The first half of last week, I fed my introverted side (which is a full 50% of me) with writing, new product development, and phone sessions. Translation: I barely left my house for three days. While I got a lot done, I felt hungry for some connection with other humans. When my kids came home, I found myself telling them about my day the way I would talk to a friend. While it’s always fun to share my work with my girls, defining dozens of words wasn’t exactly the kind of conversation I was going for in that moment.
And then Thursday hit—the first of two days I was participating in an HR conference on behalf of Sayge, one of the coaching companies I work with. Built into day one was lunch, and a gathering for all Sayge coaches—twelve of us total—plus the founders. Beyond the delicious (and gluten-free!) lunch, I was well fed with all I needed. Collaboration. Curiosity. Inspiration from others doing it their own way, as well as acknowledgement of my hard work from a group of people I admire and respect. We all brought our own strengths and uniqueness to the fold, making the work much more vibrant, and the belly laughs that much harder to breathe through.
At the end of day two, not only did we play a critical role in the conference—facilitating workshops that inspired new solutions to common HR problems—but we also walked away reminded that we have a posse of people who believe in us on this exciting and intense journey that is business ownership. That we have a community to hold us up and to make us better. By coming together and each bringing 100% collectively, we grew exponentially.
Here are five ways I work with clients to cultivate community to boost their careers:
1. Join a mastermind group
For those of you unfamiliar with a mastermind group, it is a peer-to-peer mentoring group used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members. The concept was developed in 1925 by author Napoleon Hill in his book The Law of Success, and described in more detail in his 1937 book, Think and Grow Rich. I’ve been a part of one since September and it has pushed me and my business in ways I didn’t expect. Not only do I run some of my new product ideas and pricing by the group, but I also share wins and fears in an ongoing group text we call, “Mastermind Brilliance.” The accountability and support are unmatched. Thanks, MB team! You can start your own group for free or you can find someone in your field who may be running a robust group for a fee.
2. Become a member of an association or industry networking group
For those of you in corporate or non-profit jobs, one way to find community out of your company is by joining an industry group that will offer networking and professional development, in addition to community. There are many groups, meetups, and industry associations out there, so what I would recommend is that you shop around to see the vibe that works for you and then go deep and commit to one group. Don’t overwhelm yourself with community—that goes against your very reasons for seeking it out in the first place!
3. Pick up a part-time role with a larger organization
Just as I’m a part of Sayge as a part-time opportunity, if you’re currently a solo practitioner, consultant or have a flexible full-time role, and you have the bandwidth to add on another part-time role that has community baked into it—that could be a great way to go. With this approach, my clients often find the community and professional development parts of the role are even more valuable than the hourly rate.
4. Volunteer for a cause about which you’re passionate
With this one, you can do double-duty. Oh, how I love efficiency. You know that cause you’ve been meaning to donate money to, but felt like you didn’t have the extra to spare? Donate time and get to know the employees and other volunteers. Build your community around the people who care as deeply as you do for the causes that are close to your heart. There’s nothing that connects people more than stepping outside of their own lives and giving together.
5. Find a fitness group
Get your workout in AND find your people. Again, efficiency, I love it so. When I trained for the NYC Marathon with Team In Training, I met some of the best people Brooklyn had to offer as I learned how to push my body in ways I didn’t think possible. The wonderful part about finding your people around fitness is that they also know that while fitness is physical—it’s a mind game. They can hold you accountable to goals to push yourself beyond what you can do for your body. And then there’s the simple energy math. Regular exercise in your happy place with your buddies means more energy, ideas, and flow in your work.
When we’re in our routines and on our own paths in isolation, that’s when we can get stuck. We are wired for connection—some of us more than others—so it’s important to experiment with the right balance for you. There’s no need to jump in head first and over commit to a community right away. You will grow to resent it. Dip in a toe, see how the water feels, and feel free to stay in the shallow end for awhile if that’s all you can add into your life right now. Notice how your community is impacting your results in your career and in your life—and if you’re anything like me, you’ll walk away from two energizing days with your peeps wearing a perma-grin and feeling gratitude with a capital g.