What we did is not a new concept -- people get together all the time to share information, network, and help sort out career questions. Our families and friends often are our sounding boards, mostly because they're convenient, they care about us and are, therefore, likely (or required) to listen. But they may not be as helpful as colleagues or mentors who bring the world view of our respective professions, as well as some critical distance, to our seeking.
Do opportunities like this seem to happen more in the for-profit world, where resources are presumably more abundant for professional development? Given the responses to Linda's and my posts and tweets, I think it might not happen as frequently in the nonprofit sector -- at least, the cultural part of the sector where I spend most of my time. But given the fact that most of us are facing economic constraints of one sort or another, stagnate or declining employment, arts/cultural organization mergers or dissolutions, or the squeeze of elder care, child care or both, it makes obvious sense for nonprofits to focus more attention than normal on structured professional growth. You might check out Michele Martin's Bamboo Project blog for a great post on positive professional development.
What I learned last week is what many of you may already know or have experienced: it's really helpful when you can receive insights from some respected colleagues about your skills and attributes, your strengths and weaknesses, and which ones can carry you forward to something you hadn't thought of (or dared to think of) before. When we decided to spend the morning performing a SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis on each other, we uncovered a wealth of information that crystallized into a number of fairly specific potential opportunities. It set the stage for a day's worth of creative problem-solving that only a group of engaged people could do.
Where we take our individual plans is now up to each one of us. But we'll have the group to return to for advice and ideas. We've made a commitment to stick together to help each other as well as ourselves.
Image: Idea from faithseekings