Why You Need A Personal Advisory Board

Why You Need A Personal Advisory Board

When it comes to our career, we could all use some outside expertise and guidance.

But rather than going the conventional route and seeking a mentor, consider developing your own board of personal advisors instead.

A mentor is traditionally someone who’s more senior and experienced than you. They can serve as a sounding board and offer advice. While there’s no denying that traditional mentorship has its benefits, not everyone has access to a professional mentor or a wide enough network that can connect them with one. On top of that, with so many experts sharing their advice for free on blogs and social media these days, they may not have the bandwidth to be a mentor.

That’s why it seems like more and more people are abandoning the old school idea of a mentor, and choosing to have a personal advisory board.

So what exactly is a personal advisory board? Our founder Kate Matsudaira describes a personal advisory board as “a group of trusted individuals to whom you can bring your ideas, problems, and questions about your career.”

Here’s are the benefits of a personal advisory board:

1. You don’t have to look far

Traditional mentors can be tricky to find. It involves doing your research, attending networking events, and ultimately making a formal ask. This process can feel like a mix between a courtship and a cold call. It can also be mentally excruciating–will the mentor say yes? Will they ignore my request? Am I annoying them with this ask? 

On the other hand, you don’t have to jump through hoops to find a personal advisor. It’s very likely you already have multiple advisors in your life without even realizing it.

Think about the current people in your life. Who are the ones that have helped you out in your personal or professional life? Maybe it’s the freelancing friend who’s always passing along new job opportunities. Or the coworker who’s always there whenever you need advice. Or the relative who always shares your accomplishments with others.

2. Personal advisors are fans of your work

You don’t have to sell personal advisors on taking you under their wing. They’re either well-acquainted with your work or aware of your potential.

This kind of support means that they will be committed to you and your career. They want what’s best for you and they want to offer their help.

3. Personal advisors give you well-rounded advice

It’s too much pressure to expect a mentor to be everything to us all at once. They are just one person, and can only offer so much knowledge and experience. 

With a team of personal advisors, however, you have the advantage of getting a variety of perspectives, skill sets, and strengths. You’re not placing too many expectations on a single individual. You’re getting the cumulative experience of everyone on your team. 

How to develop your own personal advisory board

A personal advisory board may take some time to develop. But you probably already have some key members on your board, and now it’s just a matter of identifying your needs and cultivating relationships with potential advisors.

Here's how you can develop your own board.

1. Make a list of current advisors 

You probably already have some form of advisory board, even if you haven't really noticed.

Take a moment to identify the people in your life who have supported you and your career. Make a list of all the friends, relatives, coworkers, and even acquaintances who have said nice things about you, given you job advice, or offered emotional support.

Put a star next to the individuals that you already feel a strong connection with. These are the people that you’ll want by your side and can trust to give you honest and supportive advice.

2. Find out what you need

This Harvard Business Review article recommends taking some time to reflect and identify the areas in your professional life where you need guidance. 

For example, if you already have a friend who gives advice on interpersonal skills and another friend who’s your biggest cheerleader, then maybe you could use some guidance on other areas like networking or technical advice. 

Here are other examples of the advisors that you may want on your team

  • Someone who’s been through the trenches. This is a person with tons of experience under their belt. They’ve climbed the ladder, they've done the hard work to get where they are, and they can offer a lot of honest advice.

  • Up-and-comer. Now you might be thinking: why do I need someone junior than me on my advisory board? After all, isn’t the point of an advisory board to surround myself with experienced people?

    Up-and-comers are hungry and ready to hustle. It’s nice to have this fresh perspective in your life. And the up-and-comer’s energy and enthusiasm will inevitably rub off on you as well.

  • The tough love coach. While it’s essential to have a cheerleader on your team who supports and inspires you, it’s just as important to have an advisor who’s willing to share some hard truths.

    The tough love coach will tell you if an idea seems undercooked or a project needs more work. They’ll tell you if you’re being too whiney and need to readjust your attitude. And most importantly, they’ll give you constructive feedback in a way that doesn’t deflate you, but motivates you to try harder.

    A balance of perspectives will keep your feet on the ground and bring out the best in you. 

  • Professional from a different field. We often think that we need to look within our own industry to find someone who can understand our challenges and goals.

    But an advisor who’s outside of our field can often give us better insight into our work than our own peers.

    An outsider is able to look at your work situation with an objective eye. And they can also remind you to appreciate all the good things you have going on in your life, not just work.

    So if you’re a writer, try seeking the advice of a designer. If you’re a freelancer, try connecting with a friend who works a corporate job. If you’re a small business owner, meet up with an artist. Their outside perspective may give you better awareness about your current job and give you fresh ideas on how to navigate it. 

Remember: success doesn’t happen alone.

We need a team of people to help us achieve, improve, and become better versions of ourselves. To that end, we want to make sure that we treat our personal advisors with respect, gratitude, and generosity. And the lessons we learn from them will help us serve as someone else’s personal advisor when the time comes.

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