Career Dream Teams

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When you think of the term dream team, what comes to mind is assembling the best group of talented people to be on a sports team or to do a particular job in joint action. Now, women who are focused on being the best in their careers are taking dream teams to another level.

They’ve expanded the definition to include selecting a group of mentors with particular skills to help guide them in careers. Pulling together this group should be a well-thought-out strategy that can help you fill in personal gaps to further your knowledge and experience and guide you throughout your work journey.

Angela Scalpello is a highly sought-after business performance coach based in New York City; she has spent decades mentoring and guiding individuals, particularly women, in becoming the best they can be. She shares that the process of assembling an ideal dream team of mentors is not about “fixing women.” Women are not broken, but the systems that many function in are damaged. However, your dream team of mentors can help you to overcome that obstacle and grow to become even better than you realized you could be. Angela notes that it’s not that women are broken and need to be cast into another mold; it’s about making them better.

“It’s not that women have to learn how to be more like men, but they must learn to be more of their authentic self in a way that’s helpful to them,” noted Angela. “If you’re an introvert and you pick a mentor who is much more comfortable as an extrovert, it’s not that you become an extrovert. It’s your understanding how to stretch yourself in a way that still feels comfortable and, in a way, helps you make the connections you need to make even though that’s not your natural tendency. It’s recognizing that this is who I am; how do I become my best self?”

Angela offers that a dream team of mentors would include several different types of individuals you admire in your career field and outside of it. She advises that women should manage their careers deliberately and intentionally with the guidance of a group of experienced mentors and trusted advisors.

“With this in mind, they create a team of advisors or what I would call a personal board of directors. A CEO has a board of directors and that board is made up of diverse individuals who offer unfiltered feedback. If I were creating a personal board of directors, it would be made up of people you’re usually in touch with. For instance, one person is in your field. Another could be someone who has been in your circumstances. Perhaps you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for five years and you’re going back to work. The other would be your biggest cheerleader, someone who believes strongly in you, who lifts you up when you feel down. I’d also suggest someone who in the past has given you constructive and critical feedback or tough love. And someone you aspire to be. Also, think about someone in a different generation, younger or older, depending on what you’re trying to achieve in your career and your life. Ideally, you also have someone on your board who’s a networker and can introduce you to other people. Unlike a board of directors that meets on a schedule, these are people you will tap from time to time as you need advice.”

According to Angela, the team functions as a sounding board. You need to run something by them, describe your plans and ask for advice. However, her dream team includes another segment of supporters. Having mentors is important, but women also need sponsors.

“Mentors give you advice. A sponsor is someone who spends his or her social and political capital advocating for your opportunities, whether that’s roles, money or promotions,” remarked Angela. “For instance, if I say in a meeting, ‘I don’t know how many of you know Cindy, but let’s give her a chance to run that new project because she has the communications and project management skills, and although this may be a stretch, she can do it.’”

Successfully employing your dream team of mentors and sponsors also entails a responsibility that you have to your group. Angela counsels that you must have a willingness to learn and try new things and practice new behaviors that may be recommended to you by your dream team. In addition, a mentee will set goals, share them with her mentor and ask for feedback. But the success of this endeavor rests solely on your doing what you say you will do, being honest and then getting back to the mentor with results. In addition, Angela notes the true measure of your success is when you take your learnings and pay this goodwill and investment forward into others. ■