Building Your Internal Support Team

By Mitch Wienick, President

One of the challenging aspects of searching for a new position is the sense that you’re isolated and alone. As an antidote to this situation, at Kelleher Associates we have developed a concept we use with our clients called a “Personal Board of Directors”. This Board, selected well and used wisely, provides an invaluable support system and “force multiplier” for our clients.

Here’s how it works. As we start the engagement, we ask our client to identify six people whom they really trust and would open up to in terms of what is going on in their search – warts and all. In turn, each of these people are big supporters of our client and would be willing to regularly spend time in-person or on the phone for the duration of the search. We suggest to our client that he meet with or speak to each of his Board members once per month for an hour. We recognize, of course, that our client will develop a rhythm and routine with each of her Board members – she’ll meet with some every 4 weeks; some she’ll speak with every 2 weeks; some she’ll meet with every 6 weeks; and some she’ll talk with on an as-needed basis.

It should be noted that although we call this group a “Board”, they don’t meet together and our client doesn’t “report” to them. Instead, our client meets or speaks with each of them on a one‑on‑one basis. The differing roles each of the Board members fill is as follows:

Role 1 – Proofreader of “last resort”

In this role, the Board member reviews and proofreads all of the client’s written materials – her resume, cover letters, Senior Executive Profile, LinkedIn profile, and presentations – for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax. We want all of these materials to be impeccable.

Role 2 – Content checker

In this role, the Board member reviews our client’s resume for content – Are the best accomplishments being included? Is an accomplishment being overstated or understated? Is there unnecessary repetition among the accomplishments cited?

If our client chooses a Board member who is also an excellent proofreader and knows the client’s career well, Roles 1a and 1b can be handled by one person, not two.

Role 3 – Brainstormer

This Board member is a creative asset to our client. He helps our client think through the appropriate role or roles (sometimes our client is a good fit for two roles based on experience and career history), target industries, and target companies. This creative support is especially important for clients who are thinking of making a significant change in career path, those who are attempting to switch industries, or those who need help in identifying companies that would be a good fit for their talents, skills, experience, and passions.

Role 4 – Networker

This Board member (and two Board members doing this is twice as good as one) helps our client by introducing him to valuable new contacts – industry experts, C-Level executives, Board members, investors, professional service providers, such as commercial and investment bankers, accountants, management consultants, lawyers, and wealth advisors. These Board members know a lot of people to whom they can introduce our client. Having 1-2 people playing this role is often essential to a successful search process.

Role 5 – Psychologist/Cheerleader

The search process is like a “rollercoaster” with significant highs and lows. A notable high is being in a search process for a role that is a great fit.  A low, of course, is going through a lengthy search process and then not getting the job. This Board member can help our client express serious disappointment and/or ventilate strong emotions after a search setback.  At the same time, they can remind our client how well he has done over the course of his career despite this most recent frustration.  This will help the client stay focused, prevent him from allowing a particular setback to color or affect how he competes for other roles, and to demonstrate proper demeanor to the key decision makers of these new, and perhaps better, opportunities. The Psychologist/Cheerleader also works to tamp down our client’s excessive highs if they become too fixated on a given role that is not guaranteed to go to the offer stage.  This will help cushion a potential disappointment if the process ends short of an offer.

Role 6 – Analyst/Diagnostician

In this final role, the Board member “prebriefs” our client, preparing the client for major networking meetings and interviews in a very granular way. The Board member then helps the client “debrief”, or dissect and analyze those meetings and interviews, and provides our client with guidance on what might be an appropriate next step with the networking contact or interviewers.

In working with clients, Kelleher coaches play all of these roles and do it quite effectively, of course. But, we have discovered that having a separate group of supporters, this Personal Board of Directors, acting on our client’s behalf and really investing time and effort into the search, pays very big dividends both psychologically and practically, and accelerates the time it takes our client to secure a desirable new position.