05/21/2012 10:45 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2012

Who's on Your Personal Board of Advisors (PBA)?

By Linda Descano, CFA®, President and CEO, Women & Co. and Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, North America Marketing, Citi

I honestly would not be where I am today if not for a long list of teachers, counselors, managers, colleagues, mentors, coaches and sponsors. These amazing women and men provided invaluable advice and counsel, pulled no punches when I was getting in my own way, prodded me to take risks and promoted my accomplishments and achievements. They made introductions and facilitated connections that opened doors to opportunities that otherwise might not have been available to me. And, on my end, I listened, observed, learned and reached for those opportunities, even when my stomach was doing cartwheels -- and I continue to do so today because there are always new issues and challenges to be negotiated and I'm not shy about raising my hand to ask for help.

My "personal board of advisors" or "PBA," as I often refer to various people I tap for counsel, have been instrumental in helping me prepare for each step of my career. Do you have a PBA? Here are my tips for selecting the right mentor(s) and effectively leveraging the relationship:

• Have a goal in mind before you ask someone to be a mentor or advisor. Are you looking for someone who has walked in your shoes as a marketer, for example, or someone whose leadership style is something you aspire to emulate? The person or people you choose should have a proven track record of success in the area(s) you are seeking guidance.

• Mentoring is a relationship based on trust and respect. A mentor must be worthy of your trust. Treat your mentor with respect and in return you will be treated with respect and dignity.

• Asking someone to be your mentor or advisor doesn't necessarily mean monthly or quarterly meetings in perpetuity. It may be one conversation or a series of conversations over a limited time period, depending on your objective.

• Your mentor's time is invaluable; don't monopolize it and don't waste it. Work around his or her timetable and have realistic expectations about the amount of time a mentor may be able to commit.

• A mentor's role is not to tell you how to do your job or what to do with your career. Nor does it involve making decisions or solving problems for you. Rather, a mentor is there to counsel and guide you into thinking for yourself and finding your own solutions.

• Anyone who is willing to offer guidance, advice and time is going to expect something in return. Usually, that something is gratitude. So don't overlook the two most powerful words in the English language: thank you.

Remember these tips as you navigate your relationships with the mentors in your life. The more intentional you are in your approach, the more rewarding and sustainable your experience will be.

About the Author:
Linda is President and CEO of Women & Co., a service of Citi that brings women relevant financial content and thoughtful commentary. She also serves as a Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships for North America Marketing at Citi. A recognized expert on the topic of personal finance, Linda is also the featured contributor on and, for which she serves as their women and money expert. Her writing, tips and commentary have appeared in countless publications including: Huffington Post, MORE Magazine, American Banker and MSN Money to name a few. She is the recipient of a 2011 Luminary Award from Womensphere® and was the New York recipient of the 2009 Corporate w2wlink Ascendancy Award.