It's no secret that a mentor can be a terrific resource as you navigate your career path. The "it takes a village" philosophy is a great way to tap multiple mentors at once and develop your personal resource team. Why get stressed about growing, managing or navigating your career path alone when you can utilize the wisdom of others who want to help you move forward?
From entry-level job seekers to seasoned professionals, everyone can benefit from a personal board of directors. Think about the people you can ask to be on your resource team who can assist with career strategies, special training or network building. Your personal career posse can help when you need it most and be a valuable resource outside of your workplace for you to confide in.
Here are some ways people can serve on your board, since a variety of people will perform different functions.
Accountability Master: This person will hold you to task and give you the gentle (or not so gentle) nudge to get you moving towards your goal. They will help you navigate your blind spots and provide honest, constructive criticism when you need it most. This person can also help you step out of your comfort zone to take a risk and embrace change.
Motivator: This person will be your cheerleader and provide support and inspiration, even when the going gets tough. Your enthusiasm may wane with stress and lack of focus, but your motivational board member will give you a renewed sense of energy and help you play to your strengths.
Trainer: Perhaps you have been promoted to a new leadership role at work but have never supervised a team, for example. This board member has significant experience as a leader and can advise and counsel you with best practices. If you don't have that skill-set available from one of your volunteer board members, then consider hiring an executive coach who specializes in leadership training to get you into shape to take on your new professional responsibilities. No matter what the unique competency, a variety of trainers can be an asset as you grow your career and take on new roles.
Connector: If you are in transition, interested in growing your career, or just wanting to learn about a career different from your own, chances are your connector will know someone you should meet. This person has a vast network and can make introductions on your behalf for informational interviewing, job shadowing and other professional referrals. You should have multiple connectors on your board because these people are in the know and current with industry trends and organizational practices. They know the scoop!
Strategist: You need a visionary who will help you map out your big picture career path and assist you with implementing a plan to achieve those goals. This person can also be a great resource when problem solving or handling difficult scenarios at work.
Proofer: Whether you are sending out a resume, cover letter or portfolio for a new job lead, have someone proof your work before you push send. We get so close to our materials that it's easy to miss things, and your detail-oriented proofer can catch mistakes that could be a deal breaker if left unnoticed. This person with laser focus can also help you with the small and important details you must work on in your career action plan.
Specialist: In many cases, this is an area where you are going to hire a professional like a web designer, public relations expert, accountant or lawyer because you need someone with specialized experience to help you accomplish your goals. It's worth it to invest in these services from accomplished professionals who have proven their worth through recommendations and examples of their work. It's not unheard of to have board members who will provide these services pro bono, but it is rare.
You may also consider your health care providers and other mind/body/spirit professionals to help you navigate your journey with a team. Having a board makes you conscious that personal and professional development is a lifelong process and that your needs change over time.
Your board should be filled with people who can advise you as certain needs arise. While there may be a unique time to convene them as a group, most often you will seek them out individually for their particular advice. It's all about knowing who's got your back when you need it most.
Be sure to steward your board by showing your appreciation for their expertise regularly. Whenever possible, pay it forward and ask how you can be of service to them. Keep the circle of wisdom continuous by serving on someone else's board -- you will be glad you did!
Check out my new video segment about assembling your board of directors.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book This Is Not the Career I Ordered and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is also the director of career & professional development at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.