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There are those who are exceptional in their chosen careers; they have mastered their trades and achieved great success. Now what? The money’s come, the recognition’s come, but they still feel as though something’s missing. This is when the time’s right to consider joining or forming an online peer group, says A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder. “Giving back is one of the best ways to fill that void.”

What is a peer group?

Peer groups are nothing more than a group of people who share the same career goals and who have something to offer to those who are less experienced and are finding their own way. It’s where folks can go for support and feedback and are usually free to join. While there are those groups who meet face to face, the founder agrees that an online peer group allows you reach more people.

Where do I find web-based peer groups?

Many suggest beginning your search with Yahoo Groups or Craig’s List. A quick internet search should yield results, as well. Use broad keyword strings such as “engineering peer group”. This should return a significant number of possibilities.

What are some of the benefits of an online or face to face peer group?

There are many benefits, says A. Harrison Barnes, including brainstorming, advice members give and receive and even training. It’s also ideal for finding or becoming a mentor and the potential for networking is very enticing. Some even say they were nearing burnout until their peer groups provided a new energy.

What’s best – a large or small group?

That depends, really, on your preferences, says the founder. “Most people prefer a smaller group, it allows members to get to know others faster and lends towards a more focused and honest trade of information, ideas and solutions”, says Barnes.

I can’t find a group in my chosen career. What now?

You can form your own group. It’s as easy and choosing a host, such as CraigsList or Yahoo Groups, setting the parameters and then getting the message out there. Invite others in your chosen career to participate and spread the message via word of mouth or through your social networking sites.

As you can see, a peer group has unlimited potential. Not only that, but the possibilities are endless in terms of growing your group. If you’re all located in one region of the country, you could try to meet face to face once a year or the group could plan to attend different conferences in your sector. It’s all about keeping current with the trends, lending a helping hand to recent college grads or advising old hats who may have not remained as current with technology. The world’s much smaller these days and you’re only limited by your own constraints.

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