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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Client Stories

What did you need at the time you hired Lori?

I wanted to work in my industry and didn't know how to progress any further than I was. I knew I had much experience that could be put in the industry of my choice but not how to parlay that experience. I needed guidance.

What did you and Lori do together?

Many, many things. Overall, to get clear in my mind what I offered and really what I wanted in a work environment. Every week was another epiphany after another. One of my favorites was the "knowing your core values". Having had some experience on this subject I was all ready to dive-in. Core Values is key. Knowing your core values. 

Lori makes it so easy to pinpoint. One time we were speaking about something else and we both realized...OMG...that is a core value for me. I hadn't written it down before, but discovered later that if ever a core value fit was the one I mentioned at that time.  Knowing that piece of information also answered a long standing question in my head.  One of the "why's" as to my constant upset with other places I had worked.

What were the results from working with Lori?

Many things. One is a great looking resume. I thought, wow, I look good and it was all from work I had already done elsewhere but didn't know how to say it or present it. Another is the clarity of knowing where I will feel good when I do work. What I really want and with the kind of people I really want to work with on a daily basis. This entire process is so valuable. The best money I ever spent and I am not kidding or exaggerating. I was only hoping it would be valuable and it really was valuable.< I know stuff and it has value and is marketable. Lori showed me those things and it gives me confidence.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Lori delivers above and beyond. The highest quality of exchange, 'more than you expected.' I told my friends this over and over: 'I wish I had her 10-20-even 30 years ago.' Every one, and I mean EVERYONE, needs a Lori. Her understanding,patience, how she problem solves, putting things in simple terms, was mind blowing. I wish I could that well. I present a problem and she could turn it around and yes...another epiphany.

Lori, is worth every penny. It isn't about a title. It is about enjoying everyday doing work you love with people you like and are like minded. You'll know what you are looking for when you interview.  I never say this, but I will say it here. Lori is a major key into the rest of my life doing what I always wanted to do. That is: Being happy doing what I do, everyday. Something I have been saying for years. Allowing be Sherlock.  Finding my people. They are out there and now I know what I am looking for in that respect.


Sherlock Ganz, Los Angeles, CA