Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Young, Smart and In Charge: North Shore Sees Surge in Young Leadership

By Maggie Roth
Gordon College News Service
January 20, 2010

(This story appeared in the Salem News.)

They’re young, they’re smart, and most of all, they’re successful.

Armed with motivation, energy, and fresh new ideas, an increasing number of young professionals on Boston’s North Shore are climbing the ladder of success and reaching the top before their thirtieth birthday.

Dawn Gadow, 21, of Beverly, MA, never thought she’d be running an organization just months after she graduated from college. But this past spring she was appointed the executive director at the Cape Ann Art Haven, a non-profit that provides affordable art lessons for children in the area.

“I think that because I’m young I can relate more easily to the kids (in the programs) and just hang out with them,” Gadow said. “It’s been a huge learning experience and I’ve realized that some things just aren’t as important as they seem.”

Gadow sees a trend in that others like her are also serving in non-profits. “People our age are more motivated to work in non-profit organizations,” she said. “Our generation is drawn to it.” Her age, she says, helps keep the place “young and energized.”

Noah Goldstein agrees. The 28 year-old Reading, MA, resident and his two cousins left their corporate jobs this past February to pursue a longtime dream of opening a restaurant together. The three men, all under the age of 30, are now successful owners of The Farm, a popular restaurant and bar in Ipswich, MA.

“We jumped into the idea of opening a restaurant head on and now we’re completely involved—it is our life,” Goldstein said.  “We’re here all the time with our finger on the pulse which is something we couldn’t have done if we had been older with families and more responsibilities.”

Alice de Koning, associate professor of business management at Salem State College, has noticed this trend of young people taking on leadership roles in various businesses. She identifies two factors behind the surge.

“First, there is an emerging culture that places values and visions ahead of career and dollars.  If (young) people start with their values and visions, they are far more likely to focus on achieving their goals than on risks,” de Koning said. “Second, people are more willing to accept young people in leadership positions. Inspired people are the other half of great leaders."

Megan O’Brien was appointed head athletic trainer at Harmeling Physical Therapy in Wenham, MA, when she was only 22. In the past she has treated athletes from Endicott College, Gordon College and the Hamilton-Wenham high school as well as patients from the surrounding area.

“I think because I’m young I can connect, relate and communicate well with the students I work with,” O’Brien said. “In the beginning it was intimidating because I was either the same age or younger than the people I was treating.”

Being young and successful is a task worth tackling for many, but it does involve the idea of potential failure. Gadow, Goldstein and O’Brien all agree that to be successful they had to take risks and put themselves “out there,” as Goldstein said.

Being young and having so much responsibility might make things difficult when it comes to interacting with customers, workers and clients who are much older. But most young professionals feel that their age hasn’t been detrimental toward their success in any way.

As de Koning said, people with vision and values are inspiring to young and old employees and customers alike.

“I knew going into this that being young makes people think they can express their critique towards me more openly, but I just listen to what people have to say and then try and do things better,” said Goldstein.

Whether entrepreneurs, executives or managers, young professionals on the North Shore are bringing creative energy and essential leadership skills to their respective fields.

“When you’re younger you’re not afraid to tackle the hard jobs,” said O’Brien. “You bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to the job that often can’t be recreated by those who have held positions for years and years.”


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