On April 24th, MC3 Vice President Jason Harper participated in a panel discussion entitled: “So You Want to Be a Mediator, Now What?” This program was focused on helping new mediators develop their career path in the alternate dispute resolution field. Jason used what he called the “Road Map Approach,” a process where you determine the path that will take you where you want to go and then take a methodical approach along that path.
Years ago, Jason volunteered to work in a Peer Mediation setting with K-12-aged students, as he helped to create and brand a non-profit organization, “Kids Managing Conflict”. After his first training with KMC, he realized that this was his calling. And he further suggested to the attendees of the SCMA panel that volunteering early in your career was invaluable, particularly in terms of the opportunity it provides for learning about oneself.
Jason spoke about some additional steps that all aspiring mediators should consider, including:
- Education: Jason earned a Masters in Dispute Resolution from Cal State Dominguez Hills; If you truly believe that work in mediation is for you, you owe it to yourself to learn all that you can about the field;
- Volunteering: There are numerous opportunities for new/aspiring mediators to volunteer.
- Every opportunity for work: Wherever it may take place, and certainly in a volunteer setting, allows new mediators to improve their abilities, add to the breadth and depth of their experience and build their confidence; and
- Joining professional associations: Meeting others who do this work allows new mediators to learn, to ask questions, to understand opportunities and to be better able to chart their career path.
Participating with various professional mediation associations enables people to build their own mediation community. It provides an opportunity for mediators to discover and introduce themselves to others with similar interests. Jason also shared an observation that mediation can be a lonely profession, particularly when one is beginning their mediation career, so professional development groups can be a really helpful space.
Informal meetings or strategy groups where you can be with other professionals, either in person, or virtually on Zoom, allows for new mediators to exchange ideas and discuss how to implement new skills and techniques; Professional associations encourage attendance at annual conferences and an ability to expand your mind while you learn new skills. They can also provide you with the tools you will need to manage your own business, to develop necessary entrepreneurial skills such as website development, and also give you some knowledge about how to market your business and learn about online dispute resolution (ODR), something that will likely be a part of mediation practices well into our futures.
In general, Jason spoke about the importance of attaching your professional aspirations to something larger than yourself. In Los Angeles, he recommends Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA). SCMA was an organization that Jason joined when he was entering the field. He volunteered within SCMA where he could, found it enormously valuable and, eventually, his association with SCMA led to his serving as the President in 2017.
Additionally, Jason added that, by becoming a MC3-Certified Mediator, aspiring mediators will be helping to take their mediation practice to the next level. Jason was one of the founders of MC3, a growing initiative, with Certified Mediators now in 4 different States, designed to assist in professionalizing and elevating the field. Since its launch in late 2019, MC3 has worked to establish a ‘gold standard’ for mediation practice. As greater numbers of mediators receive their MC3 certification, it will follow that the respect for our work performed at the highest level will only continue to gain wider acceptance and adoption.