Beyond Mentorship: Find Your Personal Board of Directors

Like those old flip phones, mentorship is something that we don’t see much of anymore. Yes, M3 sets up corporate-sponsored mentorships during our employee on boarding process. But those are more about building relationships and less about career strategy.

Career mentoring relationships are going the way of the flip phone. Today we live in a different world – and it’s time to get smart. What you need is your own personal board of directors. This is a group of key individuals you can lean on. Your personal board is different than a coach or a mentor. Your board of directors can offer you a wide variety of perspectives, advice, or critical feedback that can go a long way to helping you navigate personal or professional situations.

So who’s on your board? Consider the following when putting together your personal board of directors:

  1. Create a diverse group. Just like any good business board, the individuals you choose should bring diverse contributions and points of view to your thinking. Choose a variety of ages, backgrounds, and styles. Tap on those in your personal or professional circles. Consider previous colleagues, classmates, and teachers; and don’t rule out siblings, good friends or relatives. Ultimately, find 4-5 people that you admire or aspire to be, who believe in your talents, and who will deliver advice and tough feedback with kindness and good intent.
  2. Invest in your board as a way of investing in yourself. Make it a priority to spend time with each member informally. Create an environment where you can talk freely about career growth and/or roadblocks. Come prepared to ask for their input on specific situations. And don’t forget to return the favor whenever possible.
  3. Always be looking for new members. As you grow and your professional development needs change, so should your advisory group. Step back to think about your “selection criteria” on a regular basis. Evaluate who may be a good addition or substitution based on new connections you’ve made.

Most of us pick our board members by default. They are the people who we are comfortable with that we see and talk to often. While there is no need to conduct formal meetings, or even inform each person of their status on your board, it is important to be deliberate about who you’re picking and why.

Go out and build your board of directors. Think about those you both work with internally at your place of business and externally throughout the community. Consider your professional strengths and areas of opportunity then select who might help you build on them or close the gaps. Intentionally surround yourself with people who can challenge you and help you grow!

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M3’s career planning initiatives progress through a partnership between Human Resources and Professional Development. This article was co-authored by Alicia Kiser, Human Resources Manager and Nan Pum, Director of Professional Development.

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