FIT Choosing a Guide: A Primer

Choosing a Guide:
Choosing a guide for your FIT training involves two important parameters: the characteristics you would like in a guide and ACH faculty who are available to act as a guide. Rarely does one potential guide embody every attribute you would want, but he or she will try to address your learning needs as fully as possible, bringing in other resources and people as needed.

How you ultimately choose your guide depends on how you make decisions and form relationships: there can be an elaborate dance with prospective partners that, for better or worse, can feel like dating. The stakes may feel high, especially because many FITs view their FIT-guide relationship to be one of the most important in their professional development. But remember, many different pairs of people have achieved this goal and possibly the most important characteristic of a successful FIT-guide relationship is each person’s willingness to be with and learn from each other.

That being said, there are several factors to consider in choosing a guide.

1) The field:
a. Like dating, usually if someone is already in a FIT-guide relationship, they will likely not be available. But – also like dating – some guides have in the past been willing to mentor two FITs at the same time. You should depend on the FIT co-directors and the immediate past FIT co-directors as good resources for knowledge of individual recent FIT-guide relationships. In fact, upon acceptance to the program, the FIT co-directors are your intermediary guide surrogates, whose primary responsibilities to you are to determine the availability of faculty as guides and to clarify your needs in a guide (see next section). It is the FIT co-directors’ responsibility to initiate a conversation with you about finding a guide.

b. We intermittently poll the faculty to determine their availability as a guide. However, despite having compiled a list, significant changes occur rapidly. Careers and real-life projects change very quickly for ACH faculty, and these challenges may effect their availability. We recommend that you identify your underlying needs (below), and discuss them with the FIT program co-directors, who then will help identify potential guides for you to approach.

c. Don't eliminate or select a potential guide based on the recommendation of only one person. After you generate a list of names, feel free to show it to different ACH people (faculty, FITs, members) – this way you can elicit different opinions about the same people. Consulting people outside of ACH who also know your prospective guides can also be helpful.

2) The initial connection:
a. Have you met an ACH faculty person with whom you connected and/or have a nascent relationship that might be enhanced? This is probably the most likely determinant of a successful FIT-guide match. The best places to meet faculty are at the ACH winter Course, since in that context you will participate in personal awareness groups with other faculty and FITs. Summer Courses and the ACH forum are also reasonable contexts in which to develop impressions of potential guides.

b. Have faculty or other FITs recommended that you find out more about someone (aka the "matchmaking” paradigm)? Sometimes this can yield a good match, particularly with impartial or trustworthy sources. Sometimes, as with matchmaking, the suggestion is more about the matchmaker’s personality and perceptions of individuals.

3) Your underlying needs:
a. What are your unique/specific goals and learning edges, and have you met someone with similar expertise or interest? This requires that you identify these clearly, and assumes that your career path and learning edges don’t change over time. It is more common than not for individuals to change their learning goals, so these may be dangerous assumptions.

b. How does concordance/discordance in age or gender or any other point of diversity factor into your ability to develop professionally? Some may view gender discordance as an important learning edge to investigate issues such as power differences in a safe environment. Others may find that too threatening.

c. Is it important to you that your guide be available to work with you at winter and/or summer courses? If so, make sure you ask that question in interviewing faculty.

4) Logistics:
a. Geography: Would you like a guide who is part of and knows your home setting intimately, or would it be better if s/he were removed from that setting? How important is it to be in the same geographic locale, and to work together face to face?

b. Do you want someone in the same time zone?

c. How willing are you to work by phone or e-mail?

d. How willing/able is each person to travel to the other’s location for meetings and/or co-facilitation possibilities?

e. Can your prospective guide commit to monthly calls/meetings? That is the expected frequency of contact although it may vary slightly.

f. Time pressure: in your acceptance letter to the FIT program, you should have been given a time frame in which to find a guide. Usually this is a generous amount of time, on the order of six months, and typically covering a Winter course so that you can develop connections with ACH faculty and view them as potential guide candidates.

5) A word about fear of rejection:
ACH faculty are typically an overextended group. It is all too easy to interpret a faculty’s demurral to be your guide as a value judgment on you. Try not to interpret it that way. Management of disappointment and reframing it away from your personal issue may be an important faculty-development topic.