Don’t Go It Alone: Build Your Board of Directors

The college to career process is a daunting one but you can pre-game it (and lay the foundation for future professional success-) by learning how to work the key relationships you have and identifying the knowledgeable professionals you would like to know.

Getting a job isn’t easy if you are doing it alone and online:

  • A 1.2% return rate re online submissions means the internet is not an efficient means of getting you noticed and landing a job.
  • 80% of jobs are never advertised
  • Todays automated algorithm/ATS systems are designed to benefit employers looking to eliminate candidates, not find them.

Networking is 3x more likely to get you a job than applying directly.

Finding a job is all about “warm” contacts (people who are familiar with your skills, strengths and professional goals to refer you and will answer a phone call or email.)

What’s a Board of Directors?

A board of directors (BoD) is a group of individuals, elected to represent a company’s shareholders—or in this case, YOU! Their primary functions are to establish policies for corporate management and to make decisions on major company issues. Your personal BoD isn’t just a group of people who work for companies you’re interested in—they’re personally invested in the same issues that drive you. And you’ll find them through networking.

      • LinkedIn is a great way to cast a wide net—but your BoD doesn’t need to include 1,500 people. A tighter engaged group of stakeholders is likely to offer more immediate and direct support.

As Dorie Clark, author and Duke Business School professor, puts it: “The best reason to build a professionally diverse network…isn’t about what you’ll get out of those relationships. It’s to fulfil your personal curiosity and develop yourself as a person; professional or monetary ROI is a happy coincidence.”

Most successful leaders- regardless of industry and expertise, regard mentoring and talent development as a key part of their success. Everyone is looking for great team members like you. Your inner circle- advisors at internships, managers at jobs, professors and academic advisors and close ‘extra-curricular’ contacts are the first port of call in finding meaningful contacts who fit the specs above.

So, how do you go about developing these relationships?  First, choose people who are:

  • willing to advocate for you
  • eager to share their wisdom
  • invested in the same issues that drive you
  • willing to introduce you

Someone really cool just gave you their card—how should you follow up?

  • Pay attention to details as you seek points of connection. Small cues like the poster on an office wall or a decal on someone’s car can give you insights into what drives them.
  • Give before you get: Figure out how to help, uplift and support the person you’re reaching out. Do they have causes you can support? What other way can you add value?
  • DO listen before you start talking about yourself. Learning about a person’s history, challenges, and passions will not only give you valuable wisdom—it will fuel future conversations.
  • DON’T forget that every interaction is a two-way exchange. Ask your contact what they’re focused on right now, what they might need some help with, and how you can support them.
  • Learn how to talk about yourself in an engaging, memorable and concise (3-4 words that best describe you, 2-3 things that set you apart) way.
  • DO be clear about who you are, what you’re doing in the world, and precisely what you need help with.

An important note: if someone has gone out of their way to meet or assist you always follow up with an appropriate thank you. Communicate how their time/advice/contact helped you. Consider the best form of contact- is it a handwritten note perhaps with a small memento relevant to your conversation and what you learned about them, or if distance or time frame dictates a personalized email- whatever- be sure to show your genuine gratitude! This is a positive, polite and memorable way to continue the dialogue.

Your Board can help guide you, steer, you, point you in the right direction, and introduce you to people you need to know, remember however that this process takes time so it behooves you to start now, be consistent and open to opportunities and resilient if you hit a dead end. You will along the way find folks who just aren’t ready to join ‘a board’…and that’s ok, you will find yours.


Written by Fran Berrick

Check out Fran’s career coaching company, Spearmint, for more tips and resources!

By Fran Berrick
Fran Berrick Founder and Career Coach