When you’re starting out in your career, it can be daunting to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, or to have gaps in your knowledge or questions about what to do. Creating a space where you can safely share what’s on your mind is incredibly helpful. It can help you feel more confident about your work – and the inevitable twists and turns of your career path.
Seven years ago, my friend Isabelle O’Carroll and I started an event called You’re Doing Great. I was just out of university and in my first job in a small company; she was a few years into her career and had just gone freelance. Both of us felt wobbly about lots of things to do with our work and our lives, and we thought we could find support in our peer group.
Kitchen table advice
One day, three of us got together in Isabelle’s kitchen. We took it in turns: 30 minutes each to talk as much as you want, and then ask the others for whatever advice or thoughts you’re looking for. I still have the notes from our first session; I asked the others about how to make the case for a pay rise, and wondering what to wear when I was cycling to work in my first winter of cycling in London (my office didn’t have a shower!).
Regular peer support sessions
It seemed to work. We all left feeling better about whatever was on our minds, so we did it again a few months later and invited some others to come along too. We’ve now been running YDG sessions for seven years, once every few months, with a rotating group of friends and acquaintances – sometimes up to 10 people. Everyone still gets 30 minutes to talk about whatever issue they want to talk through.
Creating a safe space
We treat You’re Doing Great as a safe space, which means:
• Confidentiality: what happens at YDG stays at YDG.
• No interruptions while the person is explaining their issue (and no distractions either – we only look at our phones in the breaks).
• Only offer suggestions in response to a question or request – no unsolicited advice!
It’s helpful to talk through these points at the start so everyone has them front of mind throughout the day.
Accessibility and openness
Over the years, we’ve honed down the process to the things that really work, like using a Doodle poll to set a date and having a potluck lunch – this is a nice thing that helps everyone feel in touch. We’ve also tweaked the format of the day to make it easier for everyone coming, like having a soft start time to give everyone time to get comfortable in their surroundings and to account for weekend travel nightmares.
Sharing whatever is on your mind
We try to make sure everyone is primed with the issue for their slot, and we often let the people who are very sure on their topic can go first so that if you’re not ready, you have time for a think. The issue doesn’t have to necessarily be work-related either; we’ve had people talking about how to deal with their in-laws, or trying to find a way to move to New York. Anything you want to get out of your head is a thing you can take to a YDG day.
A network of personal relationships
An unexpected benefit has been the power of the network we somehow created by accident. We didn’t set up YDG as a networking event, but our friends have invited their friends and it’s become a mini-network of its own. Because everyone is sharing their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities, YDG sessions are a fast-track way to create strong bonds between people in adjacent or similar industries and careers.