The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “Who do you go to when you need career advice?” is written by Tey Scott, senior director of talent acquisition at LinkedIn.
When I graduated college, I immediately set out to build a successful brand. As any CEO will tell you, no brand is built without the help, knowledge, and experience of others. I knew that once I had an idea of my goals, I had to make sure I had the right people in place to help me achieve them.
While I didn’t have a name for them at the time, I have always valued a specific group of people who were early investors and directors of my success. They were people whom I knew I could go to when I needed advice or just a space to vent. This novel concept of creating your own “board of directors” seemed to fit perfectly into what I had already formed with this group.
Here are some tips for finding your own board of directors:
Reach across the aisle and be fearless about it
My first job was in the tech industry as a recruiting coordinator. Although I was the most junior person on staff, I sought to learn from the senior recruiters and quickly realized two things: the career path I wanted to take and how I was going to get there. Perhaps the best first lesson learned: Don’t let your current position determine who you’ll become.
So I would literally move around the office. Every week, I’d get up from where I was sitting near the junior staff and spend time on the opposite side of the aisle with the senior team, learning, listening, and engaging. I would think to myself, “We’re all people, so just go for it.” I would offer assistance when I had downtime and saw they didn’t. At the time, I was simply trying to get to know the industry, but through natural interaction, I built relationships with people who knew how to navigate the corporate waters and were willing to share their advice.
Build your network and don’t be afraid to use it
After about a year, there were changes within the company, and I soon found that my contract was going to be terminated. Sure enough, several of the senior recruiters who I’d befriended compiled a list of at least 50 staffing leaders in their networks and told me I could use their names. This was before the days of social media, so I couldn’t use an online network to connect or find new opportunities. But I did call every single one of the leads, and that’s how I landed my next position. Bumps and challenges happen, but they don’t have to derail you.
These people informally became part of my board of directors, and over the years, those relationships have become completely reciprocal. Periodically I’ll ping them for advice, and when I do, I always ask how I can help in return. Leverage your network to keep moving forward—and don’t feel bad, because someday you’ll have the chance to return the favor.
Be open to advice as well as feedback
My board of directors is there when I need coaching, advice, and feedback from people who are disconnected from my everyday professional world. Most are former managers, colleagues, and HR people who understand legalities and other nuances of the talent recruitment business, but also know the essence of who I am. Several are in totally different industries than me. But all are people I highly value who have helped guide my career. They not only know who I am and how I think, but they are honest and direct. They are the people I rely on for sanity checks and impartial feedback.
If you don’t surround yourself with people who can give you their honest opinion, then it’s up to you to put a mirror up to yourself and take a good, hard look. Be the person you’d want to recruit or want to work with—someone who’s fearless, curious, helpful, innovative, proactive, and open to feedback, growth, and learning opportunities.