So, you want to level up your career, but are too busy with your head in the clouds dreaming up the next big thing? Think again. Your success in business—whether you are adapting lean startup principles for corporate innovation, are a committed freelancer or a serial entrepreneur—is dependent on your personal roster of top-notch advisors, mentors and role models for critical support when it counts.
You know you need thick skin and laser-focus to be a contender. You re-define, re-examine, re-iterate. You are invincible—yet fail, and fail again. You remember,“Goonies never say die.” You crave rejection, since you know now that’s how you hurdle setbacks and crack open possibilities. You lose faith. You are now faced, full-frontal with more questions than answers. Who do you turn to first?
Seize the opportunity to sync with someone you click with
Your mentor, if you have one. Gone are the days of corporate mentorship programs that lose fizzle the moment the forced introduction is made. Alexa von Tobel, CEO and founder of financial planning company LearnVest has simple advice on how to approach a potential mentor: when she met someone she clicked with, she tried to make it really easy for them to agree to meeting again. She’d say something like: “Hey, do you mind if I take 15 minutes? I will bring you coffee on any schedule — I have three questions.” Make your request clear, direct and succinct, and if you face multiple schedule conflicts or avoidance with that person, stop chomping at the bit. Move on to the next candidate on your list until someone sticks.
You’ve also heard this piece of advice before, that your mentor usually finds you (not the other way around). Myleik Teele, founder and “chief experience officer” of curlBOX, shares that “people think that mentors come with angel wings and fall from the heavens: I am your mentor. It’s usually not like that. It’s usually somebody who helps you in a certain aspect of your life and grooms you.” So be open and willing to sync up with an unlikely match, someone who isn’t like you. Seek a diverse mentorship and trust that getting advice from those with different experiences than you will only make you a more well-rounded, successful professional.
Make the most of your bandwidth & assemble your personal board of advisors now
According to the Harvard Business Review, your career needs many mentors, not just one. Gone are also the days of the multi-purpose mentor that magically meets all your career needs. Career coach and founding partner of SixFigureStart, and career columnist for Forbes.com, Caroline Ceniza-Levine shares the essential formula to start to forge your personal board of advisors: “The practical reality is that people are busy, and you are likely not going to see your mentor that often, so you can juggle several, as long as you’re organized and have the bandwidth to manage it. Recognizing that you can choose multiple mentors also takes the pressure off of you to land any single one.”
A roster of diverse mentors is key to well-rounded professional success
This intuitive and practical career advice is backed up by a research feature published in MIT Sloan Management Review, that argues “in today’s complex business environment, one mentor is no longer sufficient. Executives and managers need an array of advisors, mentors and role models to provide critical information and support at defining moments.” Their in-depth research feature (free with sign-up) delves into the recommended range of expertise, knowledge and professional certifications your personal board of advisors should have—both professional as well as psychosocial (counseling/therapy) expertise.
Other sources suggest a simplified approach to assembling your personal board of directors, emphasizing our common theme: draw upon the wisdom of people with diverse perspectives who think differently than you do. Here’s a recommended board:
- “one or two free agents along with a clarifier who asks clear questions
- a connector who leads you to other people
- a challenger who helps you act boldly
- a wise elder or sage”
A personal board of directors powers your professional trajectory
Mentorship is vital for anyone who desires perspective on their career and leverage rich resources from someone they trust and admire. A diverse personal board of directors powers the mentor/mentee relationship to the next level and “takes control of the conversation and sets the agenda,” according to Carrie Maslen, vice president, Sales Operations at Samsung Electronics America. She goes on to recommend that your personal board will help you determine your weak spots and find mentors who can help you with specific skills you need to further develop and be clear about what you want to get out of each relationship.
We at tekMountain are dedicated to contributing to the dynamic conversation serving the wider business community. We are helping to cultivate a culture of collaboration, dialogue, and resource-sharing. United, we have the power to truly change the world by connecting with innovators across the globe. We invite you to join us on our website, Twitter and LinkedIn to help build your personal board of directors today.