You gotta have a posse!

By Caitlin Kelly

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

It started — of course — as a term in medieval Latin; posse meaning power.

Today, it’s a group of people, more commonly, you can turn to for help and aid, people who literally have your back.

In the military, there’s a great expression — “I’ve got your six” — from fighter pilots who had a fellow flyer behind them.

I’ve been working alone from home since 2006, and have done it many times in my career. It can be lonely! It can feel isolating!

There are days when the millions of us working independently think — HELP!

Which is why, more than ever, you gotta have a posse!

They’re not fighter pilots, nor do they wear spurs and Stetsons, but they’re people I like, trust and admire, people I turn to for all sorts of advice — how to find a mortgage broker, what to charge for a seminar, how to wrangle a testy editor two years out of college.

They call me, too. I had a long phone conversation yesterday with a younger colleague as she drove from Alabama to Tennessee. We met earlier this year at a writers’ conference and immediately liked one another, sitting in the bar for hours.

Today I’ll be Skyping with another posse member who lives an ocean away.

I find it, literally, heartening and encouraging to hear how others are doing, helping one another through our inevitable ups and downs. Those of us who work without any safety net, (unemployment insurance, paid sick days or paid vacation days, a company-matched retirement plan), really need one another’s wisdom and insights.


My posse — and I as one of theirs — is global, thanks to social media.


But the essential elements remain timeless. You only want people you trust absolutely, who are discreet and smart. They can be decades younger or older. They can, (and often should), be someone from a very different background or industry.

Fresh eyes. Fresh insights.

When you don’t work in an office or belong to an organization, with coworkers, managers, HR and set policies, (no matter how frustrating they can be sometimes), figuring it out is all up to you.


When you work independently, you’re the cook, janitor, CIO, CFO, CMO and CEO, switching roles constantly.


When you work alone, it’s even more essential to know what’s going on in your industry — how to read (and alter!) a lousy contract, how to negotiate rates, what others are being paid, which deadbeat clients to avoid.

Much is being written about the “gig economy” (a phrase that makes me crazy every time I read it) — but very little about how difficult it is to do everything by yourself.

Sometimes you just need a smart, tough brain to bang up against, to test out a theory or see if you’re really brilliant this time, or heading off a potential cliff.

I enjoy my autonomy but there’s still a lot I don’t know and a lot I can help my peers with.

Do you have a posse?

Does it help?

10 thoughts on “You gotta have a posse!

      1. It did not go well for a number of reasons & I resigned. There were some attempts at intimidation & together with a couple of “expectations” that were sprung on me, I decided to leave. I’m just too old for games. Really lost my patience. They tried to talk me into staying, backed off, etc. but I felt it would just be a matter of time before it started up again.

        So, unemployed again. I have some prospects though, and expect to be working again soon. The great part is that I’m back in the Okanagan. Thanks for asking. 🙂

  1. you are so right, these are the people that don’t judge us, but tell it to us straight. who listen when we need them to and offer a kind word, a bit of advice or just a smile –

  2. I’m so new in my career and I haven’t got experience of much else, but I must say: the camaraderie in my team is wonderful. I always planned to be an academic, but getting there can be a very lonely pursuit. Lots of solitary hours writing and researching…

    I’m still an introvert at heart and I’m fine with time alone. But I’ve found that I really value the time I spend working with my team and I like working in a busy, fast-paced office. We can talk honestly to each other about work and life. I even teared up when I was talking with one of my co-workers the other day because she was listening so sympathetically. They’re becoming my posse — good co-workers are like gold! 🙂

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