Build a Championship Team for Your Career

Back in the day, before the recession, you could hitch your wagon to a rising star in your organization, create a mentoring relationship, and find career success. Nowadays, your mentor is not likely to be around for your whole career—voluntarily or involuntarily.

The hot phrase among career coaches is “Personal Board of Directors”, but I disagree. YOU are the Director of your own career, but you need some advisors to challenge, inspire and support you. We all do. Assemble an Advisory Council or Consulting Team that can offer fresh perspectives, call you out, or help you recover from rejection, but not one that tells you what to do. Clearly, one person cannot fill all these roles.

Who should you include on your team? Your team should be a matrix organization, where the columns are Roles and the rows are Qualities. Try to cover all these bases, as well as any roles or qualities you identify for yourself.


  • A Subject Matter Expert who can give you inside information and advocate for you. This advisor can review your resume and help you research specific organizations. This advisor must also help you network, so make sure your expert is also well-connected.
  • A Pragmatist who will help you weigh both sides of a decision. This advisor should be someone who knows you well and can speak critically without hurt feelings.
  • A Role Model who you aspire to be (or to be like).
  • A “Mr. Miyagi” who can push you beyond your current limits and won’t take “No” for an answer. You might not love this advisor all the time, but you need this advice.
  • A “Mary Poppins” who can help you have fun and think outside the box.
  • A Cheerleader who believes that all things are possible. This advisor could be your mom. (I’m not joking!)


  • Magical—someone who adds quirkiness to your brainstorming sessions.
  • Analytical—someone who is good at making decision matrices and loves doing research.
  • Listener—someone who will allow you to rant but who can make the rant into a focus.
  • Opposite of You—if you are impatient, add someone who is impatient; if you’re practical, find a dreamer (use your Myers Briggs or Strengths Finder results!).
  • Just Like You—someone who can validate your ideas and tell you you’re not crazy.

How should you run your advisory team? Here are just a few tips—you can google around for more.

  • Don’t stress about asking. Most people really cherish the opportunity to mentor someone.
  • Make it official—create a team name and let each member know they are joining a real team.
  • Make sure each advisor understands what you think their role can be on your team and why.
  • Introduce them to one another. If they are all in the same location, invite them for drinks or a cookout so they can see how they fit together as a team. If not, create a bio page and circulate it.
  • Talk (in person or on the phone) to each member regularly—at least once a quarter. Update them on your work, your job search, or your hobbies. Talking creates a much stronger bond than email, and most mentors are more likely to fulfill a commitment they make verbally rather than via email.
  • Keep a journal, digital or paper. When you communicate with any team member, document the meeting and the follow-up tasks needed. Write a year-end summary newsletter for the team—that’s a lot more interesting than a holiday letter about your vacation and exercise success!

Donna Dyer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Jessie Kwak

Thanks for the great post, Donna. I love your suggestion to keep a notebook documenting your meetings with your team members – what a great way to create accountability for yourself and make sure you’re not covering old ground. I’m definitely taking notes on this post!

Donna Dyer

Thanks, Jessie! The more deliberate you are about your search, the better your results. All of us need this type of team–no matter where we are in our career trajectory!