CEOs have them. So do entrepreneurs. What they have is a small group of people – possibly five or so – that they go to when they need objective advice and strategy. This group is known as a brain trust and you should have one for your career.
A brain trust is something akin to having mentors, but not quite. Mentors often work in the same field/profession as their mentee but have much more experience. Members of a brain trust, however, have experience in a different field/profession. The idea is that all of you receive input and knowledge from people at your level who know things you don’t. In other words, a marketing professional may want a brain trust that includes an attorney, an accountant, an HR professional, and so on. Having such a network allows all of you to tap into each other’s expertise and help each other out when needed.
Finding Your Brain Trust
As mentioned above, you don’t really want people in your field, but individuals who share the same type of vision for their careers in different fields.
Chances are good you already know several people who could become members: your neighbors, former school mates, former colleagues, current employees of your current employer but in another department, and so on.
Your brain trust can be quite informal: just ask if people want to join and if they’d be available quickly for their input when any of your trust’s members need input, advice, knowledge, a shoulder to learn on, etc.
It’s Best to Ask for Advice Instead of Favors
Brain trusts aren’t really “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Instead, your trust is a group of people you go to for knowledge and ideas, not for introductions and favors. Referrals eventually will come from your trusts’ members naturally, but it’s best to approach them by asking for input rather than asking them to do something for you.
If, by chance, you hear that one of your trust’s members is facing a problem but hasn’t reached out to you, it’s perfectly OK to reach out yourself. Don’t assume you know what your fellow trust member needs; just let him know you’re there, just in case
You Don’t Even Have to Create an Actual “Brain Trust”
Many people have people in their professional network that they often go to when they need advice/input. In fact, chances are good that you already may have a brain trust of sorts if you find that you have two or three people that you often call upon to “get their input.” And you may find that the same handful of people call upon you every now and then.
It’s wise to actually think about people you’d like to add to your trust (formally or informally) as you find people whom you automatically think of when you need some type of input.
The point is: always look outside your department/employer/profession “bubble” for people you can turn to when stuck, when you need input, or when you need a fresh take on an old problem. Doing so can help you progress in your career while also growing a network of people with a (more than likely informal) vested interest in your success.
If you’d like some new input regarding career possibilities, take a look at some of our current opportunities and either follow the instructions to apply when one or more pique your interest or contact the Helpmates branch nearest you.