Fear not, young arts grad: Mediation could be the career answer for you
First published in jobpostings magazine
careers. education. ideas. all of it.
What in the heck is mediation, anyhow?
So, you have a bachelor of arts, and sometimes, you wonder why you didn’t study business or engineering—your friends in those faculties had secured jobs months before graduation. By now, you’re sick and tired of being asked if you are going to law school or teachers college, but those options are starting to seem more appealing, as the task of figuring out what you want to do is more daunting than ever.
But fear not, young arts grad: Mediation could be the career answer for you.
So, what exactly is mediation, anyways? It’s “a process of intervention in a dispute or negotiation by an impartial third party who has no decision making power,” writes ADR Canada, a non-profit organization promoting dispute resolution services. A mediator is neutral, and helps disputants settle disagreements by assisting them to find their own solution, one that’s acceptable to both parties.
Mediation is not therapy, nor is it legal advice; it’s a process that eliminates the misunderstandings that create conflicts. There’s a common misconception that mediators must be lawyers—this isn’t true. Mediators come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and according to Slaw, Canada’s online legal magazine, less than half have legal backgrounds. Virginia Harwood, program coordinator for Durham College’s mediation-ADR program, estimates 50 per cent of students enrolled in her program applied with a general B.A., though some had legal specializations.
Your arts degree has given you communication, problem solving and analytical skills, now all you need to do is to translate your proficiencies into a career. If you’re creative, patient and enjoy listening to people’s problems, becoming a mediator is a viable option. Even better: Job satisfaction is high, as you’re directly facilitating change, and, according to Who’s Who Legal, the job market is expected to experience growth in the coming years.
Litigation is, like, so passé
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser–in fees, expenses and waste of time.”
Abraham Lincoln’s advice from over a century ago is becoming progressively more relevant today. The popularity of mediation is rising, says ADR Canada, as individuals and businesses are increasingly interested in avoiding delays, publicity, and high costs of going to court, along with ensuring confidentiality and preserving existing relationships.
Mary Damianakis, a mediator who’s been practicing since the 1980s, says “There was a study that showed that approximately 80% of family disputes are being settled in mediation and only 20% are using the court system. So I think that’s a phenomenal change.” She believes community mediation also going to grow across Canada, and there will be a new demand for community mediators. Susan Baker, manager of the certificate program in Conflict Management at Conrad Grebel University College adds that “elder mediation is sort of currently gaining momentum”.
Training in mediation will provide you with communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, and people skills, along with the ability to think strategically. The general skills these courses provide should be accompanied by volunteering at organizations like Family Mediation Canada, or interning to gain hands-on experience.