By Suzi Morales
There are times in your career that you need an extra push to achieve your goals. Seeking a promotion? Changing career fields? Coming back from a layoff? With so many options, it can be difficult to choose where to spend your time and money on career accountability.
Find a solution that fits your personality. Alice Chin is the co-founder and CEO of Your Other Half, which helps businesses with strategy and organizational needs. She’s led or participated in everything from membership-based networking organizations to private coaching. She recommends considering what works for your personality. For example, when you were in college, did you participate in study groups or thrive on holing up at the library by yourself? Look for accountability that fits your personality.
What do you need right now? “What kind of feedback do you need?” Chin asks next. Do you want to be surrounded by people in the same career stage you are in, or is it important to find a group or coach relating to a specific subject matter? Defining your current needs will help determine where you spend your time for accountability.
For example, Seema Shah, now the Director of Strategic Innovation at LaGuardia Community College in New York, joined a mastermind when she was about ten years into her career. She cited a shortage of career accountability opportunities for professionals of her level, compared with resources like The Muse for young professionals and corporate-sponsored leadership programs for executives. She joined the group to help with “challenges a degree wouldn’t solve” like “how do you manage different motivations.” The mastermind allowed her to have conversations with others facing similar mid-career challenges.
Be specific about your criteria. When you know your goals and what fits your personality, Chin suggests making a list of three to five criteria to filter any community you’re considering. For example, Chin, an experienced entrepreneur, says she might look for a group with no more than six women, meeting once a week, with additional one-to-one matching for added accountability, where each participant’s business makes at least a half million dollars. Evaluate all options for whether they meet your requirements. “If they don’t, then move on,” Chin says.
Common Types of Career Accountability
Once you’ve evaluated your needs and defined your parameters, consider some of the common types of accountability:
Individual Coaching. Christine Valenza Shin is the Senior Associate Director of Advising & Programs at Beyond Barnard, the career planning office of Barnard College. She describes individual coaching as “more holistic” than the advising offered by the general career advisors at a college or university. Individuals in mid- to upper management who are looking to advance might be “better served by someone who specializes in particular individuals.”
Group Coaching. Coached groups can also provide structure along with the fellowship of meeting regularly with others who have similar challenges to yours. Valenza Shin notes that people often have the “idea in their head that everyone else has it together.” Meeting with a group and realizing that they all have similar problems to yours can spur you on to make changes together. “It’s simple but so powerful knowing there’s a meeting coming up and you have to say something at that meeting,” Valenza Shin notes.
Accountability Partner. If you’re organized enough to structure the relationship for efficiency but want someone to check in with, an accountability partner might be the right fit. Chin says an accountability partner you can check in with every day—even with as little as a text—can be helpful early in your journey toward your goal.
Mastermind. Accountability and buy-in are the basic structures of a mastermind, according to Valenza Shin. The mastermind groups she organized at Barnard required an application process and a fee. “There is something about spending money that invests people in coming,” Valenza Shin says. The groups she organized also assigned roles to participants, like scheduling, checking in with other participants, and reporting on the group to the career planning office.
Re-Evaluate as Your Needs Evolve
Finally, Chin recommends continuously re-evaluating your needs. “What you’re looking for is really going to change.” Further, a hybrid approach can work if you are able to devote the time to different types of accountability at the same time. At the time she was involved in the mastermind, Shah also was earning her MBA. She says the structure of that program complemented the more informal, peer-oriented nature of the mastermind.
There is really no one right answer, so carefully consider not only your personality but also your goals as they evolve.