Early Career Success Guide: How to Find Your Own Personal ‘Board of Directors’

One of the toughest parts of transitioning from being a full-time student to a working professional is the lack of framework. All of a sudden, there are no tests, no grades, no clearly defined projects with a beginning, middle, and end. Success is harder to define, and while the sky’s the limit, the goal posts can seem to toward the horizon with every step you take. The good news? While your working hours belong to the company, your career belongs only to you.


(Photo Credit: Simon Blackley/Flickr)

In PayScale’s Guide to Early Career Success, LinkedIn Influencer Marla Gottschalk, Ph.D and Allied Talent CEO Chip Joyce offer tips on how to take charge of your career. Among their advice: exercise patience, know your strengths, become your own advocate … and assemble your own board of directors.

“We all need a team to help us along career-wise,” they write. “Choose 4 or 5 individuals that can serve as consultants in regard to work matters. They shouldn’t necessarily live at your current organization. In this way, they move with along with you as you progress and grow.”

How do you find these people? Previous internships and jobs, professional networks, or even formal or informal mentorship arrangements can all be fertile ground for finding your team. The most important thing is to make sure that they’re going to be able to help you.

When evaluating possible “board members,” ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is he able to be objective?

In other words, your mom is a fantastic president of your fan club, but perhaps not the best choice for this kind of role. You need people who are on your side – or at least neutral, and able to offer impartial advice – but you don’t want someone who’ll tell you you’re right when you’re not.

2. Does this person understand my industry, role, and organization?

Every business is different. What’s normal for advertising would be inappropriate in a healthcare setting, and vice versa. Your board members should understand what’s normal for your work environment.

3. Does he have time to help?

You don’t need someone with an empty schedule – in fact, that might be a bad sign – but you do need someone who can return your email eventually and find time to offer their perspective. The smartest person in the world won’t be much help, if he doesn’t have time to be a resource.

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