by Janet and Laura Greenwald
How would you like to have your own board of advisors? A group of people you can go to for advice every time you come across an area you’re a bit shaky on. Sound good?It’s simple really. When you want something or need something — advice, brainstorming, a personal contact — whatever it is, all you have to do is find someone who can give it to you and ask for it. Asking for what you want is not only simple, it moves mountains. And when you combine it with a few extra steps, before you know it, you’ll have an advisory board of your very own.When you ask a business contact for advice one of three things happens.
- The person you ask doesn’t answer or doesn’t know the answer to your questions.
- The person gives you the answer.
- The person is so intrigued by the question, that he or she tells you to call the next time you have a question.
And suddenly, you have a mentor.Have you ever wondered how successful people seem to become more and more successful in every area of their lives? Simple, they recruit mentors! If you don’t want to end up reinventing the wheel, mentors are absolutely crucial to your eventual success in your new job or undertaking.Sometimes it’s easy. You talk to someone to ask a question and you just hit it off.Other times, you need to recruit your mentor. This is true in any area of your life — finances, having a better marriage, anything — not just your career. The key is to find a person or people who have expertise in the area you need. If you want to learn how to invest, find a person who is phenomenal at investing. If you want to become a better accountant, or writer, or salesperson, call around, do some research, find two or three of the absolute best accountants, writers or salespersons you can and approach them, either by letter or phone call .For the first meeting or phone call, stick to a few specific questions and try not to take up a lot of time. If you like the feedback you’re getting, seem to get along well and he or she leaves the door open for further contact, then be sure to contact him or her the next time you have a question. Always be brief, polite and remember to send a short thank-you note after that first meeting. E-mail greeting cards are great for this purpose. They’re fast, free and can really brighten someone’s day. If the relationship begins to grow, then sit down with this person and tell him or her that you’ve been looking for a mentor in his or her area of expertise. Let him or her know what your goals are, how you plan to achieve them and ask about willingness to meet with you (again e-mail is great for this purpose) regularly for advice and feedback. If he or she can’t do it personally, ask for a recommendation of a few other people whom you can contact.And, although the advice won’t be quite as personalized, don’t forget that you’ll find a wealth of information in books. We’re so blessed in this world to be able to get the input of people like Sir John Templeton for financial advice, Bill Gates for advice on building a company, and countless other experts, just by walking into a library or a bookstore.Very often, a relationship that begins as an advice call and rises to mentorship, will begin to go even farther. Suddenly the venture that you’re involved in or the business you’re growing will become so worthwhile or valuable that the people who have been advising you will want to become involved in it.This is exactly what happened to us when we were working to enact two healthcare bills in the California and Illinois legislatures. The associations, lobby groups, and experts who mentored us about the legislative process ended up lobbying for or acting as experts on the bills themselves. Before we knew it, we had an informal board of advisors, each of whom had an actual stake in the subject in which they were advising us.Now we have an entire group of experts to call if something unfamiliar comes up or when something exciting happens. For example, we’ve put together a program to help hospitals and trauma centers in the Chicago metropolitan area learn how to notify their patient’s next of kin promptly and effectively. One e-mail to the gang telling them about what we’re up to or asking a question, and they’re emailing us back with advice and contacts and asking to be involved in the program in any way they can. This is an incredible and powerful way to be proactive!Mentors or full-blown advisory boards can be used in any area of your life. They don’t even have to be formal. If for instance, you need help deciding which investment vehicle to use, how to choose a college for your child, or even how to save a few extra dollars at the supermarket, just find a few people who are already succeeding at that task and ask for their advice.
To recap, anytime you find an area of your life that needs improvement, sit down in a quiet place and outline the problem you’re having. Let’s say that your investments aren’t earning as much as you want them to. You sit down to clarify the problem and remember that three different people have mentioned that a specific type of bond is working well for them. Your next step would be to call and meet with those people and any other people (like one of their brokers) who can fill you in on those bonds and other investments that might be better than your old way of investing. Now not only have you learned about the investment, all of those people know that you’re serious about money and will clue you in the next time they find another good vehicle. Maybe you’ll even start an investment club with them.When you get to be an expert in your new field, don’t forget to return the favor and make yourself available to up-and-comers looking for their own mentors. And don’t forget to give back to the people who helped you. Every time we find an article we think will be of interest to our friends and advisors, people they should meet or things they might want to pursue, we contact them ASAP. Remember, one of the most powerful laws of the universe: Give and it shall be given unto you.Excerpted from LifeSteps: Putting The Purpose Back Into Your Career & Your Life. Copyright: Team Greenwald Productions. Used with permission. All rights reserved
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.