Networking Strategies To Advance Your Mediation Practice: Bryan Hanson, Faculty
One of my roles at the Werner Institute is to advise the students through their practicum projects, their final step as they prepare to finish their degree and venture out into the field as practitioners. It is a truly rewarding experience, as it allows me to engage in conversations about the interests of each student and help them develop a strategy for integrating into the field based on their interest areas. Each student is unique, but through my experience working with them, and reflecting on my own journey from grad school to the professional world, I have been able to identify some trends in what allows people to be successful in this process.
First and foremost, we have to realize that making it in the professional world necessitates the development of a strong network. Closing yourself off, being afraid to mingle with people you see as competitors will make it difficult to get yourself established. Reaching out to those that are working in an interest area similar to yours, taking them out for a coffee, having a conversation of how they developed professionally, and being open to others that approach you will open up opportunities to collaborate. These opportunities to collaborate, may seem to take up much of your time when starting out, but can quickly snowball into leadership roles where you will be the one looking for assistance from newcomers to the field.
Scouring the yellow pages, or more likely google searching, can take up a lot of time to find these colleagues you want to speak with. This is why I am a big believer in getting involved in the professional associations of your region. Local mediation centers and mediation associations are a great way to get instantly plugged in to the scene.
There are also national professional associations relevant to our field of conflict resolution which may have regional chapters worth looking in to. I suggest looking at, The Association for Conflict Resolution (http://www.acrnet.org/), The National Association for Community Mediation (http://www.nafcm.org/), and The ABA Dispute Resolution Chapter (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/dispute_resolution.html).
I believe that it is not only important to get involved in these conflict resolution specific associations, but also in the associations that pertain to the context of your interest area. For example, if you are involved in workplace mediation, The Organizational Development Network (http://www.odnetwork.org/), The Association for Training and Development (http://www.astd.org/), and The Society for Human Resource Management (http://www.shrm.org/Pages/default.aspx) are all relevant organizations where you can network and develop relationships for future mediation and training referrals. The opportunity to present at these association conferences can spotlight you as a professional that can provide services outside their skill set. There are context specific professional associations for every field, be it, health care, education, international development, finance, etc…
Regional networks will be a great way to get your foot in the door to start building experience. I also observed how the use of technological platforms for supplementing your face-to-face connections through these regional networks provides a wonderful way to help elevate your profile in the field. Becoming a blogger, developing a twitter feed, or engaging in discussions on platforms like the ADRHub create an opportunity for other professionals and the public to get a feel for who you are and where your expertise lies.
These are but a few strategies for getting out there and developing yourself as a professional. I would like to hear what others have experienced as pathways to a successful professional career. Please feel free to share them here in this forum and hopefully we can create a guidebook for future conflict resolution practitioners. I see this as a great opportunity to saturate the public with trained conflict engagement specialists and opening up greater awareness in the public of more constructive ways to resolve conflict. This could lead to our ultimate goal of creating a larger client base.
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Thanks for this excellent advice. I will add that volunteering is an important activity to undertake with mediation and adr centers. Writing and joining panels are further ways to develop a reputation within our field. Try to develp a mentor or a number of mentors. Contact leaders in the field and tell them about your interests. For networking, it is important to cast your nets as far and as wide as possible. It helps to specialize in a particular aspect of mediation and adr once you decide on your area of choice. Thanks again for your help and contributions.
Great post. I think, and from my experience, it is finding that blend between making sure one engages and networks with our fellow peers in person and by embracing the web (twitter, this site :), other sites, linkedin, etc.).
Figuring out as you progress does not have to be fully trial by error as part of engaging is also looking at how others are doing it and asking them for advice and suggestions . This can range from setting up a mediation practice to how to set up a blog.
Something that I suggest to others and still do it myself is when reaching out to connect with others is doing it with the 'open-minded' perspective and not having a narrow or hidden agenda. No one likes a phony!
And yes, I agree with John- volunteering has many benefits to it.