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. (Truth is a mastermind can help at any stage in your career, but they’re particularly useful to those who have exhausted all formal and semi-formal training.) Mastermind groups 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. Members have slightly divergent interests, experience, and expertise so that they can draw on each other and support each other’s weak points—but they have enough in common that they don’t have to explain much context when asking questions.
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 this intention 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 (such as decals) when asked, and toss around ideas for building our practices (such as adding teaching).
The best mastermind groups add to your energy and resources, they don’t drain them.
Online interaction (via various chat groups and forums) 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.
Sometimes we even get together online or in person for many concentrated hours or days of shared professional development.
How to start a mastermind group
To start your own mastermind group, list the colleagues you turn to regularly for advice (or who you would like to turn to) and who consults you. Pick people who share aspects of your own practice, whether that is your type of client, years’ experience, subject matter, preferred style guide, technical acumen, or sense of humour. Having 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 and experiences.
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 own career, too.
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. The best mastermind groups add to your energy and resources, they don’t drain them.
This was originally published as part of a series on unconventional professional development strategies for mid-career and senior editors on Copyediting dot com.
Photo by Patty Maher, used under CC BY-ND 2.0 license.