Professional groups are great resources for networking, problem-solving, and more. I love the Editors Association of Earth and the related subgroups. The ability to ask literally thousands of editors how they would fix a sentence or respond to an author is mind-blowing, frankly, if you think how isolated editors’ work was just a couple of decades ago.
But as great as large professional groups are, they don’t fill every need. Belonging to a smaller, private group of professionals has benefits, as well.
I know what you’re thinking: Why do I need to engage with even more people? Isn’t the professional group enough? What can yet another group do for me that this one can’t?
The beauty of a small, private group is in the trust you build and in the close relationships you develop. It’s in having a group of people who know your story already—and whose stories you already know—so that you can have deeper conversations and get more personalized answers.
Small Ponds, Deep Waters
Let’s say you’re going through something traumatic, such as a divorce or a serious illness. It affects your whole life, work included. You might need advice on how to handle sensitive situations but not want to discuss it publicly: “How do I remove my soon-to-be-ex from my business accounts without starting a fight?”
Your small group, filled with people you trust, can help you. And because they know your backstory, they can provide more specific advice: “Remember how you got your soon-to-be-ex to talk about divorce proceedings? That seemed like a good approach. Try that.”
A small group is also a safe place to vent. Everyone gets annoyed, even with other editors (tough to imagine for such a welcoming group, I know). Yet we don’t want to vent publicly; it can hurt the other party and damage our reputation. Venting within a group of trusted colleagues can help you release your emotions without damaging relationships.
Closed to Build Trust
The key to a small groups is trust. It must be a closed community. The stability of membership is part of what builds that trust. You get to know these people well and they’ve proven themselves trustworthy over time. No one has blabbed secrets, and disagreements are handled respectfully of one another.
That’s not to say membership will never change. But it should be rare. When a member leaves, the remaining members should feel their privacy is still safe. When a new member joins, everyone should feel they can trust that person and work together to make them part of the group.
My own group, The Quad, is officially a mastermind group. Part of our reason for being is to help each other in our respective editing businesses. We have an annual retreat and a monthly call for goal check-in. But we also talk every day. These women know my backstory and I know theirs because we share daily. We were friends first, which helps. It brought a baseline of trust to the group.
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Creating Your Own Small Group
You don’t need to have business goals and a mastermind group, though, to have a professional support group. You might simply be colleagues who get on well and have a similar outlook on life. The key is to trust each other and to maintain that trust.
You might meet your band of editors at a conference, the way The Quad did. You might meet in a training course. When I was teaching editing, I watched more than one group of students bond and go on to have private groups to continue to help each other. Or you might find you’re often having good conversations with a few editors in one of the larger networking groups and decide to get to know them better.
How to Organize Yourselves
Regular communication is key to your private group’s success, just as it is with larger groups. Communication should be easy and quick to fall in line with today’s expectations. You can create a private Facebook group. A Messenger or text chat. A Slack channel. Whatever works for everyone. The Quad uses Messenger and a private Facebook group. Messenger serves as our main chat vehicle; the Facebook group is a home for longer conversations and files.
You might be lucky enough to live near each other and be able to meet in person. Granted, the current pandemic makes that difficult. But maybe you can plan a time when your area opens up a bit. Whether it’s a formal gathering or just tea among friends, seeing each other in real life will make your bond even stronger.
Broad Reach, Deep Relationships
Editors have never been more connected than we are now. Networking groups and professional organizations put us in touch with editors from around the world. And it turns out, we are a pretty compassionate bunch. Taking the time to get to know a few editors better, being willing to help them and let them help you, can make being an editor even more rewarding than it already is.
A version of this article originally published on August 3, 2020, on Copyediting.com.