Growing up in Arlington County was great, but after high school I wanted out. Like, Move-Half-Way-Around-the-World-to-Australia Out. When college graduation rolled around, however, I realized I had loads of student loans and no actual plan for how I was going to live my epic life as a worldwide traveler. So, I begrudgingly hauled myself back to Arlington.
“Get a job,” my mom said. “Get involved in the community. It’ll be good for you,” she suggested. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I knew my community, I had my friends already, and that was that. Or so I thought.
I hate to admit I am ever wrong, so let’s just say I was not completely right. The past three years starting out as a young professional in Arlington have opened my eyes to all of the great things about Arlington I didn’t realize as a teenager.
I’ll admit starting your career is rough. It takes time. It takes work. It takes going outside your comfort zone at times. But I’ve met some great people, made some amazing friends, and become connected with an Arlington I hardly knew existed during my adolescence. And so, I give you a little cheat sheet…
6 Tips to Jumpstart Your Involvement as a Young Professional in Arlington
Tip 1: Get to know the people in your office.
Maybe it’s not 100% professional to share your entire life story and be BFFs who call each other every 5 minutes, but you probably have more in common with them than you think, and they can open doors. If you haven’t already, now is the time to set up your LinkedIn account and make your Facebook profile private. There are boundaries here, people, and you want to maintain a level of professionalism.
Tip 2: Walk through aforementioned doors.
The awesome part about being a young professional in Arlington is that established business people are chomping at the bit to help you succeed. It might not always be as obvious as your boss handing you a promotion or a bonus (you can still dream), but trust me, being connected in the community helps you AND them. Ask them about networking events they would sponsor you to go to, or leadership programs they might know about.
Tip 3: Get involved.
Beyond professional development, you want to get involved in recreation within the community. There are a plethora of nonprofits in Arlington who would love to have volunteers, and loads of recreational sports leagues to join. Ask your coworkers or friends for suggestions. This area is densely populated, so chances are there is a group already out there interested in the same things you are (Read: New friends!). The key to being a successful young professional in this area is to have a strong support system to encourage you along.
Tip 4: Get connected.
Talk to people. Seems basic, right? So do it. Another great part about Arlington is how many people you can meet who can be a great asset to your professional and personal development. I’m not saying pitch yourself to every person you encounter, but, in this town, you never know who you’re standing next to on the Metro or bumping elbows with trying to get a drink at the bar.
Tip 5: Follow through and follow up.
This step is crucial. It shows your dedication and commitment to wanting to be involved and resonates with the people you’ve already met. This means ask for business cards! They’ll be more likely to remember you when you’ve reached out again after the initial meeting. You never know the network they already have in place that they can introduce you to.
Tip 6: Have fun!!!!!!
Maybe that’s an overuse of punctuation, but if I’ve learned one thing in this town, it’s that people here work hard and play hard. If overall you aren’t having a good time meeting people and growing, you’re probably doing it wrong.
All in all, decide how involved you want to be in your community and go with it. It's all about opening yourself up to opportunities and, as cliché as it sounds, being yourself.