Do You Have a Career Council?
Life prior to having a Career Council
It’s impossible to maximize your potential within your career by growing solo. Many of us have people we lean on throughout our careers, but do you have a Career Council? Do you have someone that you go to for anything? How about for advice or just for blowing off steam? I don’t. I have many! I call it my Career Council. You should have one too!
Building your Career Council is an investment that will pay dividends in both career development but more importantly, human and relationship development.
Life prior to having a Career Council
Early in my career, I was a Lone Ranger. Things came easy to me and I was able to advance quickly without much issue, but I started to realize that I wasn’t all that and a bag of chips, I needed help! I started to run into issues where I wasn’t growing as fast as I was the years prior and I began to see others grow at a much more rapid pace but I didn’t understand why. After some humbling experiences and personal introspection I realized, I can’t do this alone.
There comes a point in career maturity when you may discover you don’t have all the answers, and in fact, others might be able to help. This realization hit hard with me in my career development and I want to share this lesson with you so that you can accelerate in your career faster than I did. I’ll refer to this as building your Career Council!
(Learn more about being career overconfident, a loan ranger and transforming into someone who grows more rapidly by asking for help by reading, Career 101-Stop Growing Alone)
What is a Career Council?
I view a Career Council as a collection of mentors, peers, friends, and people who know how to adult better than I do, that I’ve connected with overtime, and I look to for guidance, feedback, and tough love. They aren’t always people I work with and they definitely aren’t always people higher up the ladder than me. Instead, these are people I trust and are people I admire and respect.
My career council consists of peers, mentors, current and past leaders, coaches, friends, family, and even some social media friends. The common threads amongst people on my council are, we speak openly and honestly with each other, respecting each other’s point of view, and we listen intently. The quickest way to cause someone to leave your council is to disrespect their attempt to help you grow.
A Career Council isn’t just about you, and your growth. I am invested in helping the people on my Council grow as much as they are invested in me. When they need an ear, I listen. When they need a kick in the rear, I follow through. When they need help, well, you get the point. Cultivating your Career Council requires an investment. The more you put in, the more you get out!
How do you build your Career Council?
When I was an early programmer, I wasn’t open. I was scared to show my code to others because I worked with some really smart engineers and I was afraid they would found out how much of a newb I was. It was almost a year into my first gig when one of the senior engineers approached me and sensed I had no idea what I was doing.
I was at a point where I was so stuck and up against a wall that I had no choice but to ask for help. Just when I thought this senior engineer whom I looked up to would realize I was a total fraud, surprised me, and instead of pointing at my flaws, he sat down next to me and invested the next two weeks helping me. This engineer became my first mentor, someone I trusted into my Career Council and helped me develop into the person I am today.
This experience unlocked a new part of my brain that allowed me to transform into someone who craved more mentorship. I was humbled and learned that I needed others to help me grow throughout my career. I needed to change my mindset into someone who was open and transparent so that others could help me grow.
The scary part of this approach is being vulnerable and letting others know you don’t know stuff. It’s funny because at first, you think vulnerability shows others you are weak. Instead, it has the exact opposite effect, it shows others you have the courage and strength to acknowledge what you are weakest at and it becomes a magnet for people to help.
This magnet attracts people into your life and as they enter, you have a choice to let them in or to repel them away. I try to let as many people in as possible because I believe that the more people I have in my magnetic field, the more feedback I will attract, and the faster I will grow.
How does a Career Council help you?
I leverage my Career Council in many ways. The most obvious is for feedback and advice. I approach people on my Council almost daily, asking them questions about how they might approach a situation or how I can improve upon mine.
As someone who leads software engineering teams, I often consult my council about team changes and technology direction. They challenge me to think differently, to view things from another perspective.
The most impactful way my Career Council helps me is by holding me accountable to becoming the type of person and leader I want to be. They are very direct with me by shining a light on my missteps and opportunities. They ask me hard questions and they push me beyond my potential. This is the real value of a Career Council, people who care about who you are becoming and help you exceed your potential because they believe in you!
Start building your Career Council!
Stop. Look around. I bet you already have people you would label as candidates for your career council. This is your foundation to begin growing it.
Remember, it’s not about a person’s title, wealth, or status, that makes for a good candidate. It’s about picking people you trust, respect, and who you have a mutual and genuine investment in. I’ve learned to select all types of people in all types of roles.
If I told you that I have welcomed interns into my career council, would you be surprised? It’s true. Experience is not a leading indicator for someone to be in my council. Interns have fresh eyes.
They ask new questions. They challenge you to grow differently than someone with 20 years of industry knowledge. A strong career council is a diverse council. Just like stocks, diversify your council portfolio and you will yield better returns. The important takeaway though is to build a career council in the first place!
That’s it, get to building!
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear about your career council and how they are helping you grow, it’s different for all of us.
Technologist, leader, writer, and I created BuildBetterTeams.org to help new tech leaders be better leaders and build awesome dev teams! #LeadershipLife