By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
Every Fortune 500 company in the US has a board of directors who meet regularly to provide the CEO strategic advice. Each member may focus on one aspect of the business based on their own experience and expertise so that together they can offer comprehensive advice. It can be one of the best ways companies take a look at how to manage the business for the long term. A growing number of career advisors are taking this concept and applying it to “You, INC”.
Whether you have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve in your career or not, there is enormous value in having the perspective of a group of trusted advisors. This is especially true if you are one of the first in your family to face a specific career challenge or if you are facing a career transition that caught you by surprise — a new project, a new job or a new level of responsibility.
As a first generation Latina, my parents inspired me to excel but they had little formal education to offer me advice on college and graduate school. Over time, I learned to seek the advice of others who had “been there, done that” and go to them for strategic input.
Just in case you are wondering, “how is this different from having conversations with my friends?” This is not about asking for advice from your peers. Your friends often share your experiences, your interests and even your values. Your personal board of directors is best if it is comprised of people who are doing what you want to do in your career 5 to 10 years from now.
They may also be individuals in a completely new field of work that you want to pursue. Or they might be individuals who challenge your assumptions, push you to think differently about your strategy for success and yes, they may even disagree with you.
A personal board of directors is a team of trusted advisors you can turn to for candid advice as you make significant decisions or who track your progress once you set a goal.
What’s the best way to seat your personal board of directors?
First, look at your career goals and think about the people that you would want to talk to in order to help you succeed. The next step is to identify these individuals possibly where you work, at special career related events, in your professional association or at your place of worship. You can also use the online career networking site, LinkedIn, to help you identify potential members by asking people in your network who they may know and asking for an introduction.
The next step is to actually contact your potential members and determine if they are willing to be part of your personal board of directors and if you think they are a good fit for your needs.
This invitation must come with clear boundaries and instructions: how often you will meet, where, and what kind of advice you’ll be seeking. Limit yourself to one year of engaging your personal board and keep your meetings to 4 in person and another three by phone.
This should all be in the form of a carefully crafted letter or email and it should include your current resume. Treat your request like a request for an informational interview because this group of individuals may be instrumental in opening other doors for you in the future.
Your personal board of directors will most likely become part of your larger network of professionals and that network will always be vital to your success.
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies.