How Young Professionals Can Thrive in Naples

Against traditional wisdom, Southwest Florida’s young people can make their mark both socially and in the workplace.

BY March 29, 2016


Shanna Short came to Naples in September 2010 not knowing very many people. She was a young professional and was worried the stereotypes she heard about Southwest Florida were true—that it was a place for retirees and snowbirds. Turns out that was far from correct.

Here, Short, 31, a vice president at J.P. Morgan, tells her story about finding her niche in Naples.

I moved here about five years ago from New York City because I wanted to be closer to family. Naples was a place where we always came for vacation. My grandparents had a home. My parents had a home. They’re snowbirds. I got to a point in my mid-20s where I wanted to have family nearby, and I didn’t want to live in a big city anymore.

It was a leap of faith and nervous transition. My aunt was the only person I knew here full time. The first few months were hard. All of my colleagues were in their 50s. I had no connections to any other young professionals. But my colleagues started introducing me to their friends’ children. One person introduced me to the next. I found that everyone was willing to introduce me to other people. I think that may be because everyone here is from somewhere else. We’re all New Yorkers or Ohians or Midwesterners. Everyone was open to helping. I only found that I spent a few Friday nights by myself. Before I knew it, I found out this community had a lot of young people. Naples gets this reputation that it’s the place your parents retire. There are a ton of young professionals here. It just takes putting yourself out there.

I think moving from a big city I realized how small town this is. You forget that if you’re in New York City or Chicago that when you move here everyone knows everyone else. I remember thinking, “Wow, I just moved to a small town.” A small town in a good way. If you’re a good person with a good reputation, this is a wonderful town to be in. Also, everyone is just a lot nicer. I’d never speak to anyone on the street corner or in the grocery story in New York. But here, everyone was so friendly. That was a big change.

Shanna Short with Noel Davies and her pug, Layla, at the Humane Society's 2015 Pet Lovers Gala.

I got involved with David Lawrence Young Executives, which was one of the first next-generation groups in town. I remember I met with the Young Executives president at the time, Matt Sutton, at the Starbucks in Barnes & Noble. At that time, I knew no one. He asked, “Would you like to get involved?” I said, “Really, I just want a friend.” At the time I really didn’t have a connection to the David Lawrence Center or its mission, which is to provide help for people with substance abuse or mental health issues. Then, about three years ago, I had a situation with a family member involving a mental health issue. At that point, I truly understood why it was important to get involved. I just wanted to meet people at first, but the David Lawrence Center and the work it does started to mean so much more to me the more I got involved. I saw the importance of these types of groups in the community.

I’m also on the board of The Humane Society Naples. I helped establish the next-generation group called the Pawfessionals Group. We just held our first event. I’m involved in Leadership Collier; Growing Associates in Naples is the junior version of Leadership Collier. I got involved in GAIN during my first year here. The people involved are from all walks of life. I met 40 or so people whom I normally wouldn’t have met otherwise. And, I met Amanda Beights, the vice president of Leadership Collier, who’s become a close, personal friend of mine. I’m still involved in GAIN today. It’s a great program for young professionals looking to meet new people.

I think it’s so important for a community like Naples to have next-
generation groups because the people who are advocates and donors now will no longer be here. The next generation will have to step up. Even if those next-generation people can’t donate a large amount of money now, they can give their time or just help spread awareness of the nonprofit.

I see a big change from when I moved here five years ago to now. There used to be a bigger generation gap. But with these nonprofits establishing next-gen groups, a lot of these organizers and donors realize that the next generation is the future.

When I first moved here, there weren’t as many next-gen groups. I’m the youngest member on the board of The Humane Society. What I was told was that it was difficult to get on there. There was some resistance. But it is improving; it is changing.

Socially, I’ve seen a lot of change. Mercato had half of what it has now. The downtown was different. You now have places like 7th Avenue Social that are catering to a younger crowd. Bars and restaurants actually have bands playing after 9 p.m. now—that didn’t exist before. OK, it’s not a big city; it’s not Miami. But you’re moving here knowing that. And, you might be surprised when you get here just how much there is to do.

—as told to Justin Paprocki

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