Building Your Personal Board

Your personal board: what it is, why you need it for career success + how to build it Tweet This

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In my last article, I shared my secrets for expert networking, including the importance of developing a “personal board.” I heard from a lot of individuals curious about this, so I thought it wise to provide more context on what it’s all about.

A personal board is a network of individuals that we can turn to when we need support with various aspects of our career. It is important to have a good mix of champions and mentors in that group. A mentor is someone who talks to you, giving you advice and guidance. A champion is someone who talks about you, sharing and promoting your successes with the masses.


1. So where do I start?

-Colleagues. A great place to start is in your present position. Look at those individuals that you work with on a daily basis. As a marketer at a community foundation, I work closely with our program staff and our fundraising department. I have the privilege to provide support to their projects: from creating marketing campaigns, to strategizing outcomes against goals and data and creating activation events to engage their audience. Through this practice my colleagues have a great sense of my skill set. An internal champion who understands and celebrates the value you add to your organization is a great choice for your personal board.

-Volunteer/board positions. Do you serve together with someone from a different industry as stewards of the same nonprofit or charitable cause? Someone who seems to value your perspective at meetings, or makes a point of complimenting and appreciating your contribution? If so, bring them on board.

-Industry specific associations. In our industry, we have an association for community foundation professionals, as well as job-specific affinity groups within the community foundation field. A lot of my colleagues that do marketing for other community foundations sit on my personal board—they know my style, and can benchmark my work among other foundation marketers.

-Professors. If you are just starting off in your career, you may have a professor who can speak to your leadership style. Then, after a few years, you can switch the professor out for someone more connected to where your career has led you.


2. How do I ask someone to join my board?

Be transparent. Tell the person that you are asking them to be honest and transparent with you as a career leader. Ask if they are willing to look out for opportunities for you and can periodically coach you when you need to troubleshoot a scenario.


3. Do I meet with everyone at once? Do I set up board meetings?

I don’t meet with everyone at once, and I would urge you not to. It’s more beneficial for you to connect—whether by text, email, phone or in-person meeting—individually with each person. I have a crisis communication expert on my board who I call when I am dealing with a personal crisis. She has expertise in troubleshooting scenarios and a wealth of knowledge. I would not call her if I needed tips on a presentation—that call would go to a marketing director.


4. Do I pay these individuals?

I would not expect payment if I was asked. I believe this is part of the karma points in our society. I do think it is kind to send a note of gratitude or offer to buy a cup of coffee if you requested an in-person meeting, especially if the person had to travel to meet you somewhere.


5. Do I list these individuals on my resume?

Some of your board members might be a great fit to list among your personal references. But before you do, double-check with them directly. You want to make sure that each person feels comfortable and ready to serve as a glowing reference.


Remember: This board will evolve over time, just as you will evolve over time. You might enter the corporate world, leave a certain industry, or continue to set new goals for your life. For true success, make sure that your board contains advisors who understand your vision and offer valuable and relevant insight—people you trust and truly value.