The idea for this blog came to me during a period when I felt lost and stuck professionally. I needed an outlet for creative energy, and I wanted to learn new things. I started calling all the women I knew with cool jobs to hear more about what they did and ask them for advice on my next steps.
It turned out that these friends were even more smart and driven than I thought. I had spent tons of time with them, but we had never talked about our professional goals. Sure, we talked about work sometimes. We complained about long hours, or frustrating bosses. But we almost never discussed our careers or shared strategies for resolving professional challenges. Once we started talking about work more openly, the stories started pouring out.
I found out my friends were dealing with their own professional development struggles and dying to discuss them with someone. Through these conversations, the idea of sharing our experiences to support and encourage other women emerged.
I started developing this blog because I’m passionate about helping other women, and I found a group of friends who believed in my idea. It can feel totally daunting to start a side project or try something new. But having people around you who are excited about what you’re doing and want to help you is like a magical motivation potion. You feel like less of an imposter (and we all feel like imposters sometimes), and you get to use your brilliant friends as resources. Bottom line: this blog would not exist if I hadn’t found friends who supported my vision and offered to help.
Once I discovered I had three friends ready to jump on board with me, the blog whirled into action. We started talking weekly about how to develop the blog, but we also shared stories about our own lives and struggles. Now we reach out to each other for everything: advice on what to wear to professional events, tips for negotiating with our bosses, feedback on business ideas, etc. Through the process of creating a place for women to find support, I also developed my own kick-ass support group.
Are you looking for more support, or a kick in the pants to get something started? Form your own crew! The good news is that you probably already know your potential support group, even if they are just acquaintances.
In case you need further convincing, here’s why you need a professional development crew:
It feels good
We all know venting feels good. But venting and discovering a shared experience with someone feels REALLY good. Once I started talking about wanting more professional growth, it seemed like everyone around me was going through the exact same thing. It was really validating and exciting. I no longer felt like the only person in the world who doesn’t know “what they want to be when they grow up.”
My crew also reminded me of my strengths, which helped combat the self-doubt that made me feel stuck in the first place. Not today, imposter syndrome!
Other people help you see things that you can’t see
My crew is awesome because they point out my strengths AND give me constructive feedback. For example, after we attended a networking event, Alyssa and Amy encouraged me to start leading with my favorite skills, not my current job title, when I introduce myself to people. It was great feedback, and I have since changed how I talk about what I do. As a way to control my own “branding,” I now highlight the things I’m good at and want to do more of instead of regurgitating my current job description.
This is how women get ahead
You know the old stereotype that men make deals on the golf course? In our culture, there’s no equivalent for women — some private place where we give each other tips, or make deals to help each other get ahead. Your professional development crew can be just that — a way to help, support, and promote each other.
As unfair as it may be, this is often how the world works: people get opportunities and jobs because they know people, and they know how to work their networks. We might as well work that system. Hear about a job you think might be a great fit for a friend? Tell her! Need advice on interviewing? Ask your crew! I have learned so much in the last six months (about people, companies, ideas, classes, etc.), and all because my professional development crew shared information and contacts with me that I didn’t have before.
In the end, how you form your crew is up to you. You’ll likely curate your group based on shared interests, availability, and other factors that are important to you. No matter what, choose people who are motivated and have a positive outlook.
You also need to figure out how you check in and schedule a regular time to do so. For my crew, weekly video calls hold us accountable for doing the things we say we’ll do.
As corny as it may feel to say, “Hey, do you want to get together and talk about our professional lives?” I’m almost certain you have at least one friend who’s looking for similar support and would be beyond excited to hear from you.
We’d love to hear from you! Do you already have a professional development crew? Tell us about them!
Author’s note: The original title of this article was “Why you need a professional development squad,” but I changed “squad” so as not to appropriate African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). I’m sorry.