I went to Columbia Business School and still keep in touch with a lot of my classmates. A few of us gather once a month for breakfast to catch up and chat about our jobs and careers along with general chit chat about trending topics. We’ve been meeting like this for over a year now and I think we all agree that it’s been something we really look forward to each month. Believe it or not, but it seems like something career-related changes or happens for at least one person in the group each month whether it be a growing desire to look for another job, or questions about how to manage managers, or potential org changes that may impact one of us and how to navigate them.
It’s been extremely helpful to get advice, talk about issues we’re facing in our jobs, questions we have about our next steps, get an objective opinion and support for things we’re working through. We come from different backgrounds with very different careers but since some things are the same no matter what job or career you have it’s been great to talk to people who can be objective and lend a listening ear.
In addition to this group, I’m also part of a Women in Tech group that meets over dinner once a month. Since this one is focused on a specific interest, the dynamic and conversation is a bit different from a general interest group, as you would expect, but conceptually still offers the same sounding board and support for topics related to women and tech. It’s allowed me to meet new people in the tech space and have support from fellow women in the industry.
So, how do you form a peer mentor group?
First, think about whether you want it to be focused around a specific interest or more general. Both are great and can meet different needs. Then, invite a few people who you think might be interested and set a regular day, time, and cadence. We have about 4-5 people who up regularly to one of my groups and about anywhere from 5-8 that show up with the other. These sizes make the conversations flow smoothly and there aren’t so many people that it makes it hard to hold a conversation with the group. One of my groups meets the first Tuesday of every month and the other uses Doodle to find a date that works best for most people.
And, what sorts of things can I get out of it?
There are a lot of benefits to having a peer mentor group:
You have a sounding board to bounce ideas, questions, and thoughts off of; it can act as a sort of personal advisory board
The discussions can help you think through things in a different way and give you new ideas
You can get support for things you might be going through professionally
You’ll meet new people and grow your network (I’ve met so many new people as one-offs from my two groups)
You can make new friends and deepen relationships
I really encourage everyone to grab some like-minded peers and meet on a regular basis whether it’s monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. They say your network and relationships are everything and this is an easy and fun way to keep connections alive and to get support where and when you need it. Whether the groups are made of classmates or people with similar career interests, go grab a few people and start meeting. I’ve found it an immense asset in my career journey and only wish I had started much sooner.