Your friends and colleagues are not enough. Five reasons you need a career crew.
Updated: May 1
A crew. A group. A posse. A tribe. A moai. It’s a concept that dates back eons. We humans are a social bunch, and our existence has largely centered around small units of closely bonded people. Today we have our friend circles, our families, and maybe other groups like sports teams, colleagues, clubs, or Covid bubbles. We turn to these groups to celebrate life’s highs and to support us through life’s lows. But there’s one group that many of us don’t know we are missing: a career crew.
A career crew is a group of professional contemporaries in similar career stages. It’s a big enough group to bring diversity of thought and to expand your network, but small enough to form strong relationships (we think six to eight is the right number). Importantly, it’s not your colleagues and it’s not your close friends.
It’s not your colleagues because they’re too close to your work, and therefore you often cannot discuss topics like career aspirations, salary, or promotions. They also tend to lack the diversity of background, sector, role, and experience that will inspire your thinking and expose you to new learning. It’s not your friends or family because, while motivated to help, they don’t fully understand your work, your field, or your goals. They also sometimes have strong opinions about who you are and what you ought to do, which means they might not give you the best advice for you. To be clear, we love colleagues, friends, and family. They’re incredibly helpful and supportive in many ways. But you also need a career crew. A group of impartial people who will help you reflect, process, and grow.
Here are five reasons for why everyone needs a career crew:
1. To inspire new thinking
To grow, we need new exposures, new skills, new learning. This is especially important when it comes to career design. We need new and varied inputs to spark ideas and give us examples of what else is out there. A career crew does this by connecting us with people who approach work differently. This could be different goals, different values, different strategies, or simply different sectors and roles. All of this is hard to find in our day-to-day, and stretches our awareness of what’s possible and desirable. Career crews exist outside our normal circles, and inspire opportunities to grow.
2. For support and motivation
If you’ve ever played a team sport or been part of a band or other creative group, you’ll get this one right away. Crews bring energy, camaraderie, the push you need to go for something, and that comforting feeling that you’re not alone. In careers, this plays out in the highs (celebrating getting a promotion with a group who really gets just how hard that was), the lows (chatting through an interview that went terribly with people who’ve walked in your shoes and can empathize), and the in-betweens. Crews also help normalize and diffuse our emotions. They remind us that certain feelings are normal (for example, that change is hard), and help us step out of our immediate discomfort and see the bigger picture.
3. For accountability
It’s one thing to say you’re going to send the email, have the conversation, or apply for the job. It’s quite another to have a group of people who will know if you did it. And equally, who will congratulate you once you have. Crews help you commit and take action. They also ensure you’re carving out space for essential reflection. Setting regular meetings with your crew means you have dedicated time for talking about the important things (plus a great group to help you process).
4. To grow your network
Networks are essential to career growth. The great thing about networks is that with a little effort, they grow exponentially. A career crew gives you an immediate network of professionals outside your normal spheres, and with them come their networks. And, because you’re quite tight with your crew, these are the kinds of networks you can access relatively easily (your crew will be happy to make an intro).
5. They make for great practice buddies
Just like learning any new skill, career designing takes practice and benefits from feedback. Self-reflection exercises, like determining your personal values, or understanding your unique strengths, are improved by discussion with others. Tactical career activities such as resume crafting, networking emails, and elevator pitches benefit from feedback and revision. Here’s where a career crew really shines. They know you, your background, and your aspirations, and can give you the professional and personal feedback you need to improve your chances at a promotion, board seat, new job, or other growth opportunity. Career crews are generous and reciprocal in nature, meaning everyone contributes and you can count on each other for help when needed.
There’s a sixth bonus reason for needing a career crew that stems from the past year of living through a pandemic: meaningful human connections. As lockdown and working from home have shrunk our social and professional circles, and video calls squeeze out time for life chats, many people are craving the intimacy and depth of our pre-covid relationships. Research shows that gathering these days is best done with a purpose. Career crews connect people in meaningful ways around a shared purpose, and here at Crew we’re seeing them bring conversation, connection, and friendship in a year that could use a lot more of all three.