As an incredibly indecisive person, I’ve always relied heavily on other people’s input when making career decisions.
But the process by which I solicit other people’s feedback is pretty haphazard: Maybe I’ll call my mom, maybe I’ll do some research online, maybe I’ll draft an email to a former professor and then delete it because I don’t want to bother them.
In the end, I usually wind up just as confused as when I started.
Recently, however, I spoke with Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable Local and author of “The Art of People,” who told me about a brilliantly simple strategy for getting trusted career and life advice: Recruit three to five people to serve on your own personal advisory board.
Kerpen got the idea from Dorie Clark, a personal branding consultant and a friend of his, who recommends that everyone — not just entrepreneurs or CEOs — form their own advisory board.
Kerpen said most everyone has people they consider mentors, either from school or previous jobs. These are the people you should ask to serve on your advisory board.
I was curious whether someone who’s successful, influential, and presumably very busy, would really agree to participate in something like this. Kerpen said they probably would: “Despite what people might think, I actually think the more successful someone is, the more they want to help and give back and help other people younger than themselves.”
Once you’ve found those three to five willing advisors, Kerpen says you’ll want to “get them together on a regular basis [three to six times a year] with the specific goal of helping you in your career, with whatever specific objective you have at the time.” Maybe you’re hoping to start a company, or maybe you’re a manager and you want to be a vice president at your organization.
“You want to find people that have succeeded in areas you’d like to succeed in one day,” Kerpen said.
At each meeting, present one or two challenges you’re working on and have everyone offer their insights.
Having multiple smart, accomplished people in the room “magnifies the power of each person’s experiences,” Kerpen said.
So what can you offer your advisors in return, other than free dinner or coffee?
When Kerpen was thinking about launching Likeable Local, he provided a leadership training exercise to his board of advisors, and told them he hoped they could network with each other. (He also compensated them financially, though he says that’s not necessary for a personal advisory board.)
In the end though, Kerpen writes in “The Art of People”: “I learned that it’s been my success that has made my advisors feel most rewarded.”