Building Your Personal Board of Directors
What is a personal board of directors?
Every major company has a board of directors. Even though the company has a CEO, the board of directors is there to weigh in on major decisions and provide expertise and advice to the CEO. In your career, you’ll likely need advice, mentorship, and guidance as well, which is why it’s important to build your own board of directors for your career.
As you go through your career, many people will contribute to your success – friends, family, mentors. A lot of these relationships will form naturally with people like colleagues and supervisors. It’s okay to intentionally seek relationships that would be beneficial to your career.
Why do you need a board?
A career is made up of millions of decisions. Should I take this job? How do I advocate for my work? What’s the next step in my career? The people on your board can provide counsel. You choose the people on your board because you trust, respect, and admire them, so it only makes sense to lean on them for their expertise. By being in a relationship with them, you’ll learn about their experiences as well and can also learn from their mistakes. Exchanging knowledge and perspective is why you have the board in the first place.
Another reason you need a board is to broaden your network. In a world where most job opportunities are not publicly posted, having a strong network to lean on for opportunities is crucial. You don’t want to put your career on autopilot. Engaging with your board helps you continue learning.
How to find people for your board
As mentioned earlier, your board should form naturally with people you meet along your career journey. Supervisors, colleagues, and mentors, even friends and family, all make good additions to your board. It’s important to make sure that your board is diverse. It should be filled with people of varying titles, seniority, and perspectives. If your board is homogeneous, you’re not going to benefit from diverse perspectives.
If you’re mid- or senior-level, it’s important to put people early in their careers on your board. Being around early-career professionals can help you keep a pulse on how your position and industry are changing. And if you’re an early-career professional, it’s just as important to have other early-career professionals on your board as well.
If you’re thinking about your past experiences and can’t think of anyone you think would fit the bill, then it’s time to start expanding your network. Career forums, professional networking groups such as IAW, and sites like LinkedIn or Lunchclub are all great places to meet new people and broaden your network.
Tips for a successful board
Your board will need to change. The type of support you’ll need as an early-career professional won’t be the type of support you’ll need as an executive. It’s important to regularly evaluate your needs. When you no longer need someone on your board, you don’t excommunicate them; rather, you’ll just change the dynamics of the relationship.
The relationship should be mutually beneficial. Nobody wants a leech. People want relationships, even professional ones, that are genuine. That’s why it’s important to not only reach out to your board when you need something. Be sure to wish them happy holidays and to congratulate them on their work updates on LinkedIn. Support their endeavors. Share their posts on social media. Take a genuine interest in their lives and careers. Share news or opportunities you think they might be interested in.
You don’t have to talk to your board daily. The term “board of directors” can be misleading in this case, because a board of directors in business usually works collaboratively and meets together. That’s not the case with a personal board. You’re building relationships and communicating one on one with the people on your board.
Types of people to have on your board
Filling your board with the right people is what makes it successful. You want people with a variety of characteristics and relationship dynamics. It would be great to have someone on your board who’s well-connected and can put you in the right rooms. It’s also great to have someone who works in the same role as you with whom you can talk the specifics of your day job, collaborate, brainstorm, and share ideas. Another nice person to have is someone older and wiser whom you can go to for advice. It is great to have someone who sees your potential and will serve as a motivator, who will challenge you to dream bigger and do more than you believe you can do.
Finding a board of directors doesn’t have to be hard or unnatural. Just take inventory of the people you have in your life and think about the type of support you need at this stage in your career, then fill in the gaps. Having the right people in your corner can change the trajectory of your career, from presenting you with opportunities to giving you advice, or simply being supportive. Start taking the steps to expand your network today by going to an IAW event to meet like-minded professional women.