Sometimes you just need some trusted colleagues who are at the same place in their development to hash around ideas with. That, in a nutshell, is the mastermind group.
In our ongoing look at ways that senior and mid-career editors can approach ongoing professional development, we turn to the peer group. These tend to develop naturally, over time, without a stated goal, but it’s not quite the same as having your list of go-to people. The mastermind group is there for each other, together. They have slightly divergent interests, experience, and expertise so that they can draw on each other and support each other’s weak points.
A mastermind group might bring each other work, but networking should be the least priority of the group.
I have had two mastermind groups in my 18 years. The first formed between myself, my mentor, and the other editor that she had mentored. Eventually we even bid on jobs together, and filled in for each other during vacations, allowing us to keep our clients happy, take on jobs too large for one person, and still take time off. That is not the main purpose of a mastermind group but was a fantastic development.
My newest mastermind group was also arranged by invitation, but we realized what we had formed after a few months rather than setting a goal at the start. That was a very comfortable way for the purpose to emerge.
We celebrate each other’s successes, draw on each other’s expertise (such as when I can’t find the right section in APA or CMOS style guides), help each other work out grammar and business conundrums (such as how much of a rush fee to charge), vet each other’s marketing materials (like decals) when asked, toss around ideas for building our practices (like adding teaching).
Online interaction (via email or various chat groups) means that your mastermind group doesn’t have to be local. Online chat systems, video conferencing, or even a group email chain can facilitate communications.
To start your own mastermind group, list the colleagues you turn to regularly for advice (or who you would like to) and who consults you. Pick people who share aspects of your own practice, whether that is type of client, years’ experience, subject matter, preferred style guide, technical acumen, or sense of humor. One or two points in common is essential, but points of contrast are very important too. You want to be able to draw on each other’s different strengths.
Invite these people to get together—online, at a café, or at a conference. Explore goals you might share, such as getting new clients or opening up new markets. You might not all share these goals, but if there’s enough in common you can continue the conversation and see where it takes you.
When you have these peers, their energy, successes and support can catapult your career.
One last caveat: it’s important to respect the feast and famine cycle of everyone’s work life. There are times when each of us has gone radio silent in order to meet a deadline or attend to a life event.
Read the other posts in this series, listed here.