TWH –A Young Professionals Network has just been launched under the auspices of Circle Sanctuary, but that name might be misleading because the services offered could benefit any Pagan with professional training or credentials.
The new group manifests the desire of Circle member Mandie Zopp to create opportunities for mentoring. “My passion is mentoring college-aged people and recent graduates,” she explained. In the years that she has been a Circle member, “A lot of millennials have come through, looking for professional guidance and mentorship,” but there has never been anything in place to facilitate those relationships until now.Zopp believes that providing this service may give young adults reason to be part of Circle Sanctuary. There are similar networking organizations associated with many major religious denominations, she noted, but she expects that religious commonalities will just be the starting point.
“This program will allow for individuals, who cannot talk about or are fearful about expressing their faith in a professional environment, insight as to how other Pagans have been able to succeed in the workplace while expressing their faith,” she said.
When she joined Circle Sanctuary in 2010, Zopp recalled, she didn’t find any cohesive mentoring system in place. While her focus is largely on coaching millennials professionally, it would be fine by her if the mentoring framework expanded to include more overtly Pagan guidance. Regardless, as a faith community it will be a “safe area to communicate” in the context of those beliefs, but there are general professional soft skills which are valuable outside the bounds of that community.
Exactly which soft skills will receive early focus is “not set in stone yet,” Zopp said, but the Facebook group provides a sense. Posts include information on interviewing, resume writing, networking, and managing. Each of the people selected as mentors may eventually be asked to offer a workshop, either online or at a Circle event, such as this year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering. Those might include past PSG offerings, such as navigating social situations for introverts.
Zopp herself intends on offering a workshop on “creating your own elevator speech” which “can be utilized for home life, work life, social life, and in your leadership roles.” She will also offer one that focuses on various personality types as colors, which will include guidance on how people of one color can best interact with other colors.
While membership in the Facebook group is thus far the only way Zopp can gauge interest in the YPN, she is adamant that the network will not be defined by its social media presence.
“It will be a multi-platform approach,” she said, emphasizing one-on-one mentoring relationships. The Facebook group will allow people to ask more general questions and receive responses, but matching proteges with mentors is where the most important guidance can come about.
For now, mentors in the YPN are simply being asked to be a presence and resource. Each of the eight mentors has had experience leading and teaching: they are ministers, high-level managers, or leaders in other capacities with experience mentoring others. That guidance can include helping people develop social skills one on one or with resume refinement, for example.
Despite the “young” in the name, Zopp was clear that the YPN is open to anyone who needs it.
If interest runs high enough, Zopp imagines that chapters might eventually form in different parts of the country to capitalize on that kind of face-to-face contact. Nevertheless, she intends on making sure there are ways to connect and grow solely online, as well.
Although the focus of YPN is connecting more seasoned professionals ideally to those with less experience in the same field, the nascent group reflects the more subtle ways in which infrastructure is being developed in some Pagan and polytheist communities.
In addition to YPN for fostering professional skills, other advances include a Pagan college scholarship, and an umbrella Pagan student organization to preserve institutional memory for the students passing through those halls. Academics now submit papers to journals such as the Pomegranate and Walking the Worlds, and vendors — arguably the most visible members of the community — may now avail themselves of a de facto chamber of commerce in the form of the Pagan Business Network.
Where there was once resistance to Pagans even going so far as owning land for sacred purpose, now there are a growing number of support systems available to polytheists, Witches, Heathens, and others who dwell under or near the Pagan umbrella. The Young Professionals Network is in one sense an innovation, but in another it’s a piece of that larger puzzle which has until now been defined by its absence.