From the Archives: Establish a Personal Advisory Board

“A person’s developmental network can’t be static but needs to evolve over time,” observed the authors of a 2015 MIT Sloan Management Review article. With that in mind, it may be time to build a “personal advisory board” that meets your current needs.

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With the new year comes time to ponder where you’ve been and what is next. It also opens up an opportunity to look at your personal network and start paying closer attention to who your advisers and role models are.

In a 2015 article in MIT Sloan Management Review, Yan Shen, Richard D. Cotton, and Kathy E. Kram argue that “as individuals change roles, occupations, industries or organizations, or relocate to different countries,” they need to build “personal boards of advisers” that fit their careers and current lives.

No question, there’s a real hunger for mentoring. Another MIT Sloan Management Review article, also published in 2015, noted that talented young professionals list mentoring and coaching as critical talent development practices (along with other practices such as being given high-stakes roles and getting support from senior management). The biggest gaps between what these professionals want and what they perceived their employers as providing were related to both mentoring and coaching.

But Shen, Cotton, and Kram make the case that a professional mentor is just one element of a fully formed personal board of advisers.

The authors detail six types of advisers and the time and effort required to cultivate these kinds of relationships. The authors describe the six types as:

  • Full-service mentor (someone with whom you have active, frequent contact for a wide range of career and psychosocial support);
  • Personal adviser (someone who provides active psychosocial support that’s not necessarily work-related);
  • Personal guide (someone you may have known earlier in life who is a source of motivation or inspiration);
  • Career adviser (someone similar to a full-service mentor, but career-focused);
  • Career guide (someone who provides guidance at specific moments, such as a crisis or critical
    career change); and
  • Role model (someone you may not know personally, but whose experience is instructive).

The start of a new year is often a time for self-reflection. And as the authors write, creating a helpful personal board of advisers “depends largely on an individual’s accurate assessment of his or her strengths and weaknesses and career and psychosocial needs and goals.” To help you kick-start a recommitment to self-awareness, self-improvement, and purposeful networking, we invite you to revisit this article from our archives.


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