I am an avid tennis player that enjoys watching professional tennis on television. On the surface, tennis is an extreme individual sport. Players stand alone on one side of a court, a net separating the competitors, and no contact until the end of the match. You sit in a chair alone between odd numbered games, with no one allowed to coach you (until recently).
But when the winner is interviewed at the end of the match, they invariably point to people in their box and thank them for their support. The players’ box can include a coach, trainer, hitting partner, agent, sports phycologist, family, and friends.
Career development can also feel like a lonely endeavor unless you create your own players’ box. Coaches will refer to this as your “personal board of directors.” Whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned professional, you need the support and guidance of others to thrive. Focus on four key areas:
Always have two types of mentors. The work experience mentors help you achieve your professional goals. They have functional expertise and guide you to become a subject-matter-expert. They give you the knowledge and education to succeed in your current role. Learning experience mentors help you achieve your development goals. They have experience and the knowledge of what it takes to become successful in your next role. They outline the attitude, behavior and techniques needed to take on responsibilities of increased scale and/or scope.
Over time you will add sponsors to your team who will use their political capital to uncover opportunities and advocate for your advancement to influential decision-makers.
Financial health is important as it is a major determiner of our physical health and quality of life. For most of us, our job is the biggest wealth-creator we have. The ability to manage our money well opens opportunities or closes doors. When you are early-in-career, and/or do not earn a lot of money focus on adding an accountant to your team. If you work for a large organization, take advantage of the free resources offered such as financial planners and benefits department resources. If you do not have access to free resources, get tips from those you trust on the best financial books to read, podcasts to listen to, and apps to use.
As move up the corporate ladder, grow your business, or make more money the number and sophistication of your financial advisors expands. You need a financial professional to create a plan to convert wages into investment assets. A lawyer might review employment contracts, non-compete agreements, or severance packages. You will need knowledgeable people to educate you on the various compensation components (salary, bonus, guarantees, stock option plans, golden handcuffs, golden parachute); partnership agreements; holding requirements (having to buy a set percentage of company stock to hold a position or title); etc. Investing in good, fiduciary financial advisors are worth the money because they protect you and your interests.
Physical / Emotional Advisors
These advisors help you maintain your physical wellbeing – the ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows you to get the most out of daily activities without undue fatigue or stress. They help you manage the lifestyle factors impacting your overall health including diet, level and type of exercise, and behavior. Emotional advisors, which come in many forms like life coaches or therapists, provide tools and resources for effective parenting, resilience, relationship-building, communication, and stress management.
In short, this group of advisors helps you increase, focus, and monitor the energy you must devote to all aspects of your life.
Spiritual / Social Advisors
We all want our lives to matter, to leave a legacy. Every religious and spiritual tradition will tell you it starts with discovering your purpose in life. These advisors help you discover your purpose, build your character, and shape the values that guide your actions. Community is important. You become who you hang with, so consciously building your social network is pivotal to long-term happiness.
Life is like running a marathon. You need people on the side of the road handing you food, water, and encouraging you when you are tired or want to give up. Best of all, they will be at the finish line, waiting for you to arrive so you can celebrate together.