Careers can be tricky beasts to navigate, and just like companies, they need investment and expertise from multiple sources. That’s why thinking of yourself as the CEO of your own career, and putting together your own personal board of advisors can be really crucial to your success.
Rather than focusing on finding just one mentor or coach with a particular view or specialism; having a wider range of people to consult can help you see things from multiple perspectives, develop your thinking and challenge your decision making.
Just like the board of a big company or a charity, the people you choose to be on your personal board should all play a different role and offer something unique to complement your thinking.
And while you might consult your friends or family on personal matters, it’s important to find objective people for your personal board; as you want your thinking to be stretched and developed, rather than simply validated.
How should I build my board?
When putting together your board, think about the goals you’re pursuing and the outcomes you want for your career. And remember it’s important to have a specific ask for each of the people you turn to for advice, and that you should be flexible, open-minded and gracious about their inputs. Some profiles to consider including on your own board are:
Co-traveller - this is someone who’s on a similar journey to you - such as returning to work after having kids; pivoting to something new; or taking on new leadership responsibilities - and can share the experience, and all its highs and lows, with you.
Thoughtful critic - this is someone who can challenge and critique your decisions and actions; they’re on your side but they’re going to give honest and candid feedback, ask difficult questions and make sure you’ve looked at things from every angle.
Industry expert - this is someone who knows your industry or profession inside out, and who can provide an expert opinion or a sounding board about specific topics, issues and challenges.
Influencer - this is someone who has influence and status in an area or industry you’re either working in or are interested in; they can introduce you to others, help you build your network, and generally just make things happen.
Role model - this is someone you respect and aspire to be like; someone who shares your values and ambitions and who is already where you want to be. This person is the closest to a traditional mentor figure, and should be willing to invest their time in you.
Cheerleader - this is someone who has your back, and peps you up when you need a lift. They are a positive force on your decision making, helping you recognise your skills, talents and achievements.
It’s best to avoid adding your current boss to your personal board as their interest in your career may not align well with your own ambitions and goals; plus the existing power dynamic between you both may derail the objectivity you need from an advisor. Likewise, those who are close to you personally might not provide the most useful professional advice.
So what about the admin?
You don’t have to hold formal meetings, or even tell your advisors that they’re ‘on’ your board. And it’s likely that you will consult some people far more often than others, but the important thing is to maintain the connections so that you can turn to them when the need for their advice arises.
Building your board won’t happen overnight, but if you’re clear about who you’re looking for and what you’re asking of them, then starting to draw on their expertise and collective wealth of advice will become easier - and increasingly valuable.
Remember to be open, communicative and respectful of the commitment your advisors make to you - and you to them. Prepare well and consider what insights you want to get out of each interaction, and what you will give in terms of feedback and action.
You can switch things up!
The membership of your board is not set in stone either; again, just as companies and charities change the composition of their advisory teams on a regular basis; your personal board will likely evolve and change over time.
This might become particularly apparent as you move to more senior roles and need fresh advice or more input from people outside your own field or specialism. As your needs change, so should the people you consult about your career. It’s your personal board after all.
Joining Voco is a quick and effective way to build you own personal board of advisors. We match you with smart, relevant peers who can add real value to your career journey. You learn from each other and smash your goals together.