Friday, April 19, 2024

Feeling Stuck In Your Job, Or Want A Full Career Change? How To Set Up Your Own Peer Group & Get Your Momentum Back

If you’ve noticed your friend chats have started circling round the ‘I need a big career change and I don’t know what to do’ topic, then setting up a peer group to tackle career chats might be the answer. The co-founders of Powrsuit talk us through their tried-and-true strategy for creating a peer group and holding regular meetings, and why the results are magic.

As we wrote last week in our interview with the co-founders of Powrsuit, a membership network for women leaders, women tend to be pretty limited with their networking options. Does this ring a bell for you? Maybe you hate it! Maybe you’re in a workplace where the women talk to women and the men talk to men! Maybe you’re the only woman! Maybe you’re tired and you’d rather just… lie down.

We hear you.

But if you’re looking to take a next step in your career path, see what else is out there or be open to new opportunities, then joining a networking group – or setting your own up – could help push you professionally. And with a staggering 50% of jobs being found outside of job ads, networking is the answer – you just have to do it in a way that feels true to you. Here is the advice from Natalie Ferguson and Kristen Lunman on the trial and error process they found to create their own career chats.

Here’s How To Set Up Your Own Peer Group

1. Select A Small Group

 “The magic number is six to eight people,” says Kristen. Start with two or three people that you know, and then get them to invite a person of their own. Then invite a wild-card – someone you used to work with, someone who is facing the same life stage as you. “Challenge yourself to think about who you want to include,” she says. Bringing in people outside your friend group will stop it from just turning into a complaining session, and will also bring in new perspectives and opportunities.

2. Pick People Who Are At A Similar Life Stage To You

Being at a similar career level or facing a similar life transition is another part of the magic, the pair say. “I went with ‘what do I need right now?’” says Natalie. “We both put together our own peer groups last year and I was going through a stage of flux – we’d left our job, we were in the process of building up Powrsuit. I had a friend who had just been made redundant, another whose contract had finished, and another who had moved into a big leadership position. All of us were going through a stage of transformation, so being able to come together and make that the point of focus was great. Very quickly, within about six months, all of us were in very different situations.”

3. Make It Regular

Both of them meet up with their peer groups once a month – often enough to keep some momentum, not too often it crowds out their calendar. Kristen recommends creating a Doodle Poll, an organising app, to help cut down the admin on finding a date that works for everyone. Generally, each meeting lasts 1.5 hours. For Kristen’s peer group, they take turns hosting it at someone’s house and have snacks, wine and non-alcoholic drinks on offer.

For Natalie, they plan the sessions three months out and mark it in their calendars, and they do a bring a plate, bring a bottle set-up, instead of one host. Her group also includes a lot of solo mums, so there’s a very kid-friendly policy where the meet-ups are also at someone’s house, but 5-10 kids are also in attendance. “We’re creating the next old boys’ club, with all the little boys running around,” She laughs. “We make it very easy to bring the kids along – and be very proactive, so that the kids aren’t a reason to miss out.”

4. Make It A Structured Meeting

For Kristen’s group, they start off with an icebreaker and then they go around the room and each person shares one win in their personal life, and one win in their professional life since they last saw each other. “That will often create a micro-conversation, so someone can get a quick hit of advice,” she says. “That takes about an hour, and that leaves 30 minutes to bring up two challenges to the group.”

That’s when the group ‘deep dives into solution mode’, which again stops it from just being a complaining session and makes it proactive. “At the end, we ask if anyone needs any intros or any recommendations.”

Natalie keeps a very similar format but one difference is that they have “proactively embraced asking for help and sharing opportunities, in a way that escalated quickly.” For instance, the peer group are all going to a fancy charity event because one member is on the organising committee and provided tickets for the group.

The group also finishes with each member leaving with an action point for the month ahead. “It takes it away from just venting – it’s more like ‘okay, you can vent, but what are you going to do about it over the month, because you have more control than you think.’” The idea of ‘what’s one thing you could do differently’ can help the person reframe the challenge they’re facing and stop them from getting stuck.

Really, it’s the idea that we’ve always known – that there is power in numbers and that a community (or coven!) of women can be a very powerful thing. Why wouldn’t you want to harness that in your career? “We are prioritising this group, and our careers, and looking out for cool things for each other,” Natalie says. “The purpose of this is to amplify each other, find opportunities for each other and we promote each other.”

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