The Memphis brand of ‘young professional’ makes its mark

High Ground News feature

April 2, 2014

As the city works to attract and retain young talent, High Ground takes a look at the unique experience of the working Millennial in Memphis. Read on to discover what keeps these individuals engaged, happy and successful in the Bluff City.
Memphis is not a buttoned-up city. It was built high up on muddy banks in a time when it was a jumping off point for the untamed West. A bit untamed itself, the city would, in time, give its best and its brightest to the world. And they weren’t buttoned-up, either, with their sideburns and pompadours, gold chain overcoats and bejeweled jumpsuits.

As we’ve striven lately to bring in the best and the brightest to lead Memphis into the 21st century and to claim its place as a leader in industry and art, we should take a look at what that “young professional” might look like.

In this monthly series, High Ground will get to know these men and women to find out what makes them tick, what drew them to the city if new, and what keeps them here if native. To get a head start, though, we’ve spoken with some experts, those in contact with entrepreneurs, leaders, job seekers and employers. While organizations such as the city’s Office of Talent and Human Capital and the New Memphis Institute seek to recruit and retain Memphis’ future, we hope to learn exactly what it is they’re looking for and what it is they want.

“We see that young professionals in Memphis want the same thing as young professionals want everywhere – they really care about working for organizations that make an impact, they want to see themselves as more than just cogs in a machine. They are really hungry to add to their skill set,” said Mac Bruce, communications specialist with The New Memphis Institute. “For them, work isn’t just about income, it’s about personal enrichment, about fulfillment. Which means that having flexibility in their work schedules, and things like that, are things that these young professionals value more than their predecessors.”

Meg Crosby has experienced this from both sides of the employment fence. Now a principle of the boutique human resources firm PeopleCap, Crosby was hired as Google’s first HR generalist in 2003, overseeing a department of only 14. The paragon of the tech world with its laid back office environment is held up as a benchmark by Millenials today.

“I think, in some ways, technology and the culture of technology really brought people to that understanding that smart, successful people don’t have to conform to a certain look or to a certain work environment or a certain culture … I think you’re seeing that across other industries as well,” she says.

Scan the crowd on the street and your eye might automatically go to the tailored suit and the sculpted hair, the attaché case (a gift from the parents) and Windsor knotted tie. But perhaps your gaze should rest on the blue jeans and the faded Converse sneakers, the piercings and tattoos. Look again and pick the executives out – there’s Kat Gordon, owner of Muddy’s Bakeshop with her colorful wig; Clark Butcher, co-owner of Victory Bicycle Shop with his faded jeans and t-shirt; Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and Second Line in his chef’s jacket; Kellan and Davin Bartosch in their Wiseacre Brewing Co. coveralls; and Jamie Harmon of Amurica Photo Studios, bearded and with his shaved head covered by a tell-tale porkpie . . . (read more)