Providing ADR Services and Training for over twenty years has taught me a few things. A few too many maybe. When I started in this field there was not a listing in the phone book for mediators. Now, who even uses a phone book. A whole lot has changed and it has been a full-time job just keeping up with technology. What hasn’t changed is how little we seem to do to support new people entering the field of ADR.
I have terrifying memories of the stress I experienced conducting my first few mediations. Those of us who are trainers and assessors of negotiation and mediation students work to develop training that will instill confidence. Training that will provide a strong values-based foundation, layered on top with skills and techniques and a solid time-tested process to guide their work. It is what we do for them while they are with us in training. This article is meant to begin an inquiry about how to support them post-graduation.
Sometimes they leave training convinced they need a few thousand hours of practice before they can work with ‘real’ people; other times they leave full of bravado rather than confidence; in most cases they just leave. They leave and are left to fend for themselves trying to gain some invaluable experience without doing harm. It is pretty much the same way I entered this field twenty years ago. I have spent many years researching and enhancing the training experience and I am just now ready to focus on enhancing the post-graduate experience.
What ideas do you have? What thoughts have you had about how we can support new people in this field? If you are fairly new to the field, what has your experience of gaining a foothold been like? How many graduates from ADR training want to work full-time in this field? How many of you took the training to make yourself more valuable and marketable within another discipline?
We have to do more than create Standards and Designations for people who may never have a chance to conduct a mediation. Let’s create a strong, supportive, inclusive community of ADR Practitioners. A community that is welcoming to new practitioners. We may not be able to promise work in the field for all graduates, but perhaps we can create ways for them to keep refreshing their skills without them having to take out a loan. Let’s work together to establish some creative ways to make opportunities for real work to be available.
As I write this my mind keeps generating all the reasons it won’t work and what challenges we will face. My brain, like yours, is always making stuff up. I am going to work at having it make up ways to promote and improve the field. Are you interested in joining the “Strengthen the Field” Initiative?