The 5 people to have in your inner circle for professional success

"I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man" - Jay-Z
Building your professional board

Last week, someone asked me how I balanced a demanding career while completing my master’s degree. My answer: I was fortunate to have an amazing board and support system to keep me focused.

What is a board, you ask? In the traditional sense, a board “is a group of persons elected by the shareholders of a corporation to govern the affairs, activities, and strategic planning of the company.”

As a young professional navigating the business world, I am a living, breathing corporation who needs a board of directors to hold me accountable and push me to perform greater than the competition.

A group of people who see your potential and believe in your goals can make or break a young professional. A board should consist of a mix of individuals who have your best interest at heart. Listed below are the 5 people you should have on your board.


[ 1 ] The chair of your board should hold a position in executive or senior leadership.

This person is someone whom you admire and has achieved professional success consistent with your goals. The chair is a mentor, whether formal or informal, who you trust to provide the best advice when faced with career challenges. Since his or her schedule is likely very busy, you should have scheduled update meetings at least once a quarter to maintain momentum. 


[ 2 ] A mentee or an individual who looks up to you.

The purpose of a mentee is to practice servant leadership while positively impacting the development of another student or young professional. Servant leadership requires the desire to empower and develop others without regard to personal achievement. Your leadership skills will emerge as you provide advice and opportunities. Investing in the needs of a mentee will also reinforce your self-esteem, because of its altruistic nature and because it reminds you how much you've learned (while your chair reminds you how far you want to go).


[ 3 ] Someone the complete opposite of yourself in terms of background, gender, race/ethnicity, and/or industry.

A fresh perspective is necessary to grow because an array of like-minded colleagues may give a false impression of progress and achievements. This opposite individual will also provide insight into an unfamiliar territory while immensely broadening your network.


[ 4 ] A financial advisor is a must

It is never too early or late to plan for retirement and review options for paying off those dreaded student loans. If you have a 401k or 403b, your company should have resources for an annual review of contributions and financial milestones (more posts on investing and personal finance coming very soon!).


[ 5 ] Your go-to person - a mid-career professional who will answer your calls when things take a quick turn for the best or worst.

This vice-chair is your cheerleader who is not removed from the trials and tribulations that go along with career success because they have yet to reach their own professional goals, but they are far enough along that they have a broader perspective than you.

This small group is just a start, who is on your board? Comment below!


About Yentil

Hi! My name is Yentil Rawlinson and I call Cleveland, OH home. I have a BA in Sociology from The Ohio State University, MS in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, and am completing a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification at Case Western Reserve University. I enjoy traveling (especially to Jay Z concerts!), brunch, Popeye’s biscuits, and finding ways to navigate this thing called life as a young professional in the Midwest. It is my hope that through this blog, we all learn, grow, and support each other to be the best versions of ourselves both at work and at home.

More posts from Yentil here.