By Mark Feffer
Given the impact your job has on your life, why should you go it alone? Some career experts recommend approaching your career like a business, with a plan, financial goals and benchmarks, all written down so you can document your goals and measure your progress. It's an idea that makes a lot of sense.
Most successful entrepreneurs put together a board of advisors to help them navigate the treacherous waters of starting a company. Your career is just as important.
If you’re going to take a businessperson’s approach to your career, you should consider having a board, as well. A regular group of advisors can help you face tough times and recognize new opportunities.
This doesn't mean you have to create a formal board that meets quarterly. Rather, your career advisors can be a set of people who agree to talk with you regularly, sometimes just to check in, other times to help you address a nettlesome problem.
The right group of people can offer you a lot. For instance:
Your advisors will bring a certain distance to issues involving your career. By helping you step back, they'll make it easier for you gauge issues like your value in the market or whether you're properly addressing a challenge with your team. Although it's natural for us to want a higher salary or for our technical strategy to carry the day, sometimes we're too close to things to judge them realistically. Your advisors will be a sounding board. With them, you can practice stating your case and make sure your arguments hold up under scrutiny.
Often, we're so involved in getting our daily work done that we don't recognize when we're in an exceptional position. Your advisors will have a higher level view of your career, so they'll be able to point out when your certification in, say, Amazon Web Services, is in particularly high demand. Similarly, they may recognize when a skill is losing fashion among employers, so you can avoid becoming trapped in a certain role.
Maybe you know it's time to ask for a raise or for more responsibility, but you keep putting off the discussion with your boss. You’re less likely to keep procrastinating if you know other people are aware of what you want and are waiting for you to make a move.
You can't be an expert on everything. A board of advisors can help you talk through issues related to technology, finance, office politics, or any other area where you think you could use knowledge that complements your own.
With a board of advisors, you're never alone. These people can help you see the big picture when things go wrong and reinforce your strengths during times – and we all have them – when you question yourself.
Obviously, your board's effectiveness depends a lot on its makeup. You want to work with people who respect and understand your skills and who'll be honest in the advice they give you. This last one is especially important: People who tell you only what you want to hear aren't going to do you much good.
To start, think about involving people who understand:
By this, we mean find people who have a good view of wider technical trends in addition to hands-on skills. You want someone who can help you recognize how your work contributes to greater solutions and how technical trends might impact it.
It's always important to understand how your work fits into your company's business, as well as your industry’s development.
Unless you're rich, you're working to support yourself and your family. Have someone involved who understands your financial goals and commitments, including your retirement plans and any health issues you may face. They don't need to know the nuts and bolts, but they should have an idea of the kind of lifestyle you want to pursue.
Finally, it's always good to have a trusted colleague or two who are directly involved in your company. They'll be particularly valuable in helping you read the political landscape to identify both hazards and opportunities.
Given the speed with which technology changes, the dynamics of the global economy and the changing nature of today's workplace, regularly consulting people you trust can help you successfully face whatever career challenges you might face. Forming a board of advisors is a proactive way to make sure you have people to whom you can turn as you work to manage your career as effectively as you can.
Mark Feffer has written, edited, and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance and technology for leading business and career sites. He is currently writing for JobsinME.com, JobsinRI.com, JobsinVT.com and JobsinNH.com, the top local resources for job seekers, employers, and recruiters in New England.