This semester, I launched a new program at Yale: group career coaching.
What is Group Coaching?
Group coaching is a magical process whereby a small set of peers who share a common goal meet under the guidance of a facilitator/coach to learn new information and share their experience on topics of interest to the group as a way of advancing their goals.
Why is Group Coaching Helpful for Musicians?
I decided to create the groups in order to provide a positive, supportive and safe environment in which musicians can share successes and challenges with like-minded peers in a judgment-free environment that promotes learning through self-reflection and joint problem solving. A corollary benefit is to create a community and foster new connections.
We currently have 3 groups with an average size of 10 per group. The common tie is a desire to create a rewarding and sustainable career in the arts.
Students joined the groups in order to get support as they forge ahead with their career planning for a variety of reasons:
- To gain inspiration from other people, explore new ideas and brainstorm about new directions for one’s career.
- To discover and commit to motivating goals and plan for the future.
- To connect with potential collaborators.
- To get a reality check and obtain practical career advice.
- To translate ideas into action and have accountability partners.
The Dynamic of Our Groups
The groups are designed to be a “judgment-free” zone: We listen carefully to each other without judging either the other person or ourselves so that we can be open and honest with each other. Everything that is said in the group is kept confidential and this fosters a feeling of trust among our members.
I also encourage students to challenge the common assumptions (one’s own or someone else’s) about creating a career in classical music, including:
- I’m not good enough.
- You have to choose one area to focus on in order to be successful.
- Maybe someday I’ll make it but I’m not ready now.
- Only older more experienced people can help you get ahead.
I encourage students to question the truth of these and other assumptions so that they can discover their own truth.
Group Coaching on Musician Career Goals
The students have a healthy mix of career goals, ranging from the more traditional paths like orchestra, chamber music and university teaching to forging a unique identity as composers to collaborating with other musicians and artists and create something “new” (as of yet to be defined!).
A number of students were not sure about their goals and were looking to the group to explore new ideas, as well as gain support for more unusual career paths. One student exclaimed that she wanted to be the “leader of her life” and to combine three of her passions into one career.
Despite the variety in the specific goals, the students share a commitment to finding a rewarding and financially viable career (with a range of life style options) and a desire to find fulfillment and meaning in their lives.
Each week, the group selects a topic. In our first meetings, the topic was career goals. What fascinated me was how different each discussion was!
Exploring SMART Goals
Our first group immediately jumped into how to break down big goals into manageable action steps and we used the SMART goal process. Students found the process to be enormously helpful as a way of reducing the “overwhelm’ that often accompanies big ideas. It also creates momentum and fosters hope because if you take an action, things may work out!
Creating the “New”
The second group had a preponderance of members who were eager to create something new and to collaborate with other artists in the process. Their primary concern was how to set meaningful goals and our discussion focused on the importance of connecting your values and passion to your goals so that you are doing something that you want to do, not that you feel you should do. One student remarked on how validating it was to see how many people rated “new creations” as a top career choice. Another student observed that he was “extremely happy to see so many great musicians with the similar mindset.” Moreover, they were excited to talk to other creative people as a way of stimulating your thinking and planting the seeds for future projects.
And the third group was full of seekers who are not sure about their goals and are open to different inputs from their peers about what direction to take their careers. This conversation focused on looking inside yourself for the answers, which can be scary but is highly effective in connecting you to your values and to what makes you happy. They also felt that hearing ideas and sharing experiences is very inspiring.
The Power of Group Support
The immediate reaction after we shared goals was that people felt most reassured that they were not alone in not knowing. In the words of one student:
“Everyone is on the same page as I am. I should not be afraid to figure out what I want and to do what I want despite those assumptions!”
Another student observed that his “anxieties are not unfounded and now I feel that they are uncertainties, not anxieties.”
As we left our meeting one student concluded:
“This is a wonderful community. It feels like a family dinner and not school and it’s nice to have this at school.”
I am as excited as the students are about these groups! Watch for future posts as the process unfolds and the journey continues
© Astrid Baumgardner 2014