Mediation i.e "negotiation facilitated by a neutral and trusted person" (according to the International Mediation Institute) is a career path which definitely offers high satisfaction rates. However before quitting your day job to become a professional mediator here are a few points to consider:
How important is financial stability?
Getting work is not always guaranteed. Mediation can be quite lucrative if you opt to train as a commercial mediator. There are several niches within professional mediation i.e workplace, community and commercial. Commercial mediation often centres on contractual disputes and this area is often dominated by lawyers as the disputes are about contractual terms in a professional relationship. On the other hand workplace mediation disputes are more relationship based, they focus on repairing a damaged professional relationship. Some mediators charge approximately £500-800 per mediation (for the whole day) or approximately £100 per hour however this depends on the client and size of the organisation. You may experience an influx of requests from clients in one month and have little to no work the next, so strong cashflow management is key as well as good old grit!
Do you enjoy working independently?
Mediation can be a lonely profession, new mediators often co-mediate i.e mediate with a more experienced peer to build their confidence at early stages in their career. However, once you earn your stripes it is very likely you will have to operate as a solo practitioner. One way to engage with other mediators is to join professional networking groups (shameless plug for Hive here) and attend industry events. Some mediators join professional panels post qualification, this is also a great way to get external recognition if you are new to mediation.
What else can you bring to the table?
During quiet periods, it is worth considering other commercial opportunities to generate revenue.Experienced mediators tend to pursue speaking engagements, this is a great idea as it can help open potential client opportunities in new areas. If you have under five years experience it might be worth considering training opportunities, get creative - offer your clients lunch time seminars on conflict resolution techniques or volunteer to deliver workshops at corporate away days. Mediators are often excellent communicators so their skills overlap quite easily into areas like coaching and counselling, which are all worthy avenues to consider. Some mediators tend to cross practice (qualify and mediate in more than one area) however consider this approach with caution as it is better to build a strong profile in one area of mediation than to market yourself as a 'one size fits all' practitioner.
Are you a Generalist or Specialist?
Consider your professional background prior to mediation, do you have experience in a specific sector or is your experience in a particular business function? Your response to this will help determine how best to navigate the market. For instance sector experience is great for leverage as you can begin building a steady portfolio of clients by rebranding yourself as an expert mediator to your existing network whereas functional expertise is somewhat limiting as you have to figure out a cross section of the market you can target with your services.
How commercial are you?
Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship, setting up a mediation business is not easy and it requires a huge level of commitment and passion to consistently achieve sales targets. In addition to this, the market is heavily saturated so you will face stiff competition. Also as there is no official regulatory body for mediation(or mediators) most arrangements can be done quite informally, so sometimes you may have to chase payments for services rendered independently or risk not getting paid for certain assignments. Some mediators overcome this by forming professional partnerships with similar minded individuals, however it is worth considering how comfortable you feel discussing money with clients and credit control. (If you are successful this is something you can delegate or outsource).
These are just a few factors to consider before investing in mediation as a career path. Don't forget you can also mediate internally with your current organisation if there is a positive resolution culture, a member of HR will be a good sounding board to speak to about this.
Mediation has its drawbacks just like any other business venture however a genuine passion and enthusiasm for resolving disputes among individuals will carry you far, as long as you have a strong business model and the resilience to persevere.