33, Director of Membership for Hampton Roads Chamber
How do you see your generation (millennials)? How do you think older generations define millennials?
I see my generation as thought leaders and world changers. This is truly a generation like none other, who care greatly for their communities, their world and are focused on leaving it better than they found it. There is an unfair impression from older generations who view millennials as entitled, unfocused and unwilling to work hard to get what they want. Albeit there may be some who embody that, the vast majority of millennials are rising quickly within the ranks of their companies, serving on local boards, leading in their communities and focused on experiencing/impacting the world than any other group has been in years.
In what ways does having younger employees add to a company’s success?
Consistently surrounding yourself with younger generations and folding that into the fabric of your company culture fosters an innovative environment that will help companies remain relevant in a changing business climate. Millennials are in tune with the most up-to-date technology and have some of the most innovative minds today. Leveraging these resources well cultivates a company mindset that typically propels business further faster.
What have been a few keys to your success so far?
The greatest advice I was given as I started my first job out of college was to do the best with every opportunity you’re given. No matter how small the task or seemingly un-important it may feel, complete it with excellence. The more I did that, the more I was noticed and the more opportunities came my way. Working hard every day with a positive attitude and a solution-based mindset are a few key things that have truly helped guide me along my career path.
Is there anything that you would change about your generation as a whole? If so, what?
The biggest thing I would change would be the way we tell our story. I think there is negativity in the marketplace around millennial entitlement and our appearance of a lack in work ethic. Millennials are hardworking, insightful, impactful advocates for the betterment of our world. We’ve done a poor job of telling our story, so the few “failure to launch” millennials out there have become our brand. It’s not the whole story, and we as a group of world changers need to do a better job of promoting the good being done in our work and our communities.
What do you look for in a job/company?
I operate my life with a core value that people matter. Every person has hopes, dreams, family, futures and individual goals they are working to accomplish. It’s incredibly important for me to align with a company that fosters an environment of valuing their employees, treating people with dignity, respect and care. Faith, family, work. When you’re balanced in work/life, you’re far more productive in every area—especially work.
What kinds of digital platforms do you feel you have benefited from in your career?
With so many digital/ social media platforms that exist today, I think the one that benefitted my career the most was LinkedIn. I work in a business-focused industry, and staying plugged in to a professional online network like LinkedIn has helped me stay better connected to the business community, as well as my peers and clients.
What do you feel are some of the biggest perks of living in Coastal Virginia? What changes do you think the region should implement to continue to be a draw for millennials?
Some of my favorite parts of Coastal Virginia are the people and the abundance of fun activities throughout the region. Supporting, promoting and marketing these local spots and friendly communities are all important to greater recruitment and retention of top millennials to the region. Our generation is looking for quality of life above all else—walkable communities with shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, places to take the dog and a strong sense of community.
Tell us about some of your favorite ways to do worthwhile networking.
Some of my favorite worthwhile networking happens at Chamber events. As the director of Membership for the Hampton Roads Chamber, I tend to be out in the community pretty often. I absolutely love opportunities to meet new people, find out how their business is going, what’s the latest and greatest thing happening in their lives and building genuine relationships. Taking the time to get to know who people are first, then what their business is and how I can help them accomplish their goals is what makes networking fun and worthwhile. At the end of the day, regardless of the venue, the event or the number of people in attendance, it’s about the quality and depth of relationship.
How are you contributing to life/community outside of the workplace?
In the past eight years, I’ve spent a large portion of my free time doing international mission work. Taking seven trips to Cambodia working with orphanages, construction-focused work in Honduras and outreach/support work in Egypt and Romania. I also serve locally as the chair of Partnerships & Marketing for the largest Young Professionals organization in Hampton Roads, tHRive. I completed the Vann Lefcoe Leadership program in Portsmouth this spring, and I also participate in several bible studies through Community Church in Western Branch.
From his nomination:
“Joel has an unparalleled drive, energy, business acumen and dedication to the business community, the Hampton Roads community and the world. Not only has Joel done a remarkable job for our organization and our community, he is an incredible leader who pours into his team and intentionally leads with grace, focus, drive and humility.”
—Bryan Stephens, employer/president of Hampton Roads Chamber