Should You Trade Your Mentor for a Personal Board of Directors?

Last Updated Oct 21, 2010 10:02 AM EDT

Like avocado appliances and Friendster, mentoring is well and truly over according to career coach Priscilla Claman. On the HBR's Conversation blog recently Claman claims that the changing nature of the career track for mid and high-level managers makes being identified with a single mentor counter-productive.
Middle- and senior-level managers are no longer the ones with stable jobs. With changes in direction, restructuring, downsizing, acquisitions, mergers and, of course, recessions, your mentor is just as likely to move on or be laid off as you are. And if you are considered your mentor's special protégé, you'll most likely lose your job when she does.
The old job-for-life (or even decades) model may be dead but young strivers still need guidance and connections, and someone to show they how things really get done. So what does Claman suggest as a modern update on the old-fashioned mentor? A personal board of directors. She defines her idea as, "a group of people you consult regularly to get advice and feedback."

Forget holding meetings with minutely planned agendas. Just keeping in regular touch with each member of your board separately is fine. Claman isn't overextending the metaphor into the territory of the ridiculous, but she does outline parallels between a good corporate board and the ideal personal one.

Just like any good board, the people you choose should have different contributions to make to your thinking. You might want to include your boss or a colleague you admire -- or both.... The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view. Putting only buddies on your board won't help you grow and develop.
Claman also points out the taking a team approach to steering your career casts a wider net of contacts when it comes time to make a career transition. Are you sold on the concept? If you're intrigued, check out this BNET post on assembling a team of mentors for more info on how to go about recruiting your personal board.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user adactio, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.