Chair(wo)man of the Board

May 4, 2013

In the past, I’ve written about finding confidence architects and the need for better mentorship in student affairs. I reflect on these topics a lot, mostly because I struggled to find a support system when I was starting out as a new professional. Who knew that mentors don’t grow on trees?

Recently I heard Ray Angle speak about “Exhibiting Leadership in Your Own Career” at the North Carolina Association of College and Employers conference. During his talk he said, Forget finding a mentor, but create your own Board of Directors.

I like this idea because it takes the pressure off of having one person in your corner who has all the answers. Your Board includes more than colleagues, but a multitude of advisors who understand both your personal and professional goals. Save seats at your boardroom table for the following folks:

The colleague. This should be someone in the field whom you respect and trust. A person you can really learn from. Someone who understands your work and is willing to show you the ropes.

The outsider. Student affairs can be incestuous at times. The people in our circles are made up of other higher ed folks, so it can be difficult to separate ourselves from the issues we’re experiencing. Choose a person who knows very little about your work– they just might have the best ideas for you.

The confidant. Sometimes you just need to get something off your chest– and it may not be appropriate for certain ears to hear. So you need someone in your network who is willing to listen and keep your conversations under lock and key.

The honest friend. Sometimes we have a tendency to sugarcoat things. But certain situations need a little bit more grit. In a tough situation, you may need to call the friend who will call you on your bullshit. Maybe it’s not your university, your supervisor, your coworkers– maybe it’s you. Sometimes you need someone who’s willing to tell you that.

The spiritual advisor. This isn’t necessarily a religious leader, but someone who shares and understands your values. This is a person who understands that you want to start a family instead of pursuing more education. Someone who can recognize where you fit in the grand scheme of things and how to react when your integrity is being tested.

The partner. When it comes to making tough decisions, many of us need to consult our spouses or significant others. Want to take that new job in California? Better make sure your family is on board with moving across the country.

Who would you enlist to be on your board of directors? What are some other qualities you look for in advisors and mentors?


May 5, 2013 @ 10:22 am

WOW, thank you for this post; I’m almost at my 2-year mark in Student Affairs, and have a sense of inadequacy about not having a mentor–it was spoken about in my grad classes quite frequently, and it’s so common to hear things like, “I was chatting with my mentor the other day…”

As I read this post, I saw my own Board fleshing out–a couple of those positions have already been filled, and I can identify people for several others. Maybe I’m not so lacking as I have believed. Thanks!

    May 6, 2013 @ 9:49 am

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jessi! It is so easy to view a mentor as someone older, wiser, more accomplished, connected, etc., etc. The reality is, many of us have supports all around us, we just need to know where to look!

May 6, 2013 @ 9:18 am

Thank you for this post Mallory! I couldn’t agree more with this. A solid board to turn to is a necessity for professional and personal sanity. Twitter has really helped me develop this outside network as sometimes that outside perspective and sounding board is just what I need for perspective and balance.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

    May 6, 2013 @ 9:50 am

    Thanks for reading, Adam! Twitter is a great tool to help fill the positions on your board. Some “positions” can become long term, and some of them are temporary. It’s just knowing who will be the best assets at that particular time.

Linda hall
May 6, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

Nice job, as always, Mallory!


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