The concept of a mentor is one where a fledgling professional goes to a single sensei-type figure for support. Like Yoda. Or that crazy wizard guy in “Sword in the Stone”. Mentors are wise and always a step ahead. They take endless joy in educating their apprentice.
You’ll read LinkedIn articles about how to find a mentor, and college advisers will tell you that you need to find a mentor, and I remember looking around thinking “Where are all these mentors? What, that guy over there in the tweed?”
It’s more realistic to appoint a Board of Directors. Why? Because we look to several people for their differing perspectives anyways. When we’re about to take a leap into the unknown, what do we do? We talk to all the wise people we know.
A List of Everyone on My Board of Directors
- My mother-in-law, who usually cracks open sage advice the same time she’s uncorking a bottle of wine.
- My Dad, the fun-loving company man who uses inspirational sailing analogies.
- My vocal coach and music sensei. She’s especially great because she teaches me how to be a better music teacher. She helps me become better at my craft. AND (!) she owns a fantastic music school in Columbus called Musicologie.
- The woman whose children I used to nanny. She works in Public Relations at the Zoo and gives me supportive pep talks when I need one from someone who gets it. She’s seen me through some formative career moves, and I never have to explain myself.
- My bandmates. They are both bad-ass professionals who give me the best advice on how to rock. They know how to navigate the real world because they live in it. My drummer is a boss. (A real boss. Who manages people. But she’s a boss in the rad sense, too.)
- My husband Charley, who’s a Design Engineer with a creative process much like mine.
Why Having a Board of Directors Makes More Sense Than Just Having a Mentor
1. You don’t end up wearing out one person.
When I’m about to do something deliciously crazy, I tend to obsess. I read books about it, I research until I need eyedrops, I talk the ears off anyone who will listen. It would be cruel if I chose only one person to direct me on this path of life. The poor mentor would hide from me and flag her calls. Instead, I’m nice and I spread it out among a bunch of different mentors.
2. You get different perspectives.
My Board of Directors is diverse: young and old, corporate types and entrepreneurs, artists and scientists. Each of these people have something different to say, but it’s nice when they all say “Hey kid, I got your back.” All that diverse support helps you see your situation from all sides.
3. The more connections you have, the better.
By appointing my personal board of directors, I have been able to stay in touch with professionals who are ten years my senior, and who I perhaps never would have interacted with again. The frequent contact makes us feel more like a village.
So basically , when it comes to choosing a mentor, don’t just choose a mentor. Let people support you!