So, here’s the deal. Imagine a fork in the road of your life. You have at least one decision to make (maybe more) regarding your career. Maybe it’s selecting a college major or an internship. Remember that Stephen Covey says we need to begin with the end in mind. So, you’re deciding on what it is you want to do. You’re going to be as specific as possible in your goal, right? It’s not, “I want to do something in marketing.”
So many students and young professionals I encounter say to me “I’m afraid that if I make a decision that’s too specific, I’ll have wasted my time going down a path that won’t be correct.”
But, there are three reasons that you shouldn’t worry about this, one bit:
Yes, in taking your time to go down a path that isn’t going to be your intended career choice, it’s likely that not everything you do will be fruitful. But, that’s going to be the case in any choice you make.
There is also a chance that the decision you made is correct, and you’ll be well ahead of everyone else who haven’t started their career decisions, yet.
Odds are you’ll have gained enormous amounts of transferable skills that will help you in your next role. For example, if you thought you were going to be in sales and you wind up in medical school, it’s likely you’ll use your management and sales skills in running your own office or becoming a hospital manager. Etc. Etc.
But, let’s think of the absolute worst case scenario:
1- You chose a path that did not yield any fruitful results.
2- Your decision was not correct.
3- There is absolutely no commonalities between your intended career choice and what you’ve chosen to do, now.
Your anxiety tells you that when you turn around and head back to that fork in the road, there will be someone waiting there for you (a friend, perhaps, or relative). And, they will remind you that you took a wrong turn and claim that you wasted your time. First of all, pay no mind to anyone watching you live. Odds are they aren’t paying that close attention. And, if they are, it matters not. It has absolutely no bearing on your actions
But, secondly, that person is at the fork in the road because they haven’t moved from it. And, when you and them get to a distress point or pivot, you’ll have a ton of experience to discuss. Even if it’s not relevant, it makes you interesting. It makes you humble. And, it makes you resilient. You have dirty shoes, filled with stories. Theirs are clean and boring.
You may have seen me reference the “Personal Advisory Board” before. But, what is it?
The Personal Advisory Board is a concept that I’ve borrowed from friend and colleague Ray Pullaro at LIU Post in Brookville, NY. Many of my friends and colleagues are masters of advising young people, students especially. I suppose that’s why they became professors! However, this is a great life tip for anyone and at any point in their career. Ray is an Asst. Dean of the College of Management, an Alumnus of Yale University, and a former Managing Director from Blackstone (a very large and prestigious private equity firm). He told me about the Personal Advisory Board, and I’ve added a few of my own little tips and tricks.
So, let’s get to it:
The Personal Advisory Board is a three member team that mimics a traditional advisory board. An advisory board is a body that provides non-binding strategic advice to the management of a corporation, organization, or foundation. The informal nature of an advisory board gives greater flexibility in structure and management compared to the Board of Directors. If you were the CEO of an organization, you’d really kind of HAVE to listen to a Board of Directors. But, an advisory board is there for your benefit, to guide you with whatever decision you’re making. The same can be said of your Personal Advisory Board. It consists of three members: people you admire who are typically your “voice of reason.” They can be anyone: aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, friends, colleagues, managers, whoever.
I was watching “Chopped” one night when a significantly older competitor told her counterpart, “Look, when you’ve gotten to be my age, you’ll realize you learned two or three times what you think you’ll have learned.” In that same vein, like a “Chopped” cook, I’m going to put my own “spin” on the Personal Advisory Board. And, I’m going to suggest the three people you should put on your Personal Advisory Board.
- Your Goal Role: Someone who is in the role you want, later in the life. They can be ahead of you one step, two steps, or be in the exact place you envision yourself in, when you retire. The point is that they’ve done what you want to do. Maybe they got there in an unorthodox way. Maybe they did exactly what tradition calls for. Whatever the case, they’ve made mistakes along the way and can guide you, properly. I remember hearing a student once tell me, “Well, what I want to do has never been done before.” First of all, while I applaud their innovation, they wound up working in technology in a very traditional role. Secondly, if he became the true innovator he wanted to become, there are other folks who have innovated before him. There are mistakes to learn from, processes to go through, and conversations to be had. Maybe your uncle was the first person to sell coffee in his Brooklyn neighborhood. Or opened a dry cleaners where there was none. That’s innovative. Find someone who’s broken the rules. Or played by them. Just draw the connection.
- The Success Story: It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, how they got there, or how far it is from your career goal. They know the formula for success. And, they have some wisdom to share. Try to select someone who thinks differently than you. Figure out how their brain works. And, see what you can learn from them during every conversation. It helps if they are in a similar field to you. But, this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s very important, here, to find someone who is the yin to your yang. While all of your Advisory Board members should be successful, they should have opposite viewpoints than you, be able to teach you something during each conversation, and provide you with something you don’t have. You’re not perfect. Add to your skills and traits through this person.
- The Outsider: This is someone who has no linkage to your industry or job. They are there to give you an outside perspective. Perhaps a family member like a mother, father, or older sibling. Or, you can select a friend, fraternity or sorority member, etc. This should be someone you would need to explain things to. Why? Because having to explain things to someone who is not in your field or industry will ensure that you do what is necessary to break things down, simply. Doing so will put you in a position to really think about what you are doing, what decisions you are making, and why you are making them. Plus, you’ll have a great resource to help you make those decisions, since they bring a completely unbiased perspective.
So, there it is, your Personal Advisory Board. Now, what do they do? PAB Members are your wise and righteous helpers. They are there to help you make the tough decisions, professionally and personally. Are you looking to leave your company? Ask your board. Are you thinking about a divorce? Ask your board. Are you thinking of investing in a small business? Ask… your… board.
But, before you ask your board these tough questions, first you have to ask them to be ON your board. How do we do that? Well, let’s have a look:
- Board Selection- Select your members carefully. And, be sure to make them sustainable choices. If you need to replace someone, you can. But, there’s no reason to tell them. Simply ask another member. Do this sparingly.
- Do the Ask- Ask them to be on your board and tell them what that means. They have been selected as one of three personal advisers to be with you within a moments notice. Let’s define that. It means that within 24 hours your Advisory Board Member needs to get back to you with a one hour time block so that they can help you make your decision. Of course, there are limitations (someone is out of the country or dealing with a death in the family, whatever). But, for the most part, they need to be available.
- Engage them! Now that you have your board, engage them with question.
As always, thank you for reading and enjoy building your Professional Advisory Board!