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Hattie Hynes is a Recruiting/HR Marketing Intern with Milliner & Associates. She will graduate from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in 2019.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to “Indiana’s Talent Gap and Brain Drain/Gain Workshop”, a partnership of Purdue University, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Lilly Endowment, Inc., and Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The opportunity was presented to me through my internship with Milliner and Associates by my mentor and VP of Operations, Nicole Bieker. The subject was retaining graduates from Indiana’s universities, what it would take to get them to stay, and attracting similar young talent from other states. They had recent college graduates share their experiences as to why they stayed or left Indiana.

What may surprise you is that students aren’t leaving Indiana to go to the glamorous California or the East Coast. They’re moving to other Midwestern states. Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee all pull away as many students as California and Florida. It kind of makes you wonder why that is. That’s where we turn to the panel of fresh college grads to find the answer.

Having the graduates share their testimony and answering questions was an idea of pure genius from the event coordinators. It helped Indiana employers understand the minds of those they’re trying to attract and to figure out what they could be doing to make themselves more appealing to this new generation.

There was a pretty common theme that the graduates who left Indiana didn’t see a solid career path in Indiana, and the lifestyle wasn’t as exciting as those in bigger cities. Those who stayed expressed that Indianapolis has the feel and nightlife of bigger cities if you go looking for it in smaller neighborhoods within the city (like Fountain Square and Mass Ave), and there were career opportunities as long as you were watching out for them and keeping up with your network. It was even said that:

 “Indy is the perfect overlay between opportunity and access.”- Molly Chavers, IndyHub

This means that in Indianapolis there’s enough opportunity and jobs available, but you also have access to networks that are interconnected and can provide you with a “foot in the door” all over town. This tells us that Indianapolis is a great place for young professionals who are looking to grow their network.

If all of this is true, why is everyone leaving Indiana? The panel expressed that they just didn’t have the knowledge about the opportunities for growth that Indy could provide, or about the culture and the things to do around town.

So what do we do about all of it? Well, we can create more opportunities for professional mentoring which opens up conversations for growth in the community. I believe that professional mentoring programs at colleges and universities would help as well. There aren’t classes about the “cost of living across the country”, or how to make the right move for your individual professional aspirations and goals. Career counseling sessions certainly help, but I think having a mentor who truly knows what you like and who you are is far more helpful in guiding and advising your career path.

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