Hello! We are Chelsea BaileyShea, owner and principal evaluator at Compass Evaluation + Consulting LLC, located in Rochester, NY and Corey Smith, independent evaluator, located in Detroit, MI. We are writing about the importance of setting up networks of support, local or otherwise, when you are working as an independent consultant.
We met while working on a project together, and over the course of a few months recognized that we found mutual value in our discussions both about our shared project, and our professional goals and ambitions. This prompted us to start scheduling dedicated time each month to talk about evaluation, being an independent consultant, building our networks, and how we could support one another. Sometimes as an independent consultant, it is easy to feel isolated without traditional colleagues or a dedicated workplace. That means not only do you have to make your own coffee, but you have to find creative ways to create that sense of community.
We want to share some ways we’ve been able to do that. All of this depends on first finding people you are interested in learning from, and collaborating with, in a professional context. Some ways to find people could include joining AEA’s Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group, attending events sponsored by your regional AEA affiliate, and approaching or networking with people you are already connected with on current or previous projects.
Hot Tip: Seeing people is useful to developing relationships! Explore video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Skype for your meetings, if you are not local. We have also used Slack as a way to communicate in between scheduled meetings. Slack is free and easy to use, and a nice alternative to traditional texting. You can set up what they refer to as “channels,” to focus your discussion threads and keep track of resources you share. Through Slack, you are able to upload and share documents easily (Google docs/sheets, articles, links, etc.).
Hot Tip: Set short and long term professional goals to help keep yourselves accountable, focused on the goals of your meetings, and to allow you to maximize your collaboration time. We have found that this time has allowed us to talk through ideas, and is useful for trying to clarify the vision each of us has for ourselves.
Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.