Do you have an executive board to turn to for advisement? You can run ideas by them, solicit their feedback on big decisions, and ask for their honest opinion when you’ve messed up. Of course you have a board! These are the people who will be your professional references and write letters of recommendation for you. They know you well because they are your teachers and your supervisors. They’ve seen you fail and overcome challenges. Treat them with respect- as if they are your own personal board of directors- and you can expect great things from them.
I like to think that my executive board is made up of a mentor, my first career advisor, a former supervisor, three colleagues, a good friend from college, my godfather, and two former professors (who are nuns). These are the people I go to for professional advice. They know me best professionally and academically, and they know my field because they are either employed in the same one or in a related field.
I keep in touch with my board of directors through email and phone conversations, and I never hold a board meeting, because they don’t know each other, and I like it that way. However, they do know of each other, and will often suggest that I talk to “so and so” in order to make my final decision. In fact, they know me well enough to suggest that I am avoiding the most critical opinion from a particular board member, and they are tough enough to disagree with me.
Members of my board are empathetic and unconditional – that’s why I chose them. They know how I operate and how to motivate me to do my best. Without my own personal board of directors I would not have made it through my undergraduate degree (it was crucial for me to have my career advisor and Sisters Confoy and O’Keefe there during this time). If it weren’t for a former supervisor, I wouldn’t have had the guts to negotiate a promotion and eventually apply to graduate school. My godfather was an early inspiration, and as a leader in higher education, his work continues to keep me on my toes.
Today, my mentor works with me, but not directly in my department – this is nice because she provides unbiased insight. There are three colleagues whom I run most career decisions by; I’m an extravert, so I’ve got to connect with others when it comes to my enthusiasm for my career.
Finally, my sisters and my husband are my go-to people for my personal and emotional concerns, and I try not to force my career woes on them. I don’t consider them members of my personal executive board, and they like it that way.
An advisory board is just as important as your resume and your cover letter. Your board is a network of professionals who may act as professional references at some point, but who, more importantly, get you through the important stages of your personal career development.
Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.