Craving more networking opportunities after crashing the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference in 2018, Christian Hartley, branch manager at Keesler FCU, headed to the 2019 CUNA National Young Professionals Conference and she returned with more than she expected.
Getting a leg up
Like other young professionals looking to make a bigger impact in their current role and beyond, having the support of experienced industry professionals has made a difference in Christian’s career development.
Even before attending CUNA National Young Professionals Conference, Christian was already driving her career forward with her ambitious, take charge attitude. Envisioning herself as a future leader and seeing the need for the development of credit union young professionals in her state of Mississippi, Christian founded Leaders Engaging in Action and Development (LEAD), a program specifically designed to develop future credit union leaders.
It was through an email from president/CEO of the Mississippi Credit Union Association Charles Elliott, that Christian heard about the CUNA National Young Professionals Conference, an event that provides career development strategies and networking for future credit union leaders. “Mr. Elliott has been a champion of credit union young professionals, and always makes sure that we’re aware of opportunities to develop in the credit union movement,” Christian shared. Intrigued by the lineup of speakers and the opportunity to engage and network with peers, Christian set off to Madison, WI, to the 2019 CUNA National Young Professionals Conference, and yes, she tried cheese curds.
Exploring the credit union difference
The credit union movement has strong roots in Madison, WI. Home to both the Credit Union National Association and the Filene Research Institute, Madison is a natural spot for young professionals to converge and explore just what it means to be part of a cooperative movement dedicated to helping people achieve financial security. “Even someone who may have been with the credit union movement for a long time but may have forgotten their “why,” can benefit from [CUNA National Young Professionals Conference],” says Christian, “It can help remind them of the importance of advocacy, keeping things fresh, developing others and remembering the reasons why we are in the movement.”
Beyond networking and leadership strategy
Christian’s LEAD group wanted to hold a day of service, but the group had never organized a community give-back day before. She discussed this challenge during the 2019 CUNA National Young Professionals Conference with peers from Minnesota and Illinois who had run successful service events. She gathered ideas that she took back to LEAD and played a key role in spearheading LEAD’s community give-back. “Having the opportunity to network with like-minded credit union peers was very impactful,” says Christian. “Sometimes we forget the strength we have as young professionals, and it was very encouraging to get together with a massive group of young professionals from throughout the country to reinvigorate you and remind you that you are on the right track.”
Christian has returned to her credit union with an expanded network that she continues to connect with to share ideas. She feels more empowered as a leader, and it shows. She’s recently accepted a position on the CUNA Young Professionals Committee, and she’s excited that her career trajectory is already leaving a mark on the credit union movement, even though she’s just getting started.
The next CUNA National Young Professionals Conference, presented with The Cooperative Trust, is set for June 11-12, 2020, in Madison, WI. Learn more or refer a young professional at cuna.org/ypconference.