Form Your Own Personal Board of Directors

Why choose just one mentor when you can have a Board of Directors? (Photo by Benjamin Child via Unsplash)

Why choose just one mentor when you can have a Board of Directors? (Photo by Benjamin Child via Unsplash)

As business school students and working professionals, we often hear how important it is to have a mentor. Whether the mentorship comes from a longtime employee at your firm or a peer you met in undergrad, you can get plenty of value out of having a mentor when it comes to steering the course of your personal and/or professional life.

However, having just one person advise you can be a disadvantage (dealing with the biases of one, being bound by their limited availability, etc.). During my intern days, a wise executive posed having a personal Board of Directors—a group of people with whom you would meet altogether once every few years (or separately on a more frequent basis if that’s easier) to benefit from the vast perspectives of a sounding board of diverse people that you respect and admire.

Here are a few of the kinds of folks may you consider adding to your personal board:

The Person Who has “Made It”: Maybe you always dreamed of rising up the ranks at your job before taking the leap to start your own business while also do some peppy public speaking engagements on the side. Someone else has probably accomplished the same, and they could very well be within reach of your existing network whether it’s through an introduction by mutual friends, exploring the Booth alumni community, or a mere “cold email” away. This is someone whose brain you would want to pick one-on-one, but you could also gain a lot of value hearing what this person has to say in conversation with your other board members.

Klariza Alvaran, Class of 2018

Klariza Alvaran, Class of 2018

The #PersonalLifeGoals One: This person has seemingly mastered the art of achieving and sustaining career success while also nurturing personal life ambitions. Planning a wedding the same year as opening an art collection at a local gallery just a week before a massive product launch at work seems like little to no problem for this person. In all likelihood, they have mastered the art of setting boundaries in various aspects of their life to allow for fulfilling levels of participation in personal and professional goals. Any of us could learn a thing or two from this person!

The MacGyver: MacGyver is the lead character of the eponymous television series from the 80’s—a scientist/spy who often called upon his vast knowledge to come up with resourceful solutions to get out of perilous situations. This person always seems to find a way work through obstacles, whether it’s finding a key person on the client to salvage a contract that has all but fallen through or never failing to find a legal means to purchase reasonably priced textbooks.

The Conflicting Viewpoint: This person is a naysayer to a core value or two that you hold. Now, I’m not saying you should add someone to the board who doesn’t like you because that could be more counterproductive than helpful. To use an example of how this person would interact, you may be a firm believer that work should never exceed 50 hours per week more than three weeks in a two because beyond that threshold, work-life balance diminishes; the Conflicting Viewpoint may say that “balance” is a myth and that work should seemingly integrate into one’s lifestyle and not simply boil down to an arbitrary number of hours. Overall, this person can help you put decisions into perspective before taking a firm stance.

Klariza Alvaran is works in marketing at Tempus, while doing marketing on the side. She enjoys writing sci-fi, crocheting hats, and making music.