Updated: Jul 25, 2020
What I have learned in transitioning into the world of facilitation and organization development is that it is tough, especially for recent graduates or those early in their career. Here are a few tips that have worked for me when it comes to making a transition like this.
1. INTERN: Although I had prior work experience in marketing and communications, I needed a job on my resume that showed experience specific to this field. I took a paid leadership development internship for a large corporation and fortunately was able to transition that into a full-time organizational effectiveness position afterwards. Alternative: If you're not in a position to intern, take a position with a clear learning path towards facilitation and OD. Be specific about what you are looking for when you interview and work with a team of people who have the experience you want to develop.
2. HIGHER-EDUCATION: A master's degree is not the only route to the field, but it certainly helped in my case. And of course - shameless plug for my alma mater - George Mason University's Organization Development and Knowledge Management program. Make a list and go to open houses.
3. FIND A "NICHE": Find something that you can offer alongside facilitation or OD consulting. For example, if you come from a communications background, offer a specialty in strategic communications. For me, it was visual note-taking (a.k.a. graphic recording). I found that by offering to capture notes and insights from meetings, I have been able to learn from others and find some great mentors in the process. If you're not sure, look into design thinking. It's a hot topic and much desired skill-set right now. Grab a copy of LUMA Institute's handbook.
4. NETWORK and TRAINING! Oftentimes, you don't have to be a member to attend events and workshops at organizations like MAFN (Mid-Atlantic Facilitator's Network) and CBODN (Chesapeake Bay OD Network), in the Washington DC area for example. You will make more wonderful connections and can start collecting ideas. Also, check out your local Meetup.com groups for fun trainings and events.
5. VOLUNTEER: Do pro-bono work for your local church, non-profit, community organization or chamber of commerce. What I've learned is that many people have to see you in action and experience the process to buy-in and offer you work or a job.
6. INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS: Find one person to have dinner or coffee with. Make it a goal to get ideas (not jobs), and always ask "who else should I talk to"? Your network will grow like wildfire. Key questions:
Tell me about your job path.
That's fascinating - tell me more.
What did you learn from that?
What suggestions might you have for me?
Who else should I talk to?
7. BE A PATIENT SPONGE: Develop a likable reputation for being a patient sponge for information. Be curious! Make it a goal to gather ideas, connections, and insights (rather than jobs). Your networking WILL pay off, but in my case, it has taken a few years for some of my connections to show their value. Start small, and be willing to take the internship or support role that offers a learning opportunity.
8. FIND A COACH or MENTOR: The biggest recommendation is to find a coach or mentor who will champion you, send you resources, and support your journey. It takes a village. These connections may be wonderful work colleagues and partners down the road, as well.