, thank you for having me and letting me share ideas about the ARA Young Professionals Group and how we’re expanding and I look forward to seeing everyone at a future YP event.
OK, see you at the ARA Show?
See you there!