Professionals from a variety of fields such as law, HR, construction and healthcare are consistently coming across mediation as an effective method of conflict resolution. Many have gained mediation qualifications themselves and set up part-time or full-time practices.
The lure of a career in mediation is obvious. CEDR figures reveal that mediators undertaking as few as 20-30 mediations can be expected to make £68,000 per year. It also allows flexibility for practitioners to achieve a better work/life balance.
However, as mediation does not have an official regulator, pathways into the profession can often be obscured. The lack of structured training such as training contracts and pupillages contributes to this issue. Aspiring mediators can be unsure about where to complete their training, where to gain experience and how to build a sustainable career.
To become a mediator, there are four steps you will have to complete:
Select an appropriate Training Course
The first step is to select a mediation training course. As mediation is currently an unregulated profession, there are many unapproved courses in the market. However, organisations such as the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) and International Mediation Institute (IMI) do act as unofficial regulators by setting quality standards for training and delivery. It is recommended to select a course approved by both these organisations as it guarantees a minimum quality standard.
Completing a CMC approved course allows you to register as a certified mediator on their panel once you have met their pre-requisite experiential requirements (further discussed below). Similarly, attending an IMI approved course allows you to register on their website as IMI “qualified”. You can later enhance this qualification to a certification after gaining the required experience. Regardless of the chosen course, you should ensure that the programme is taught by an experienced training team.
Complete your training
Once you have selected a course, you can go ahead and undertake your training. Most courses will be heavily geared towards practical learning through roleplays and workshops. You should take full advantage of these and hone your mediation style. Courses are usually assessed via practical and written assessments.
It is always a good idea to actively network during the training as your peers will often prove valuable contacts for gaining experience in the future. You should also invest in building relationships with your trainers who can act as your mentors in the field.
After completing training, you will have to gain some initial practice experience. The CMC requires three observations for you to be registered as a CMC certified mediator. Furthermore, you will need to demonstrate this experience in order to attract clientele.
First, you must set up your practice (you can skip this part for now, but it is recommended to start building your practice and portfolio simultaneously). This can be daunting, but it includes simple steps such as choosing a name and setting up a basic webpage. You can find out more about creating your practice in a detailed post here.
Once your practice has been set up, you can begin looking for initial mediation opportunities. This will be the hardest challenge in your journey towards becoming a mediator. Successful mediators remain focused and patient during this formative phase. In order to gain initial experience, you will need to rely on co-mediations, voluntary and community mediations and your existing network. You may join your local council and volunteer to conduct mediations for free.
For most mediators who specialize in the same field as their existing careers, looking towards established networks for early opportunities is a good way to start. You can ask your colleagues for referrals or look for mediations through organizations that employ or work with you.
In order to build experience, you may also register with organizations that provide a marketing platform. Registering as a mediator with the CMC will allow you access to contacts and opportunities through them. In order to register, you must observe or participate in three mediations. Other organizations may or may not have similar experiential requirements.
Find mentors within the mediation community, if you can, to help you grow and to find opportunities, but recognize that some may see you as competition.
Establish your practice
Once you have some mediations under your belt, you are ready to build upon this and grow your practice. This involves finding ways to establish yourself within your selected niche through further online and offline marketing.
The path to building a successful practice can be long and arduous. Most mediators spend years developing their profiles as part-time practitioners before transitioning to full-time. However, getting through initial hardships can lead to an extraordinarily rewarding career in what is the fastest growing method of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the UK and worldwide.