August 20, 2018

Who’s got your back?

Businesses benefit in countless ways from having a board of advisors. A good board can take a lead role in devising and driving a business strategy. It can help a company fulfill its goals and grow through independent feedback and advice. Board members have a genuine interest in the company's success and are made up of trusted advisors who challenge management to think outside the box. Boards bring knowledge and diverse skills to the business.

All of that is great for a business, but what about you? After all, you are your own brand, and you're growing yourself professionally. When you go to an interview or ask for a promotion, you're selling yourself and your skills – YOU are the product. Whether you're working your way up the corporate ladder, transitioning into something new, building a business, or fresh out of school, it's daunting work. So who has your back? Who's on your personal board?

On Feb. 24th, I attended the Dynamic Women in Business Conference at Harvard Business School. At the conference, I attended a breakout session led by Lisa Skeete Tatum, co-founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform created to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace, and to enable companies to attract, develop and retain high-potential, diverse talent. At the conference, Skeete Tatum discussed the importance of creating your personal board of advisors – a dream team you can turn to for the support you need to achieve your goals. They are the people you call when you're in a pinch and need advice, roadblocks removed, a plan of action, or a connection. These are your go-to people.

Your personal board should fill six key roles (the same person may fill multiple):

1. Your mentor. This is your personal strategist. A mentor helps you articulate your goals and holds you accountable.

2. Your sponsor. This is your call-in-a-favor person. A sponsor creates opportunities and opens doors for you.

3. Your connector. This person knows everyone and is plugged into great networks. A connector puts you in touch with the right people.

4. Your point expert. This is your been-there-done-that person. You can rely on them for advice on topics relevant to your career.

5. Your executive coach. This is the independent voice asking tough questions. A coach pushes you to find the right solutions.

6. Your close friend. This person knows you well personally, and you're comfortable leaning on them for support.

So where do you find this dream team? It might take time, but as you meet people in your personal and professional life, think about whether or not they would be a good fit. Perhaps it's a professor who gave you great advice; a supervisor from a previous job whom you admire; or an executive at a local company you follow on social media sharing great nuggets of wisdom.

Attend conferences and networking events. The Worcester region is lucky to boast a number of fantastic social events and networking groups. Between the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce; the Young Professional Women's Association; Central Mass. Young Professionals; my new venture coming this fall, Speaker Sisterhood (shameless plug); and so many others, you're bound to find great people, doing great things, who could become great advisors to you, so network with a purpose! Find your people, treat them well, thank them often, and reciprocate.

Erin Jansky is the director of human resources at the Worcester Redevelopment Authority. Reach her at


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