(I also seem to have started a minor meme. Go me!)
Today, we answer apprentice-related questions. cathgrace, isenglass, and not_justagirl's questions work well together for a single post on the subject. I think one of the things we peers hesitate to do (especially Laurels) is lay out what the process is for becoming a peer - we all know about the "doing it because you love it", but there are other things to deal with that might be easier to handle if people knew that most candidates experience them, and they're not alone.
But first - isenglassasked: Do you choose the apprentice, or do they choose you?
Some peers will happily dive on whomever they think they like and ask them to become apprenticed, and some peers wait to be asked. I'm shy, and never certain whether someone really wants to be an apprentice or not, so I spend several months feeling out the person, getting to know what they're keen on, and where they want to go, and generally dropping hints. I hate putting people on the spot, so it takes a while for me to actually ask (and I've lost out on getting some apprentices that way). I can't answer for other people, but I really like to be asked - and even if I can't fit that person in, or I think we'd work better in a more casual relationship, I am always available for questions. My apprentices get to glom onto me and can rely on me for more support (they also have to work harder), but anyone can ask me stuff, and I'll try and make time for them.
I've always been of the opinion that there's no bad question - I really will answer, honestly, questions about the peerage process, and won't fob someone off with flowery words when they want a cold hard breakdown of what's needed to get where they want to go. I think people work better when they know what they have ahead of them, so think of me as the Official Gamer's Guide to Laurel: The Reckoning (now with cheat codes!).
But, I prefer someone who wants to apprentice to come and find me - I feel awfully presumptious walking up to someone and saying "You! You should be with me! I will teach you stuff!", because it feels like I'm assuming they'd be grateful for my help. I know it's not easy to ask (no-one likes to hear "no", no matter how nicely put), but I can't read minds, so I don't know who wants what until they tell me.
not_justagirl asked: If you could ask anyone thinking about becoming an apprentice some questions, what would they be, and what would you hope to learn from those questions?
There's only one question for me, once I'm sure that I like the person enough to have them in my life regularly, and that's "What do you want from this relationship?". All other questions stem from that first, all-important, one. And I can tell if people are telling me what they think I want to hear, as opposed to being honest. Really, "I want to be a Laurel" is not automatically a bad answer, but we will then need to explore what you mean by that, and whether your expectations are realistic. Being an apprentice is not an automatic ticket to peerage, and it can be quite hard work. I would suggest that anyone who wants to be an apprentice get to know the person they are asking to be their peer for a while before asking, because you could be with that person for a few years.
And finally, we get to the things that happen when you are an up-and-comer, but have no peer to turn to to answer those burning questions that come right when you're convinced that Laurel will never come. cathgraceasks: What positive/negative attributes do you see up and coming non-peers dealing with?
Funnily enough, isenglassand I talked about this when I visited her Laurel vigil. People who are close to, but not quite at, peerage recognition occasionally seem to implode right at the last minute, and I think this is a result of the phenomenon isenglassdubbed "radio silence" (a very good description). Peers, unwilling to tip their hand, will often stop talking to a candidate who is almost ready, except to say somewhat unhelpful things like "keep up the good work!" and "nice job!". There are multiple reasons for this. Maybe they don't want the candidate to get the idea that they're getting an award, especially if there's been no sign that the Crowns are ready, because that's a horribly painful experience (I know this first-hand). The candidate may be so good at what they do that the peer doesn't really have any criticisms (or may not know enough to make any judgements on the work). Or it could just be that the candidate is doing so well that the peers assume they're fine, and don't need any help.
This is an awfully weird position to be in, and some people crack under the pressure. Thing is, most people go through this stage, and it is during this time that the love of what they do has to sustain them. To everyone else, it honestly doesn't seem like such a long time (hence the surprise people feel when they witness an implosion), but when you're ready (so ready!), it feels like forever. This is a natural part of the peerage journey.
No, really. It takes a while for enough people to get to know and acknowledge your level of work across the order, and it then takes more time for pollings, and arranging stuff, and all the other bits and pieces - in the meantime, you've been ready for a year or more. What you do during this time is critical; whine to friends by all means (my friends were seriously patient with me, for which I thank them profusely), but maintain.
I have watched more than one person's true character come out during this period in limbo; they can keep the facade up while they're getting praised and admired, but when they enter the cone of silence, the pleasure of what they do cannot sustain them (not surprisingly, if all they wanted was an award), and they snap. Unfortunately, as Bob says, "one awshit! cancels out a hundred attaboys", and while the candidate may feel like they should be able to reset to the moment before they snapped, everyone else has moved them back anywhere from six months to a couple of years from their previous level, depending on the size of the meltdown (keep this in mind if you're ever tempted).
Use this limbo time to keep improving your skills - channel your frustration into your work (or, in my case, "dammit, I will become good enough that they have to acknowledge me!"), and if you're burning for feedback, seek out people directly who can give you something to help you improve, even if it's just in how you write up your documentation.
Or come and find me, and pour out your frustration. I won't hold it against you - I went through the same thing before my Laurel, and I probably had no right to - I was impatient. It really helped having someone (in my case, Bob) who could commiserate, but at the same time, honestly point out things I was doing (or not doing) that might be delaying my progress. But I'm the Laurel who thinks it's okay to want a Laurel.
(Mind you, if you're not doing the work, I'll tell you. Be warned.) :)
To be a good peer means being an adult all of the time. It doesn't mean that we have to be perfect (I'd be out on my ear if that were the case), but it means that you don't get to stamp your feet and explode all over everyone and then expect everyone to forget you lost it (or forgive you easily if you burned all your bridges in the process). There's a lot of debate about what "Peer-Like Qualities" are, but what it usually boils down to is "can they act like an adult even under extreme pressure?". That scrutiny starts long before the candidate is elevated, and becomes most intense during the time when they're almost ready for peerage.
Conspiracy theorists can now start claiming that we peers add on the "radio silence" phase deliberately to put the candidates under pressure, but we're just not that organized. It's an organic outgrowth of a process that has delays unavoidably built in. It is useful, however, to see what people do when there's a lack of constant praise or feedback, because after they become a peer, the constant attaboys stop, and they now have to start giving constant attaboys to others. Instead of entering and winning competitions, the peer is now expected to judge and encourage the work of others, while still maintaining a constant level of excellence. Worse, you're now supposed to share all your secrets with other people so they can become better at what they do. A good peer is a teacher, a cheerleader, and an inspiration.
...All of which make sit sound intimidating, but the ideal peerage candidate is all those things before they're elevated. If a candidate can't sustain themselves without constant outside feedback, then they're not going to be a good peer. "Radio Silence" isn't fun, but if you use it as an exercise in self-sustainability, it can teach you a lot about your strengths.
In my opinion, of course. But it's my diary, and you asked.