by AMANDA MARSCHALL and MEGAN GARDNER, co-chairs, Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment (WIT) Young Professionals Network
It may seem like a simple question, but when you really think about it, can you name the people who truly help you develop professionally? Who are the people who you turn to for career guidance, think of you when an opportunity arises, or you can discuss the toy and licensing industry with? Most importantly, who are the people you can learn and laugh with? If you had any trouble answering those questions and identifying your network, or if you’re looking to expand your network, the Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment Young Professionals Network (WIT YPN) might be just what you need.
There’s something special about young professional networks and the ability to have a trusted group of peers to rely on for advice. In this first year of the WIT YPN, we are aiming high to expand the network and its offerings. 2021 is about understanding the needs of young professionals (YPs) and providing them with the content, programming, connections, and allies that will support them in their careers. YPs are the future of our industry and we want to empower them to take that next step, develop, and ultimately soar higher than they ever thought possible.
Is WIT YPN right for you? Here are 10 great reasons to join:
1. OUR MISSION STATEMENT
The WIT YPN’s mission is to give YPs opportunities to grow personally and professionally through a network of peers and gain access to seasoned professionals across the industry. We are centered in career development through formal and informal live and virtual programming, giving individuals the ability to choose how they’d like to connect within the network. We understand that everyone has different goals and various ways to achieve them, so we want to give members the opportunity to dip in and out of programming, finding the perfect blend to support their needs. For example, in March we held “Career Kick Off Month,” which encompassed programming that catered to all preferences. We held expert panels, mock interviews, resume workshops, informative webinars, casual happy hours, and engaging social media discussions. YPs can find what feels the most comfortable for them and take advantage of it!
2. WE’RE AN INCLUSIVE GROUP
While our programming and events are targeted toward individuals who are in the early stages of their career, the principles and ideas are for everyone. We believe that YPs may have different wants and needs when it comes to programming, and our network is here to support those. With that being said, no one is going to ask you to tick an age box when you come to our events, so don’t let the name stop you — come join us!
3. PERFECT FOR STUDENTS
The WIT YPN offers students looking to break into toys and licensing a great opportunity to build their career skills while also creating personal relationships with those already in the industry. There is no doubt that students will be able to create impactful relationships with a possible future employer. Additionally, WIT offers free memberships to all students, which means you can take advantage of all the YPN programming for free.
4. MEMBER AND NON-MEMBER PROGRAMMING
Even if you are not yet a WIT member, the WIT YPN offers wonderful programming that anyone can join. And, existing WIT members get complete visibility and access to everything the YPN offers.
5. WE’RE AN ACTIVE GROUP
Have you ever been a part of a networking group only to quickly find out that their idea of networking is just to send an email every couple of months? That’s pretty disappointing.
The WIT YPN offers active networking over a variety of channels. We have a dedicated Slack channel that is used to share upcoming events, great articles, celebratory shout outs, and just about anything else you can imagine. We also host virtual networking events, such as happy hours and book clubs, where you have the chance to connect with new friends easily and informally. We believe connection is vital to helping you achieve your aspirations.
6. TRUSTED NEW PEERS AND FRIENDS
Speaking of connections, after a year as isolating as 2020, we wanted this network to become more than a series of webinars. Having career support systems is important, and being a part of this YPN will enable you to invite new peers into your trusted circle. Plus, being a YPN in the toy and licensing industry means you are absolutely going to meet fun, unique, and colorful people. For our first event ever, we held a virtual happy hour, where more than 50 people joined us. We spent two hours sharing interests, goals, career journeys, favorite toys, best board game memories, and so much more. We’re happy to say that we know connections were made and people who met for the first time that month are still meeting regularly today. Our worlds are never too busy to make new friends, and the value of trusted friendship should never be overlooked as a unique career advantage!
7. A JUDGEMENT-FREE SPACE
We all judge ourselves enough, and we don’t need other people doing the same. The WIT YPN is committed to providing everyone with an environment that is completely free of judgement. Have a question you think is silly? Ask it — because we can promise you someone else has the same question! Didn’t read the book for the book club? Who cares, come and chat about the themes with us anyway! Have no idea what you should do next in your career? Don’t worry — most of us don’t, so let’s talk about it together! We have either been in your shoes already or we are currently standing right there with you. There is no room for anything other than positivity and support in the YPN.
8. GET AN INDUSTRY EDUCATION
If you’re anything like us, you may have fallen into the toy and licensing industry through happenstance, or maybe you have dreamed of being a part of this awesome family for a long time. Either way, being a part of the WIT YPN is a surefire way to learn everything you want to know, from product design and marketing to legal contracts and leadership.
9. OUR COMMITTEE IS THE BEST
We cannot and do not do all of this on our own. We are extremely lucky to have found the best women to make up our YPN Committee. Allie Benham, Frankie Flanagan, Sascha King, Stephanie Bailey, Bridget Farrell, Ali Mierzejewski, Tiffany Felts, Shannon Varcoe, and Jamie Epstein are inspiring go-getters who take an idea and run with it. These are the women we strive to emulate. We are so proud of the incredible programming they have already created for the YPN. With a committee like this, we can guarantee that you will be impressed with what we bring forward!
10. IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU!
We’re not pretending to know everything, and we want to make this a network that is truly inspiring and helpful for you. Your thoughts, suggestions, and hopes are what matter most to us. We’re actively looking for feedback and ideas so we can provide YPs with exciting content and programming. For our first book club, we polled our members in real-time to find out what book they most wanted to read. Our first quarter of programming was created completely from ideas from our members. Being a part of the WIT YPN means you’re a part of a group that will cater to the needs of the many.
Are you still looking for a reason to join us? Well, let’s leave you with this quote from two women whom we admire greatly, WIT President Janice Ross and WIT Executive Director Mary Kay Russell:
“The WIT YPN serves as a catalyst to connect, develop, and empower our industry’s early career changemakers, with the intent to sustain a strong talent pipeline. These are dedicated, passionate people who take the time to authentically connect, collaborate, and inspire one another. They are our future leaders, and they’re changing the game for our industry. We couldn’t be more proud of the work they’re doing to cultivate change, both professionally and personally. We encourage any young professional to join our YPN, take advantage of all it has to offer, and let WIT help bring them to the next stage of their leadership journey.”
This article was originally published in the June 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!