Someone much more perceptive and experienced than I once told me to imagine I have an invisible board of directors in my life and career. There are people sitting at your table who have profound effect on your professional and personal life. These are people who offer you support, guidance, advice, perspective, empathy. They may not know they have such a meaningful relationship for you (but they probably do). Think about who is sitting at your table, whether they know they are or not.
My knowledge of board of directors doesn’t go much further than the many boardroom scenes I’ve seen in Succession [warning: strong language from Logan Roy]. I do know a board of directors sets strategies, develops goals, and advises on the overall vision of the company (the company – in this metaphor – is you!).
I’m a big advocate of mentorship, whether formally or informally. I believe that professional (and personal) support networks are one of the fundamental pieces to a rewarding life and career. Mentors help with so much: all aspects of job searching, how promotion or tenure work at your institution, understanding work culture, what professional development opportunities to take on, someone to provide perspective on issues you’re struggling with – the list is endless. I’m lucky enough to have a wonderfully supportive mentor at the U of Manitoba, who shares insightful perspective, incisive advice, and endless encouragement.
Think about seeking out support networks that are available – through your institution or library associations, but also know opportunities will present themselves, whether formally or informally. The whole idea is you build a support network, based on connection and relationship with others, whether that’s others you work with or near. Maybe it includes your colleagues, your supervisor, someone in library administration, someone at a different institution, someone you went to school with, or someone in a different city altogether that you’ve met and gotten to know.
I recently read an interesting article that identified six types of mentors: personal guide, personal advisor, full-service mentor, career advisor, career guide, and role model. Some guides, advisors, or mentors may offer more professional support, some more psychosocial support, and some a mix of both. Some may be short-term, long-term, or span the length of your entire career.
I’ve found that your directors may change and that’s okay. As you move throughout your career, you will have different people that are meaningful to you. In the American Psychological Association’s Introduction to Mentoring, the authors note it is common to have multiple guides and advisors over the course of your career, able to address different needs depending on your stage of career or individual needs, and in effect, creating a developmental network. Different people can address different aspects of your professional life. I find mentors promote a sense of meaning in your work, give direction to areas where you’re otherwise directionless, and use their experience to inform your own.
I’ve written in the past about the power of connection and I strongly encourage you to seek support from colleagues or to take on opportunities for mentorship that you find. Whether you find the board of directors metaphor useful or not, give some thought to who is at the table of your personal board of directors, and let’s just hope – for your sake – there are no boardroom coups or hostile takeovers.