One of the things I’ve read that has been the most beneficial to me as a sex educator has been Bill Taverner’s article “Tips for Emerging Sexology Professionals: Networking and Nurturing.” While this article about the importance of networking and nurturing among sexology professionals is from 2006, I still think it’s extremely relevant.
Lots of my friends have been discussing New Year’s Resolutions, and I am aiming to put more effort into sex education. I’m still somewhat new to the field, and it can be extremely difficult to make a living doing this (no one gets into this for the money), as can breaking into the sex education field at all.
There are definitely some amazing and supportive individuals in this field (I count everyone that writes for My Sex Professor among them), but I’ve also encountered some less than helpful individuals. At one of the first workshops that I presented at a professional conference, I dealt with a woman who tore me down because I didn’t have a PhD. I still feel a little sad when I remember how she spoke to me, telling me that I was likely not experienced or knowledgeable enough to be speaking. While I absolutely had a way to go (and still do), that was not the support I was hoping for.
I think it is so vital to support other sexology professionals – even if it’s as simple as a quick email thanking someone for an article or blog post, or a bit more complex like asking to be mentored or offering to mentor. If you are a sexology professional and have the skills and ability to mentor someone else in any capacity, even for a brief while, I highly encourage you to do so.
When I’ve been able to work with others, I’ve learned so much from them and have expanded my own understanding. Even attending workshops on topics outside my areas of interest has been helpful – I’ve learned new techniques for presenting, new ways of working with people, and even found new interests! Similarly, talking with people whose ideas I may not necessarily agree with has been helpful; sometimes my views may change a little and it’s also good for me to better understand where other individuals are coming from.
Getting feedback may be one of the points that Bill makes that is most difficult for me. After a workshop a year ago, someone approached me and we began talking. After a few minutes, he said, “would you like to hear some feedback?” and I could tell in the way it was said that there may be some criticism coming at me. I did appreciate that he didn’t just walk up to me and toss some criticism my way, and I absolutely welcomed it, even though I cringed a little. He made some great points, and I have his feedback to thank for hopefully improving my work.
If you have a chance to give feedback, please do! It may be the only way that the person you’re giving feedback to will know that they could improve on something, or also that they are doing an amazing job (and no matter how great you are at anything, I think it’s always good to hear that you’re doing it well). If you are not comfortable telling the person presenting what you thought and there isn’t a feedback form, you can usually approach someone in charge and talk with them.
If you got through my babbling (and I do highly encourage you to read Bill’s article, even if you don’t consider yourself a sexology professional – you likely have something to add to the field even if all you have is a passing interest in sexology), please nurture or network your favorite sexologist. If you need some nurturing, ask for it! I was able to recently network at a conference, and from the business cards I traded, I’m planning to ask for some help from those I admire. If you do find yourself reaching out to network or request some mentoring, and you get turned down (sometimes people are busy), don’t be discouraged. Stay passionate and interested – this is an amazing and dynamic field to be involved in.
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