The 5 Members You Need for Your Professional Support System

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If I were to ask you about your support system, odds are you’d immediately think of family members and close friends, the people you lean on in difficult times and celebrate with in good times. But what if I asked you about your professional support system? Who do you turn to for support in your job or career? If you really want a thriving career, having an effective professional support system (or team of trusted advisors) is critical.

At some point in your pursuit of your career goals, you will encounter challenges and obstacles. Some obstacles can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. You feel like you’ve hit the end of the runway, but the plane isn’t going to take off; instead, you fear you might crash and burn. At these times, having the right professional support system and knowing how to use it could be the key to transforming your career difficulties into success.

Let’s take a moment to assess the effectiveness of your professional support system.

Start by taking a quick inventory of the people you turn to when you have a problem at work or encounter a roadblock in your career. List their names.

Now let’s group them into five simple categories. You should aim for having all five categories represented in your group of trusted advisors. Remember, this is a group of trusted advisors, which means these are people you feel you can be honest with and trust to tell you the truth and keep your confidences.

  • Which ones are the ones who are great at cheering you up when you’re feeling down? The ones most concerned with how you feel, and who want you to feel good. These are the people who remind you of your past achievements and successes, and reassure you that you can handle this challenge. Let’s call them Cheerleaders. Put a “C” next to their names. A Cheerleader could be your best friend, your mom, or someone you work with.
  • Which ones are the ones who are great at analyzing things and finding problems in your logic or holes in your reasoning? These are the problem-solvers. The ones you talk over your ideas with when you are ready to have them challenged. Let’s call them Testers. Put a “T” next to their names. It’s possible to have Testers with specific areas of expertise, such as navigating corporate politics or understanding new technologies.
  • Which are the really good listeners? The ones who can listen to what you say without interruption, and respond with things like “So what you’re saying is …” or “I hear you…” or “That sounds difficult/exciting…” Let’s call them Listeners, and put an “L” next to them. Good Listeners listen without judgment and are excellent resources to act as sounding boards when you need help getting to the heart of a problem.
  • Which ones are the ones who will call you out when you’re full of it? The ones who will challenge you that you can be more, do better? Let’s call them Butt-Kickers, and put a “B” next to their names. These are the people who see your potential, and expect and encourage you to reach it.
  • Which ones are the ones you look up to? The ones who have more experience than you along with the wisdom that comes from that experience. These are Mentors, and put an “M” next to their names. These are the people you go to for advice. I recommend having multiple Mentors, at least one within your company who is at least one level above you and another one in your industry but outside your company, who has already accomplished one or more of your career goals.

It is important to have some of each of the Cheerleaders, Listeners, Testers, Butt-Kickers, and Mentors in your support system. It is equally important to know which type of support you need when you call on your support system for help. Do you need someone to pick you up, remind you of how great you are, that you can do this? Call one of your Cheerleaders. Do you need someone to listen to you, and reflect back to you what you’re thinking and feeling? To give you time to vent or clear your mind of thoughts and feelings? Give a Listener a call. Perhaps you need help fixing a problem to overcome an obstacle, actually looking at the solution you’ve come up with, and want to see if someone other than you thinks it will work. In that case, call your Tester. Do you really need someone to call you forth, challenge you to step it up and bring your real A-game? Boldly seek out your Butt-Kicker to come along and kick your butt. Or do you need straight up advice on how to move forward toward a goal in your career? Call a Mentor. It’s important that you know who can do what in your support system. Call on the wrong one at the wrong time and you could end up feeling crippled, instead of lifted up and helped along your way.

With the right professional support system, whenever you encounter those challenging obstacles, you can take a moment to decide what kind of support you need, and ask someone for help. What if some people in your support system can serve as different types? Tell them what kind of support you need.

If your current support system doesn’t contain Cs, Ls, Ts, Bs, and Ms, then start looking for people to add to the mix. Not sure how to do that? I invite you to schedule an appointment with me and we can talk about how you can create a stronger support system for yourself and your career success.

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