Last week I was reminded of the importance of just sitting down and talking with another person for the sake of honest, open discussion and networking. I sit on a national committee with staff from all over the country, from Hawaii to Vermont. We come together once a year face to face and while we have two full days of business to tend to, we also take intentional time to go out to dinner and talk without an agenda. It's not an option - it's essential.
Dinner time is as important as the business. It is an opportunity to finish some business items, but the atmosphere provides a time to get to know each other, dialog about system-wide topics, and create a bond that helps us to work stronger and more efficiently. Plus there is laughter and joking!
Collegiality is vital in the youth work profession. It's easy to isolate ourselves and forget the benefits of networking with other youth development professionals. Building relationships for a support system helps us grow personally and professionally. In their article in the Journal of Extension, Fortune and Forstadt (2016) recommended that employees that felt a ‘siloing’ to balance our personal sustainability by building relationships and connections to programs and the community. The article has many practical tips for youth workers to create and foster collegiality and connections.
This fall, a new colleague requested to meet for breakfast as part of his onboarding. We met for breakfast and began to conquer the list of questions the onboarding procedures outlined. Those were good, but it was the side conversations that we had that made me think that this “coffee time” with colleagues is slowly dying. We began to form an understanding of our work together, the region that we both serve, and how we can support each other and grow our programs.
Our society is so fast paced and we bring that into our youth work. Scheduling time to meet with colleagues will take some effort and purpose, but should become a normal part of our work week. It is also important to schedule time to just sit down with partners or potential stakeholders, to get to know one another and learn how we can best support each other. Develop your work so you can be part of a state or national association or committee. While the effort must be concerted so that you can balance the work, the benefits of working across lines of territory or professions will only add to your capacity as a youth worker.
How can you grow your personal sustainability in the New Year? Who do you need to connect with or reconnect with?
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