By Brian Copeland
This week, I turn 40 and my future with you is, well, uncertain. While we’ve never defined “under 40” as what the Young Professional Network’s age limit is, it has turned into an awkward elephant in the room no one is willing to talk about. So, let’s talk about it.
We’ve heard “young and young at heart” as the basis for who we are and who we want to be. Is this program of NAR about youth, leadership entry or new, bright attitudes? I don’t know, but hopefully in this dialog today, I’ll have a clearer picture.
What if YPN is in the middle of turning the statement “60 is the new 30” on its head? What if 30 is the new 60? Huh? We’re in the middle of equipping, training and inspiring a new generation to have the knowledge, street-smarts and tatters of a seasoned veteran to this industry.
I look at REALTORS® like Tiffany Curry who is 32 years old. Already, she has been the REALTOR® of the Year for one of the largest associations in America. She has served as president of a major metropolitan’s Women’s Council of REALTORS® chapter. She has chaired her local YPN, served on a heavy-weight NAR Presidential Advisory Group (PAG), and sat on numerous NAR committees.
I see Kenny Parcell. Kenny hovers below that 40 mark with a resume that would support the “30 is the new 60” hypothesis perfectly. He’s been his local president, state president, NAR Leadership Academy graduate, NAR liaison, and chair of several leadership groups.
Are these examples the exception? They could be, but I would argue that this type of mentoring and nurturing is part of a new breed NAR has started to grow. So, that leads me to the most troubling question, should we be called the Young Professionals Network?
When you wear this badge, it’s one that could be placed on you the rest of your life. Do you want to be labeled as an entry-point person? When do you stop being labeled that way? I ask because I constantly hear in leadership circles, “Oh, you’re the YPN guy for this group,” when they don’t know that the appointment to the PAG or committee from YPN is someone else. I’m there because a president or leader saw me as valuable, not just because the date of birth I bring to the table.
I argue the YPN label will tire on all of you soon. As I question the label, think with me, should YPN become more of a farming group, a horizon family of members who are interested in becoming an integral part of their local, state and national association and have chosen this group as their point of entry. What if age had absolutely nothing to do with it, rather a connectivity to the larger picture for the first time through this doorway.
Sure, we have leadership academy, but it’s tough to obtain for the masses with classes between 13 and 20 REALTORS®. What happens to the 47-year-old guy with a killer leadership resume who gets his license and is new to the industry? He wants to get plugged in somewhere and is looking at a point of entry. In most associations, he would be directed to the YPN group, or would he? He may not jump to top of mind because his gray temples and distinguished forehead lines may stereotype him as “not qualified.”
Should a 34-year-old firecracker who got her license when she was 18, became a local board member at 22 and board president at 25 be quietly whispered about as too young to be qualified now? She has 16 years of experience while her trendy fashion sense and obvious youthful appearance pigeonholes her into the corner of the “rookie ranks.”
I’ve had amazing days in this network, serving as the first chair when we became an official part of the NAR governance structure. It’s amazing to think I’ve been in this industry for seven years now, with five of those years in the YPN ranks. Through it, I stood beside one of my friends for life in his wedding. I was the second person, after her husband, who my virtual little sister told she was pregnant. When my son was born, one of you held him in the first three days, although we should have been 579 miles away from each other. All of these amazing things happened thanks to my involvement in YPN. I’m not going anywhere, however, I do want to challenge each of you to become more than just a YPNer. While it’s a cool label to wear, labels can eventually impede your growth.