How to Create Your Own Board of Career Advisors

Here's how to get that outside perspective and critical feedback you need to take the next step in your career.

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All companies have some sort of advisory board. The board’s role is to provide an outside perspective, strategic suggestions, and critical feedback.

Often these boards include people from different industries, much larger organizations, or different disciplines to bring new ideas under consideration. They help evaluate decisions on how the company will grow, how fast, and by pulling which levers.

In the end, the decision on which way to go falls with the company.

During a job search, career change, or as you seek to negotiate a promotion or pay raise, where are you getting advice and feedback on your career?

Many options are available to you:

• Start or be a part of an accountability group, meeting weekly to help keep members focused on key objectives. As a part of this group, you will get and give critical feedback.

[See 11 Tips for Getting Hired in 2011.]

• Hire a career coach, someone who is trained to provide guidance and directional feedback along the way, helping you negotiate new positions, think through a career change, or struggle with a new boss.

• Start or join a career or job-search reading group. Think of this like a study group from college. You pick up a great book, read it, and discuss the content against what’s happening in your career. Count on more support here but likely less critical feedback.

• Find one key person in your life to provide straight-shooting advice along your journey, career advice from a successful relative, family friend, or anyone who can be a voice of reason when you are unsure how to move ahead.

[See How to Position Yourself to Change Careers.]

Did you know you could create your own board of career advisors?

If you are actively looking for work or career direction today, here’s how to get started:

Recruit Your Board

Identify three to five people who know you and would be interested in playing a role to support your career. Consider a family friend who is employed and review your situation with fresh eyes. Try a former supervisor, coach or professor who has worked with you in some capacity. Be clear as to what role you’d like them to play and how often you’ll need them.

Schedule the First Meeting

Find a quiet place like an office, conference room, or private room at a local restaurant. This first meeting should be no more than 90 minutes, including you speaking (30 minutes) then listening (60 minutes).

Present Yourself

For 3o minutes, share your story. If you are looking for work, formally present your marketing materials (resume, cover letter, one page bio, and business card), deliver your elevator pitch, and provide specific job search objectives (target industry, geography, job level, function and target companies). If you’re looking for feedback for a career change, help your board understand your motivations for the change, how you are a fit with the new industry or function, and your plans to ease the transition (education, internships, etc).

[See How to Land a Promotion.]

Ask for Honest Feedback

You are not there to get a warm pat on the back or sympathy about your situation. You are there to get actionable feedback. Responses like “I don’t get it” or “You lost me” are helpful here. How was my delivery? Was I confident, relevant, and memorable? Learn where you are being unclear or uninteresting now. Don’t let this be the reaction in the interview room, because then it’s too late.

Follow Up and Stay In Touch

Send a monthly email during your job search and a quarterly email as your career progresses. Share small wins, and ask questions about challenges you are having. Ask your board of advisors how you can help them. And think about an annual in-person follow-up. Buy them dinner as a thank you for their guidance and friendship.

Whether you form your own board, find a single voice of career advice, or join a group of peers, be sure to have a source of incoming critical feedback.

You don’t have to go it alone.

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.

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