PEKIN — Emerging Leaders is a fairly new group of professionals wanting to take more of a leadership role. They kicked off their start as a group in November 2016 by holding a social meeting at Kouri’s Pub in Pekin. 

After people in the community completed the 10-week annual R. David Tebben Community Leadership Academy that had been offered through the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce many of them wanted to continue with the same type of leadership guidance and networking, but had no outlet. 

“They wanted something to keep going beyond the ten weeks,” said Renna Hadsall, events manager at Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. “They wanted something geared specifically toward professional development and wanted it to be more than just networking.”

Hadsall said she was excited to see this group take-off with their ideas. While they are their own group, there is still over-view from the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce.

Emerging Leaders planning committee chairperson, Amy Wilson, said she and her committee of 10 individuals brainstormed where they want the group to go and what topics they would like to focus on.

“We wanted those who are emerging leaders in the community to have networking ideas and because Pekin didn’t have a young professionals group to target leaders we formed,” said Wilson. “We didn’t want to limit it to a certain age group. We didn’t want to exclude anyone based on age. There are people who have changed careers who might not consider themselves to be young but are eager to be leaders either in their field or the community.”

After the planning committee met, they narrowed down the topics they felt best fit into their mission statement.

In January, Mike Eeten was their first guest speaker. He addressed the group about using social media. Baylee Gambetti who works as a local realtor was in attendance that day and said Eeten went “beyond the basics.”

“I mean, I know how to use social media,” she said. “Mike went into more specifics like when is the best time to post, how to get people to pay attention to your posts and not just about Facebook. He was hilarious. It was a lot of fun.”

In February, Emerging Leaders tackled business meal etiquette. The message was more than a reminder to keep your elbows off the table. The group covered tips on exactly what to order, how to be attentive to your host and being gracious.

Wilson said it was fun and entertaining while getting the message across. Bill Fleming, Manda Brown and Nichole Miller did a skit to demonstrate bad etiquette. Then the group would discuss what should have been done.

There are individuals from a wide range of occupations who are part of Emerging Leaders which is a division of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce. There are bankers, insurance agents, a realtor, self-employed individuals, park district employees, people in politics and the restaurant business.

“Input from the group is crucial,” said Wilson. “This is not exclusive to any one profession. We talk about how to get involved within the community both personally and professionally along with volunteering opportunities.”

Another topic that fit into their mission statement was about going on a job interview. Wendy Hess from Pekin Hospital, Stephanie Penning from Pekin Insurance and Steve Stewart from Excel Foundry in the Human Resource department were panelists who met for a roundtable discussion regarding tips for going to a job interview for the meeting in March. 

Hess is the Director of Human Resources at Unity Point Pekin. She said that she and the panel talked with the group about hiring practices, systems and processes.

“They asked good questions,” Hess said. “They asked questions like, ‘What’s an acceptable time to show up to an interview? Would you hire someone who had to reschedule? Are references important? What do you look for on a resume or application?’ They also wanted to know about behaviors we look for from an applicant during an interview. We talked about making good eye contact. Don’t be fidgety. Be engaged. They also asked about the role social media plays in the hiring process.”

Hess said they also discussed awkward silence. She said that when an applicant is asked a question during an interview it is normal for silence to follow.

“It’s ok to have silence while you’re thinking of your answer,” said Hess. “We’d rather them (applicants) take time to think about it and plan an answer than answer quickly and have it be an answer that isn’t thought out.”

Wilson said they plan out their monthly meetings far in advance. In July there will be a social event, but the location had not been determined. August’s meeting will be about networking. In September they will meet about volunteering and giving back to your community. 

In October the focus is on leadership development specifically about how to become one and improve one’s skills in a leading role. There will be a business entrepreneur panel in November. They will not meet in December because the group decided people are too busy to meet that time of year.

Check the Chamber’s website for any changes to the schedule of events at www.pekinchamber.com.