It’s a great time to start a career in the Greater Manhattan region. The area is home to a growing group of young professionals who are passionate about their careers and community, and they’re more connected and engaged than ever thanks to a local organization dedicated to supporting their personal and professional development.
Helping Young Professionals Emerge, more commonly known as Hype, is a program created by the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce and funded by area businesses and educational partners. The organization offers events, educational opportunities and other resources for adult residents under the age of 40 with the goal of showcasing what the region has to offer in support of successful, fulfilling careers and dynamic social lives.
Advancing Emerging Careers
Hype was launched in 2020 in an effort to restructure, rebrand and recharge the Manhattan Young Professionals group. While it targets those between the ages of 21 and 40, it defines a young professional as “anyone aged 18 or older who lives or works in Riley, Geary or Pottawatomie counties.” Hype welcomes professionals from all industries and encourages upper-division college students who will soon enter the workforce to participate as well.
“We don’t ID at the door,” said Kara Wray, communications specialist at the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce and member of Hype’s steering committee, a group of volunteers that oversees the group’s operations. “But to be eligible for our Young Professional awards or leadership positions within the organization, you do need to be between 18 and 40 years old.”
Many of Hype’s programs — including its popular networking, professional development and social events — are open to both members and nonmembers. A $50 annual membership fee, however, provides free or discounted access to those and other events, two entrances into the Manhattan Chamber’s Business After Hours events, priority access to mentorship opportunities and a Hype t-shirt.
Creating an Individualized Experience
The new organization’s efforts are categorized into five areas of focus, or pillars, a feature that allows individuals to interact with Hype in ways that suit their specific needs.
“We found that what I might need as a young professional and what others might need are often two different things,” said Amber Wilhelm, talent strategies coordinator at the Manhattan Chamber and Hype staff liaison. “Through the pillars and their respective areas of focus, we’re able to satisfy the evolving, individual needs of young people here.”
Each of the pillars — Engage, Connect, Develop, Play and #LoveMHK — is managed by a small team of volunteers that plans and executes its objectives.
Spreading the Word
Hype’s outreach work to increase awareness of the program is directed at new and potential residents, as well as local businesses. It’s a continual effort to reach residents, thanks to the transient nature of the region’s population.
“With the presence of Kansas State University and Fort Riley, there are a lot of moving parts,” Wilhelm said. “Hype works to engage new members of our workforce, and that often involves helping individuals from K-State or Fort Riley transition to full-time employment in the area.”
Career fairs, presentations and other events for these populations help them visualize the Manhattan area as a place to live and work instead of one that simply serves a short-term purpose. Students are often relieved to learn that life after college is also possible in and around their beloved “Manhappiness.”
“It’s not uncommon for K-State grads to leave Manhattan, only to return to the area several years later to settle and start a family,” Wray said. “Hype saved me the trouble — I stayed after graduating and in no time at all I had a supportive group of friends and neighbors who are in the same season of life.”
Encouraging Professional and Personal Growth
Though these professionals have finished school, it’s no time to stop learning. The popular Lattes with Leadership series combines wisdom from the area’s top professionals with free coffee, and educational initiatives on such topics as salary negotiation, office relationships, budgeting and even dining etiquette help Hype participants build skills as well as confidence.
“There are a lot of new initiatives we’re really excited about this year,” Wilhelm said. “There’s a lot to be learned from those who are excelling in their professions — especially if you’re in the early stages of your career.”
Forming Valuable Connections
Networking opportunities are an essential part of professional growth, which Hype’s organizers stress is particularly true for those who are just starting out. Participants can chat over lunch and connect en masse at speed networking events. And because every truly successful career includes a healthy balance between work and play, the group offers plenty of chances to build relationships at a variety of casual, agenda-free social events.
“It’s always great to meet with other young professionals in relaxed, informal settings such as the Hooray Thursday happy hour gatherings, Hype Trivia and other social events,” said Kale Terrill, associate trust officer and wealth advisor at The Trust Company in Manhattan and steering committee member.
While many of Hype’s efforts involve highlighting what the Greater Manhattan area has to offer young professionals, it also acknowledges that its members have a lot to offer in return. One of the group’s main goals is “to encourage a more vibrant, diverse and desirable Manhattan,” which it addresses through numerous community, civic and nonprofit contributions. Hype actively supports the organizations, businesses and events that share the region, and has found that deep community connections inspire a unique sense of pride and belonging.
Promoting a Connected, Engaged and Successful Region
“As a new young professional in the Manhattan community, Hype afforded me an opportunity to meet civic-minded and career-driven peers who are motivated to engage in enhancing our young peoples’ sense of place and quality of life,” Terrill said. “It also allowed me to interact with and learn from our community’s most successful leaders, which is key to continuing to grow both personally and professionally.”
Hype’s innovative, comprehensive strategy to promote a thriving regional workforce and engaged communities that attract bright new talent is made possible by the financial support of its Investors. More about the organization, including information about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or becoming a member or investor can be found on the Hype website.