Question posed: You seem to love being a Conflict Manager and I think I would too. Any suggestions for getting into the field?
Answer: Yes, I’ve been a full-time conflict manager for 25+ years and I still love the work. General advice I give anyone wanting to get into the field as a Conflict Manager is:
- Identify your niche by building on what you’ve already done. If you’re an insurance broker, look for work in that field. If you’re a nurse, look for work in that field. Assess where you have experience, knowledge and contacts.
- Network with Conflict Managers, who are continually convening conferences, luncheons and meetings to share learning.
- Write, give talks, make speeches, do training, become known as a name. Rather than handing out a business card, hand out a really useful article you’ve written that has your contact info on it. People remember you as someone who gave them something of value for free and from whom they learned something, rather than as someone who was asking for something from them.
- Be strategic in finding your niche and know what you bring to the table when you look for work. We offer a personal service and people have to know you before they will retain you. They have to know what value you offer and be comfortable with you personally.
- Timing is important. So is being helpful. Be helpful at the right time. Join the conflict management community and offer to organize something for them so that they get to know you. They won’t share work with you but if a potential client asks a well-known Conflict Manager if you are known, they can speak well of you rather than say you are unknown. Sometimes they get work they can’t handle. Then they think of who they can refer it to. You want your name to come to their minds.
- Think strategically about what you are good at, what experience you have had in life and what job you would like to evolve into. Then create that job. I did that for 25 years and never went hungry.
- You should know how to organize events, and then you are ideally positioned to make things happen. It’s rare that Conflict Management jobs are advertised. Most of my work came from being involved and organizing in the community, and from volunteer work, which led to paid work. You may already be volunteering; if so, you are in a good position to turn it into a career.
- Accept offers and mentor. I sent out a message telling my students about an upcoming conference, which had volunteer opportunities. Only one student accepted the offer and she met the leaders of our field. Consider putting in a proposal for a session and make yourself known as the ‘go to person’ in that field.
- Once you are a member of a conflict resolution professional organization, consider attending their small group sessions. It’s more personal than their annual conference that attracts 1800 people. It is expensive but if you ask for consideration, they waive all or part of the registration fee. They may have scholarships for the accommodation.
- Never stop learning. You’ll never know everything about conflict. In the thousands of conflict processes I’ve convened, I’ve never been bored, never felt I’d heard the same old stories before, never believed I was on auto pilot because I could do it in my sleep. I was intrigued and learned with each session. That’s probably one of the reasons I still love the job.
Best wishes for your success