Squad Care: Putting Your Network Together

By Ana Clara Blesso posted 24 days ago


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Over the last several months, we have spent time discussing the concept of collective care, or “squad care.” Especially important in our field, this concept brings together the benefits of self-care—but encourages individuals to build strong networks for friendship, support, collaboration, and authentic conversation. The interactions I have had with members of my squad over the last year have proven vital to my professional development and personal well-being. (You can find out more by clicking here and here.) 

Especially during busy seasons, it can feel easier to do work alone; but when those moments emerge, I am reminded of one of my favorite sayings: “If you want to go fast, go alone—if you want to go far, go together.” However, just as it is important to have a squad, it is equally essential to be strategic with who is in your squad. Consider the following when building your group of colleagues for support and collaboration:

1.       The Mentor

It is my recommendation that (for new professionals in the field especially) mentors be a component of one’s professional squad. A strong mentor, in my opinion, knows when to challenge an individual appropriately and when to provide softer or kinder encouragement. This person should be someone you trust, respect professionally, and aspire to be like in some capacity. Seeing that another individual you feel a connection to has succeeded in the field can provide encouragement in and of itself. The NACE Mentor Program might be a great place to start building a mentoring relationship with an accomplished colleague. 
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Ana Clara Blesso and her mentee, Lisa Famularo

2.       The Person You Mentor

While it is great to gather knowledge from others, odds are you have great knowledge to share as well! Consider engaging with an individual who is just starting out in the field; this can be a graduate student studying career counseling and/or higher education at your college or university, an individual you are formally matched with through the NACE Mentor Program, or someone you get connected to through a friend or colleague. Allow yourself to be part of someone’s network and share your wisdom—you’ll feel great and build connections. 

3.       The Colleague Who Doesn’t Always Talk Work

Particularly during times of stress or in anxiety-provoking moments, it can be helpful to engage with a colleague who is great at distraction. Perhaps it is a quick break to discuss weekend plans or a colleague who you know will encourage you to take a real lunch break when you need it most. Let’s own it: these colleagues aren’t always helpful—because sometimes, distractions are, well, distracting. It is important to acknowledge, however, that we all need breaks—a colleague who doesn’t always talk about work-related projects and challenges can provide just that. Laughter, after all, is great medicine.  

4.       The Co-worker Who Just Gets It

A colleague who gets it is someone, in my opinion, who is collaborative, who understands your role and the challenges that come with it, and who you feel is on your side in the workplace. This might be someone you can brainstorm ideas with or be vulnerable around, someone who advocates on your behalf and you can seek for guidance on certain issues. I recommend that this individual also be someone you are comfortable making mistakes around and whose judgement you trust.  

5.       The Best Work Friend

Research tells us that individuals are generally more satisfied in their workplace and with their workgroup if they have a best friend at work. Having a best friend at work may help you feel a greater sense of belonging at an organization (I know it has for me!) and help you feel more connected to an organization and the work you are engaged in. A true work best friend to me is an individual you feel an allegiance to, someone who may get to know you a bit more deeply than the average coworker does, and may help you feel as though you have a voice amongst your professional peer group. 

At the end of the day, self-care is important and valid—but when you are struggling, needing encouragement, or seeking guidance, self-care may not be an option. This is where the concept of “squad-care” comes into play. So, look around—who is in your work squad?