What Is a Professional Council–& Why Should I Have One?
When you first start your career, there are a few must-haves that you’ll need to succeed. You’ll of course want to add value, ask questions, and take in constructive feedback, but beyond the day-to-day at the office, you’ll also want to spend time building your professional council. Never heard of a professional council before? You’re not alone. Some people use different terminology for it, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the basic concept of networking and the idea that no man (or woman) is an Island.
For many individuals that have succeeded in their careers, the causes have largely been contributed to the strong networking channels they have created over time, according to Forbes. But the question of who you network with and their relevance to your career matters more. And this is where a professional council comes in as it’s a way to ensure you have the right people in your corner as you move up the ladder in your career. Below, read about what exactly a professional council is, how to make one, and why it’s so crucial for you to have one.
What is a professional council?
Sometimes referred to as a “kitchen cabinet,” which is a term first coined in the 1830s to describe an unofficial advisory group employed by U.S. President Andrew Jackson, a professional council is a notion that having a trusted network of advisors to reach out to for unbiased advice can be rewarding for both you and members of your council. Building an ever-expanding group of advisers is as much about boosting your confidence as it is about receiving reality checks, which the members of a smartly chosen cabinet have the experience and stature to deliver.
How do I make one?
So, how exactly do you go about stocking a full, impactful, and effective council of confidantes? Suzanne Rich Folsom, PMI’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, and Marian Salzman, PMI’s Senior Vice President, Global Communications say it comes down to six steps:
- Taking action, Don’t wait to start building a strong, supportive framework. It’s never too early—only ever too late. Young professionals should begin this effort as early as their first internship.
- Understand what’s on offer. It’s important to recognize what your kitchen cabinet is there to do—and what it is not.
- Put the face time in. Sustained face-to-face contact (or Teams, Zoom, and phone calls) is key to cultivating strong relationships. As tempting as firing off emails and social media posts may be, these are no substitute for meaningful exchanges.
- Be courteous and thoughtful. Those life lessons you were taught growing up ring true in the real world.
- Stay involved. Don’t neglect the relationship or, worse still, leave them chasing you all the time. It stands to reason that the less you exercise your ties, the more you will weaken them.
- Listen intently—don’t waste their valuable time. Members of your cabinet are sharing two precious resources when they talk to you: their time and the culmination of their experiences distilled and tailored to your unique situation.
Why should I have one?
Navigating the complex professional landscape of 2022 isn’t easy as noted by both Salzman and Folsom, which is all the more reason professionals at every stage of their careers should be actively building and bolstering a council of trusted advisers who can help them determine and stay on the right path. Those who are successful in maintaining this network of advisers for the long term will reap the rewards for decades.
What makes a successful professional council?
It would be easy to say that building a successful professional council means curating the perfect group of people that can help tailor to your career needs. But the fact of the matter is that a successful professional council sits with you, too. “The first part of a professional support system sits with yourself,” says Salzman. “That means being strong enough, self-aware, knowing when you need help, knowing when you need to follow your gut, and then knowing who to call upon that either qualifies or challenges your gut.”
The Inclusive Future content on BlogHer is sponsored by Philip Morris International (PMI). BlogHer has independent editorial responsibility for the content. The views expressed by the authors and contributors may not represent the views of PMI except for those quotes directly attributed to PMI executives.