It Takes a Village….to Build a Career

Apr 13, 2023 | Quick Takes

You’ve heard the old saying – It takes a village to raise a child. (Most parents would agree.)

It ALSO takes a village to build a career 🙌.

No one does it alone. No one. And, don’t get me started on people who proclaim to be “self-made” – a phrase I utterly reject. No one is self-made. It’s a myth. But that’s another newsletter. 😉

So, who should be in your village?

My oft-repeated advice to young professionals is to assemble a collection of smart, diverse people to serve as your informal “board,” inspired by the boards that every company and non-profit organization has for support, inspiration and accountability. I call this game changer move BYOB, short for Build Your Own Board.

BYOBequipt with this vital 6-pack of your personal champions:

Work Friend 👯

Know what you want to learn and keep it manageable. Your goal might be learning about their company culture, understanding the path to promotion, whether an advanced degree is recommended, or uncovering the most important skill they have cultivated in their role.

Mentor 💖

This person is a well-respected, accomplished professional in your field (inside or outside of your organization) who can offer insight and guidance as you navigate your career path. A mentor may be your manager, former professor, relative, family friend or someone you meet through networking. Mentors can provide guidance based on their past experiences, lessons learned, and knowledge of compensation. Additionally, they often help motivate you, connect you to other professionals in your field, and avoid common mistakes.

Sponsor 🤝

This is a lesser-known but critical person to have in your corner. They’re usually a respected leader inside your company with a lot of influence. And they use their influence to advocate for you behind closed doors with HR leaders and executives when it’s time to discuss new assignments, promotions and pay increases. A sponsor typically is a senior leader with an eye out for aspiring leaders and high performers who are reliable, driven and motivated to succeed. How to find a sponsor? Be excellent in your role, indispensable to your team, and seek out stretch assignments where a potential sponsor will have visibility to your work.

Coach 🤼

A career coach can help you better understand yourself, see a broader range of current and future possibilities, navigate difficult situations, sharpen your resume, set inspiring goals and craft a plan of action. In short, a coach helps you become the best version of yourself. I suggest using a coach certified by the ICF (or equivalent) with real-world business experience so their coaching considers the practical realities of the corporate world. A coach typically charges an hourly fee or offers a bundle of sessions over a period of time, e.g., 3-12 months.

  Industry Peer 👩‍💼

You may find this person inside your company doing the same (or similar job) that you’re doing. An industry peer could also be someone in a similar role in another company. (It’s best to cultivate several of these relationships). Use LinkedIn and ask for a phone call to get acquainted, and share common insights about your role and insight about future opportunities. Inside or outside of the company, industry peer relationships can be valuable benchmarks to know if you’re being equitably compensated.

Cheerleader 🤸

Whether it’s your roommate, best friend, sibling, spouse or significant other, you need a close personal relationship in your corner. This person isn’t necessarily your go-to for career advice if they lack relevant experience, but their emotional support and willingness to listen and cheer for your success is key. On the other hand, pay attention if the most important person in your life is holding you back from pursuing your dreams.


If your feels out of control, take control.

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