Work Smart: Professional Development Guide

Take advantage of these professional development networks in Tucson, Arizona

|By Mish DeCarlo

We all have to work, and we all want to thrive.

Tucson is becoming increasingly attractive for young professionals due to reasonable housing costs, a steadily growing economy, and connected communities. Tucson offers many resources for professionals and entrepreneurs that encourage growth, continuous education, and practical skill building. Get inspired by fellow professionals, learn from experts, and find resources in the Tucson area to help you get where you want to go.

Tucson Young Professionals

Tucson Young Professionals (TYP) provides a clear avenue for networking within the Tucson community while strengthening professional skills and promoting education, the arts, and the city. Members are eager to amplify the voice of Tucson’s young talent to develop a better place for young professionals to live, work, and play. TYP promotes Tucson, along with the rest of Southern Arizona, as a region filled with opportunity.

The organization hosts four signature events—CEO Roundtable, Member Mixers, ignite520, and ENGAGE. Each event serves a different purpose while curating a community of connections and inspiration in the professional workforce. The CEO Roundtable is held once a month and features a speaker who candidly shares their journey, from pitfalls to successes, in the professional world. Member Mixers also happen monthly and are hosted at a different venue each time. These events encourage members to explore Tucson, network, and have fun. Ingite520 is an annual, two-day professional leadership conference designed to catalyze personal and professional development, expand professional networks, and celebrate the successes of the Tucson community. ENGAGE is a unique opportunity for members to share their voice and address challenges in Tucson while facilitating conversations between mid-level professionals, C-suite executives, and community thought leaders. The event is limited to 50 guests, and participants are chosen through an application process.

TYP works to attract and recruit seniors from colleges and universities in Southern Arizona to engage with them about potential job opportunities in the community and encourage members to create an outlet for change. Members are aged 21 to 45 and receive priority purchase of discounted tickets to annual events; discounts at select local businesses, cultural institutions, and art organizations; and free VIP admission to monthly CEO Roundtables. To get involved with TYP, visit the Tucson Young Professionals website.

Tucson Entrepreneurs

Tucson Entrepreneurs offers business coaching, mindset mastery, and networking for startups and growing businesses. Members are provided with resources that educate in leadership, marketing, time-management, and practical business skills necessary to create successes and build optimal business culture.

On the first Tuesday of every month, Tucson Entrepreneurs hosts its free monthly meet-up. The topics of these meetings range from how technology is changing the workforce to the impact of election results in Tucson and the effects of the city’s rising minimum wage on its small businesses. Tucson Entrepreneurs also offers private and group coaching along with networking events at local Tucson businesses.

Their door is open everyone from early-stage to experienced entrepreneurs, leaders, managers, or employees looking to excel in their job or create a better workplace experience. Further, anyone who wants to master their mindset for happiness and success in their life and business is encouraged to become a member of Tucson Entrepreneurs. For membership inquiries, visit the organization’s Facebook page.

American Advertising Federation Tucson + Ad 2 Tucson

The American Advertising Federation Tucson (AAF Tucson) is a collaborative hub for a full spectrum of industry experts. Young professionals, rising stars, and today’s leaders from fields of advertising, marketing, communications, and media are encouraged to promote their industry’s importance and economic impact to the Tucson community.

Ad 2 Tucson is an American Advertising Federation affiliate where young professionals, aged 32 and under, who have experience in the field of advertising, marketing, and communication support the community. It offers a unique, career-launching platform that enables young industry professionals to get in front of established leaders.

All American Advertising Federation affiliate events in Tucson are posted on the AAF Tucson website. Events are open to the Tucson community and intended to connect professionals, cultivate new ideas, and excite and inspire the community. Some event examples are happy hours, featuring complimentary cocktails and appetizers, with a focus on promoting a common topic such as “How to Leverage the Latest Trends in Video Advertising.” All events require a ticket purchase.

Those interested in joining AAF Tucson should fill out a membership application.


UX@UA is a community for UX (user experience) learners and enthusiasts. It aims to grow UX expertise at the University of Arizona and in the Tucson community. Ultimately, UXers work to solve problems and design better digital experiences for users.

While there is no single UX program, degree, or central office at the UA, the members of UX@UA are doing UX work and studying UX methods across many departments and disciplines. Together, they can collaborate and build relationships centered on UX. The group can help members with crafting research studies that may include usability testing, user interviews or surveys, creating prototypes of prospective products and services, and making sense of user-research findings by pulling themes from studies.

Every month, UX@AZ hosts in-person meet-ups that include presentations and time to socialize. UX@AZ also has a drop-in hour every Friday for those seeking help in making websites, services, or products more accessible. The drop-in hour also serves as a platform for teaching those interested in learning how design-thinking practices can guide you to creative, impactful, human-centered solutions and for sharing about the field of UX and its possibilities as a career path in a more intimate setting.

Those who are interested are encouraged to participate in any of UX@AZ’s events, whether they are brand new to UX, a professional wanting to share expertise, or somewhere in-between. Members participate in local UX conferences and national UX celebrations. To learn more about UX and get involved, visit the UX@UA website.

American Marketing Association UA Chapter                              

The American Marketing Association (AMA) strives to be the most relevant force and voice shaping marketing around the world. It is an organization committed to service leadership. Members of the AMA are comprised of dedicated professionals who work, teach, and study in the field. The University of Arizona has a collegiate AMA chapter that provides members with a better understanding of what marketing entails while empowering them with leadership experiences and enabling them to give back to the community.

The Tucson chapter of the American Marketing Association is hosted by the University of Arizona, and it encourages Tucson professionals in the industry to get involved. The closest non-collegiate chapter—comprised of professionals through corporate affiliation—is in Phoenix. The University of Arizona AMA chapter holds meetings that include hands-on marketing and professional development activities, networking opportunities with professionals across a variety of industries, and fun philanthropic and social events. Members have the opportunity to participate in a marketing conference in New Orleans every spring.

For information about membership, visit the American Marketing Association website.

Startup Tucson

Startup Tucson focuses on supporting entrepreneurs within the community. The goals of Startup Tucson are to increase the number, quality, and diversity of startups and change the narrative of Southern Arizona as one that is seen as supportive and attractive for entrepreneurs, innovators, and startups. Startup Tucson is committed to ensuring equal access to its services and is supported by many Tucson businesses, such as the University of Arizona, The City of Tucson, and Arizona Commerce Authority.

Every year, Startup Tucson hosts TENWEST Impact Festival. It is one of Startup Tucson’s signature events. The festival curates a dialogue between the community and its innovators while working to solve the economic, social, cultural, and environmental challenges in Tucson. It spans ten days and is packed with exhibitions, talks, and interactive experiences. One of the days is dedicated to IdeaFunding, which aids as the business and entrepreneurship event inside of TENWEST Impact Festival. It is a full day of pitch competitions, panels, discussions, speakers, and networking.

Beginning entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans alike are encouraged to become a member of Startup Tucson. To obtain membership, you must attend Startup Labs. This ensures that there is an understanding of what your business is and what its needs are. Anyone who completes Startup Tucson 101—the first lab—is eligible to join the free membership program. To stay eligible, members must then complete a Startup Tucson Growth-Tracker survey. Every year, members must also complete a check-in survey to maintain their active membership. Members have access to one-to-one coaching and mentoring, PR support as needed, exclusive deals and discounts with vendors and partners, and network-only education courses. They also have the opportunity to apply for IdeaFunding Pitch Competition. For more information on how to attend Startup Tucson 101 and join, visit Startup Tucson’s website.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just beginning your journey in the workforce, the Tucson community is a connected and ambitious network to be a part of. Join your neighbors, friends, and colleagues in an organization that fosters professional development and personal advancement in the place you call home.

Discover more professional development opportunities in Tucson with this list of major companies that have expanded to Tucson.