Networking is critical for building your personal brand, especially in a competitive job market. You may have the experience, education and work ethic to be successful on paper, but a lot of us lack a crucial social component that’s necessary to take a career to the next level.

Building a career advisory board is a strategy that works, whether you’re fresh out of school or a seasoned professional. Rather than having just a couple of mentors, a board offers multiple points of view which can help you examine your challenges from different perspectives. Turning to a group of individuals that you trust, respect and admire to give you advice and guidance provides the foundation a lot of professionals need to thrive in their field.

Here are 5 steps to help you build your own career advisory board:

 

Address Your Goals

First, figure out where you are going and exactly how your advisory board can help. You’ll need to be very straightforward, otherwise you’ll be wasting your time and the time of your advisors.

Determine how your board can provide value in areas where you may be uncertain. Will you need your board’s advice on career-related situations, like reinvention or adjusting to a new culture? Or can they support you with personal issues, such as the work/life balance of a demanding job?

 

Aim for Achievable Targets

It’s important to keep in mind that your advisory board won’t be built overnight. It can take months, maybe even years, to find the right group of people to help you and this is a task that shouldn’t be rushed.

Set practical deadlines, like: “I will make three connections in the next six months.” This will help keep you focused and creates checkpoints along your journey. If you’re introverted and not easily outgoing, setting mile marker goals can also help push you in the right direction.

 

Reach Out and Build Your Network

7K0A0246Aim high! Look for people that possess the attributes that you may lack but would like to achieve. Contact old bosses, colleagues and friends in a similar industry to become part of your board. They can also provide you with references and help you establish connections to people who match the qualities you’re looking for.

An important reminder

Don’t discount the younger generation! It’s always good to consider them as well, since they often have a lot to teach when it comes to social media, technology and marketing.

Example: When I was transitioning into higher education, one of my best mentors was a women 20 years younger than I who taught me the ropes of career counseling. In return, I served as her sounding board on corporate roles/responsibilities and organizational life. You never know where your connection can lead; today she is very successful in our field and could potentially hire me for work.

 

Build the Relationship

7K0A0841Find a common point of interest to spark the connection between your potential board member. Do your homework. Use technology to your advantage and research their LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, etc. This will give you a clear understanding of what interests them, their passions outside of work, what you’d like to learn from them and it will help organize your thoughts during your introduction.

Also consider ways you can add value to your board members. This will create a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties. Can you introduce them to someone valuable? Are your skills something they admire and that you could help them with? You will have a lot to offer too, so don’t let your connections become a one-sided relationship.

 

Repeat

There’s no limit to the size or reach of your advisory board. With that said, you shouldn’t just collect connections like baseball cards – quality is more valuable than quantity in this instance – but you should always be open to meeting new and worthy contacts. This should be an ongoing process throughout your career as your goals, challenges and personal life are likely to change.

It can be complicated and difficult to navigate and succeed in the business world. Luckily, you don’t have to do it completely alone. Assembling a career advisory board is a proactive step towards achieving your professional goals and provides a competitive edge you need to succeed.