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Building a Job Search Board of Directors

No reason to go it alone in Job Search

Job Search can feel very lonely at times, as you are the one doing all the work and follow-up to keep your momentum going.  You seem to get either little or no feedback (especially when not selected for a role or followed up by networking contact) or tons of feedback – both of which you need to understand.

Creating a Job Search Board of Directors

A recommendation I got from a fellow candidate was to create a board of directors.   Of course, my first question was what the heck is a Job Search Board of Directors?   The answer is that it is a small group, 3 to 5 people, who have a vested interest in you.  The vested interested is important, they must be people willing to invest in you.  Because they must take time to regularly provide their counsel and be willing to open doors on your behalf by putting their reputation and network to work for you.

Now you will not actually hold ‘board meetings’, you meet them on a one-on-one basis.  I did, however, let my members know who I asked to help me via an introduction e-mail.

Why do you need a board?

It’s simple: A board provides you an objective set of eyes.   As job search is a learning experience on how to best pitch yourself and effectively incorporating the lessons learned.   There will be no shortage of new information.  In fact, you get bombarded with new ideas.  A board will help you sort through what’s important and how to build new ideas into your search.

One of the reasons a board can help you build in new ideas is because they can see where you clearly stand – skills, pitch, etc.

Knowing where you are is important.  But there’s a deeper reason for me to have people who care about you around – as a job search continues and we all tend to discount ourselves due to the frustration of a search.  So they will remind us what we are good at!

On the flip side, they help keep us honest.   My Dad would say to me “What you don’t know won’t hurt you, it’s what you think you know but don’t – that’s the killer”.

Okay, so I’ve convinced you to get a board.  Who should be on it?

I selected people in four areas “Personal”, “Professional”, “Industry” and “Networking”.  Here are the characteristics I seek for someone to fill that spot.

Personal: You want someone who knows you very well – they will also be direct and honest.

Professional: These are people who hold the same role you do and have been in transition.  They have experiences and connections that are very relevant to your own search.

Industry: Whether you are staying in the same industry or moving to a new one.  Having someone with deep experience and connections is invaluable.   One of the areas of caution is that you need to select someone with a good reputation, because their word may spread quickly.

Networking:  Having someone who is skilled at the art of networking is invaluable.  Being a good networker comes over time and being known for being a good networker takes even longer.  The 80% rule is that 80% of the meeting is focused on the other person, not you, so it’s a long-term commitment toward build relationships and giving first.

The purpose for having the different categories of people is that you will seek different counsel and insight from each.

Personal: I need that the most effective people in search are those who make it their own.  It’s more than your skills, but your personality.  In how you select jobs to pursue, pitch yourself and approach your networking.  This board member knows who you are, so they can help reflect that balance.  As important, this is the go to person when you need to make difficult choices, whether personal or professional.

Professional: This board member is all about insight and connections related to the job you seek.  As for your documents and pitch, they will make sure the items employers seek are included.

Industry: Knowing where an industry is heading and understanding it subtle nuances are valuable to ensure you fit, especially if you seek a change, and to help you stand out during an interview.  Their industry contacts usually include both many within and beyond your local network.

Networking:  If 80%+ of jobs come from networking, then you want to learn from a master.  Simply ask them how they approach their networking, in particular, how they prepare for and run a meeting.  This insight will be pure gold for improving your own approach.  Lastly, they will have loads of connections – so choose those who will help move you closer to the decision maker.

Okay class, there is homework.  Design your own board.

You can start with my categories, but then add those which make sense.  Perhaps you are seeking role with an emerging technology, so find someone who can teach you.  Maybe there’s a target city, so find someone who lives there.

For each category, make a list of 3-5 people.  This is important as not everyone will say yes and board members circumstances may change as to if they have time to help you.

Invite one person – I recommend you do this face-to-face.  You need to be clear that you are seeking help and what you want from them.  For example, for the industry contact, you seek help with trends, etc.

Assuming they agree, figure out how they would like to communicate.   If it’s phone or e-mail, I’d still encourage you to meet face-to-face occasionally – may not be for targeted city member – as I think the connection remains stronger.

Never forget that you can help them, so keep up to date with what they are working on.

We’ve heard the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.  So build the board at your own pace and see if it works for you.  My experience was that I got so much information; it took me awhile to process.

Good luck today.

Mark Richards


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