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3 Reasons to Have a Personal Board of Directors

Posted on April 18, 2019
Pencil illustrations of 6 "business-like" people: 4 women and 2 men all looking straight on as if looking at you.

I recently attended a Women’s Faculty meeting in which the topic was mentorship. In the discussion, the idea of our personal board of directors was raised. I had not thought about the people in my life—the cheerleaders, those who hold me accountable, those who push me, those who are experiencing the same struggles, or those who can connect me to people—as members of my board, but that’s what they are. While the role of a corporate or nonprofit board is the management of the organization, personal boards are meant to help guide and shape the individual in their own management of their careers and personal lives.

I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about the value of a personal board of directors, and there are many, but three specific benefits continue to rise to the surface:

Help you navigate the twists and turns of career life

Very few people can trace a straight line from their college graduation to their current position. For most of us, our careers began in one direction, then shifted to another, and made another shift again, and so on. These shifts can be associated with career changes, hiatuses, moves or even interests. Without the guidance of a personal board of directors, one can make these shifts haphazardly, gaining little benefit from the experience. For example, it is perfectly fine to take three steps back to make a career change, but not okay to take three steps back because you don’t like your boss. A personal board of directors, should stop you from making those kinds of decisions. Conversely, for women who step out (or step back) of their work lives to raise families, the personal board of directors is there to guide the re-entry process to ensure decisions are strategic versus taking the first position offered.

Help you grow in your career and as an individual

Our career trajectory should about more than not just moving up the corporate ladder from one position to the next. It should also be about growing our skills, adding to our toolbox, i.e. becoming a better leader with each step up. It is really about growing as a person. A the personal board of directors can help you reflect and grow both professionally and individually by asking you the tough questions, by forcing you to see beyond yourself, and by sharing personal examples and experiences to help you see more options.

Provide guidance when there are no visible doors

It can be hard enough to make decisions when there are multiple options before you – each with different consequences and outcomes, but sometimes we are faced with situations where there are no apparent doors. At least one of our personal board of directors has likely faced this situation, and can thus be of great assistance by sharing their experience. Often times there are doors, but we can’t see them because we are stuck in our thinking and experience. A personal board of directors can help you see the potential doors and help you assess the benefits and drawbacks of each.

I encourage you to think about your personal board, and if you don’t have one, then start to create one. Personally, I have come to rely on my personal board of directors to not only cheer me on and celebrate my successes, but more often to help me navigate the muddy, the complex, and the unknown. They have called me out when I have been wrong, held me to the highest standards, and forced me to see situations through a variety of lens – all of which make me better, stronger, more empathetic, and more confident.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College
Drexel University
Posted in professional-development-career-tips