Being a young professional and feeling comfortable navigating your way through the working world can take time. Sometimes it leaves you with that imposter feeling, the uncertainness of whether you should be where you are, and are your ideas really as valid as those with years more experience?

While I’ve worked in procurement for over ten years now, last year at age 28 and being just over a year into learning about the world of social housing at Futures, I was keen to challenge myself further and help get rid of those doubts. So when I found out about Generation Next, a network created to help young professionals in the East Midlands grow and develop, I knew it was something I wanted to try.

Now, I’m here just over a year later and I can say it’s thanks to Generation Next that I’ve been able to get rid of that imposter feeling. I feel very passionate about the support Generation Next has given me and I want to share that with other young professionals. Even after only being a member for just over 12 months, I can already see how much the programme has allowed me to become a more confident version of myself.

In my first year I’ve gone from being one of 300 members, to proudly becoming an ambassador for young professionals in procurement, meaning people can come to me for advice. I’ve been an award finalist for Customer Services at the Generation Next awards and most recently they approached me to interview for a board member role this October.

We all have different skills we might want to develop and Generation Next has a range of networking events to support this. For me, I was really keen to attend any in-person events to meet other likeminded people. After working from home for such a long time, I’d missed having the usual office chat and it can be harder to build relationships virtually rather than in person.

Once signed up, I had access to mentoring opportunities, online documents and numerous webinars and events from the off. Everyone’s journey on the programme will be different as it’s down to how you make it as you can use their services as little or as much as you want.

Being keen to get out there, I joined a peer networking session straight away. This was an eight-week course where I met other professionals to speak about our experiences in the workplace, any issues we’ve faced, how we’ve overcome them and just general chatter. We actually all enjoyed this course so much that we’ve carried it on ourselves, and we meet each month still to offer each other support.

Now, I know networking can sound like a bit of a broad and daunting word. Is it where you go handing out business cards or speak to a room full of strangers that you’ll be lucky to even see one again? Thankfully, it’s nothing like that. Networking has become incredibly important to me and it’s now part of my everyday life. It’s not just a network, I’ve made friends and support peers for life. I don’t think a day goes by now where I’m not in contact with at least one member.

A programme like Generation Next is also important for the wider community too. By offering these services it not only improves the talent of young people, but the aim is to retain them, so people then look to stay in the East Midlands. This is one of the reasons why Futures has since partnered with Generation Next, a partnership I’m proud to have supported.

If you’re aged 18-35, figuring out your career path and wanting to develop your skills and confidence, I’d whole heartedly recommend Generation Next to you. Being asked to apply for a board member position was just one of the many confidence pushes I needed, maybe next year that could be you?