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TTN Telephone Peer Groups for National Members - Coming in September 2016
May 16, 2016Getting Started:
“Ready to launch our first telephone-based peer group, to link members outside our chapter cities?”: Member Opportunities in New York City. Those were the words that called out to me when I read them in the April 2007 TTN Newsletter. As a NYC-based career coach and new member of TTN, I was looking for an opportunity to become involved with the organization. While TTN has members in almost 20 states, many of them are out of range of local chapters. This opportunity allowed me to make a contribution to TTN, to utilize my career counseling and coaching background in a different way, and to become involved with the launch of an exciting and new pilot program for TTN.
An e-mail letter was sent out to TTN members throughout the country, to invite their participation in this special peer group program. This initial letter described the group(s) “as a way for our members across the country to get to know each other real-time and share their transition experiences, through a member-only telephone-based peer group”. Group members would call into a central phone number and use a pre-assigned pin number. Each group would include up to eight to ten TTN members from different parts of the country. The groups would “meet” once a month, at a pre-arranged date and time, for approximately ninety minutes. As the letter stated: “Peer groups have become the heart and soul of TTN for many members living in our chapter cities. As one devoted peer group member said “it’s like having eight sisters!”
I serve as facilitator of the first “telephone-based peer group”. This group has been meeting, on a monthly basis, since September 2007. We have a core group of women from the east coast to the west coast; age range from 50’s to 60’s; semi-retired, fully-retired or about to retire; and from a variety of professions. All the women are dealing with a number of issues and concerns relating to transitioning into retirement. I create a pre-arranged agenda, for each of our “virtual meetings”, which provides a flexible structure for the meetings.
The first meeting began with my introduction and overview of our peer group, introductions by me and each member of the group. Although we have never met face-to-face, within a relatively short time the group has bonded over the phone and they truly look forward to each upcoming meeting.
As varied as the women and their backgrounds are, there are several common themes and issues. These include: dealing with the transition of retirement; redefining oneself; developing and building new relationships and friendships; developing a sense of community; and facing the realization that we may need to force ourselves to try new things, new activities and to make new connections. It is a positive and supportive atmosphere, where the group shares practical information, resources (books, organizations, etc.) and feelings. While the focus is transition-oriented, we discuss the issues and concerns involved in developing a new identity, at this new phase of life. Taking a fresh look at oneself and one’s talent, and how one answers the question: “what do you do?!”, is an ongoing concern. Since so many people are defined by their profession, without work many people go through an “identity crisis”, and the question for some becomes not just what you do but who you are.
Over these past months, we have continued to discuss these transition-oriented issues, and to get to know each other better. The women are able to learn from each other’s experiences and situations, and really do listen to each other. Comments during our calls have included: “You realize that so many others are going through the same thing.” “One of the beauties of this group is that it is anonymous and you can speak more freely.” “It is easy to develop relationships quickly on the phone.” On the topic of friendships, an interesting observation was made that “as adults it is hard to make friends. There are three kinds of friends: friends for a reason (situational), friends for a season and friends for a lifetime”.
The TTN Virtual Telephone-Based Peer Group continues to be a wonderful work-in-progress, for both me and the group members. It is a support system for women moving into, or in, the retirement phase of their lives. They all want “a place to bring my thoughts and ideas, and where I know I am not alone.” That is provided by the group.
Leslie B. Prager, M.A., C.M.P, career counselor and TTN Telephone-Based Peer Group Facilitator, is the senior partner of The Prager-Bernstein Group, which she founded in 1991. Her NYC-based career management firm provides a range of career counseling, executive coaching, pre-retirement counseling and executive coaching services to both individuals and corporations. She can be reached at (212) 697-0645 or Leslie-PBG@msn.com.