image: lack of color

On my very first day as an intern with E! Entertainment, my boss gave me a valuable piece of advice that I’ll never forget. He said, “Work hard, but never underestimate the power of a good mentor.” Eleven years later, this still holds true.

I’m not sure if it’s a by-product of being the oldest sibling, or simply an extension of my constant curiosity, but I’ve always been draw?n? to those who are natural leaders and could teach me a thing or two. Whether I was a 6-year-old watching the senior girls in dance class, a 20?-?year-old seeking advice from the older girls in college, or a 30-something navigating big financial and career decisions, I’ve always had a mentor figure that could help guide me. And for the most part, several mentors at any given moment.

Aside from the comfort of knowing I have someone to turn to for advice, I love learning how someone I admire approaches certain situations, navigates tough decisions, handles failure, and achieves success. Maybe they have all the answers — and maybe they’re only able to impart one piece of wisdom that I’ll hang onto forever, but these figures have become really pivotal in making me feel supported. Plus, I feel like so many wonderful things happen when you get curious and become receptive to feedback. It’s like you set yourself up for maximum growth.

photo via Steal the Look (original source unknown)

Recently, I’ve switched up the way I approach having a mentor. Instead of one or two, I’ve expanded my network and created a “Board of Advisors.” Now, it’s not as cheesy or ego-filled as it sounds. We don’t meet every Monday at 9am for a “KK Life Update” with an agenda and meeting notes. Not even close.

Instead, this board is essentially a core group of friends that I admire for various reasons — enviable career paths; calm, kind, and humble personalities; big-picture thinkers; entrepreneurial spirits; vocal advocates; go-get ’em types, and more. All extremely different, but the one thing they share in common is that they know me well and believe in me. Being able to have a supportive crew to lean on when I need feels like a great way to get through tough life decisions, and as the saying goes, I get by with a little help from my friends. So I made it official and asked them — 7 to be exact — to ‘join my board.’

My number one goal was to be intentional with the ask. I wanted my friends to know that they were really important to me, that I admired them, and that I respected their viewpoints and opinions. And, with their permission, I’d like to lean on them for advice if and when they had time. It probably sounds more official than it actually is, but rather than assume they’d be interested in sharing their advice and ‘staying in my corner’ if you will, I specifically asked. I am a firm believer in setting your intentions up front in any relationship, and I think most were really touched to know how much I valued them.

photo from Hanna Stefansson

Here’s how I built my board:

1.  Choose friends with unique backgrounds.

I love that for the most part, each of my friends have pretty diverse backgrounds. Some are younger than me and established entrepreneurs (Camille!), while some are 10-20 years older than me and heading up creative at well-known brands in NYC + LA. Then there are others who are the same age, equally as driven, but leaving their current role to explore creative options outside of a 9-5. All come to the table with such unique experiences and advice that leaves me approaching situations with an arsenal of great ideas.

2. Who knows me well?

I’m big on trust. And I’m pretty transparent and vulnerable to a fault. If I can trust you, I usually go all in. It was important that I included friends who I felt knew me and my values. Not necessarily ones who only see me on social media, but ones that I actually interact with. Now, I’m not saying that every person you have on your personal advisory board should know that you like your green juice with 2 extra lemons and a dollop of collagen, but if you want personalized advice, they should probably know more than your local barista.

*Note: I think it’s absolutely fine to get an opinion from an outsider who doesn’t know you at all, too. Half of the ideas I get are from listening to podcasts and taking suggestions from people I only know via social media.

photo via BrittaNickel

3. Who can I learn from?

It was clear who should be on my board for the simple reason that every single time I had to approach a tough situation, or came to a fork in the road, I thought about each of them. “I wonder how Lea would handle this? “Will Bill say thanks, but no thanks?” “How would Camille respond to this?” “Elliot would probably come up with an alternative solution.” “Sarah would encourage me to speak up.” “I think I need to channel Micha.” Each always leave me feeling inspired and change my perspective on any given situation. My advice to you is to include people that push you to think differently.

4. When building and utilizing your board, keep in mind a few things…

Your friends’ time is valuable.

I try not to bombard my friends with daily, or even weekly advice. I only utilize them when I really need help or advice, and outside of that, I try to channel them as much as possible.

Reciprocity is beautiful.

I don’t keep tabs on what I do for others, but I absolutely think about what others do for me, and how I can help them in return. I always make a point to offer my support. As with anything, if you have the chance to pay it forward, do.

Follow up.

Like any mentor relationship, if you make a decision based on their direction or advice, follow up and tell them. They’ll appreciate to know their advice helped.

While I actually do wish I could meet with this crew every Monday at 9am and chat about life in general, it’s so very comforting to know they’re all in other parts of the world experiencing life, pursuing their dreams, and crushing it. Plus, it makes their advice all the more valuable when it’s time to pick their brain.

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Kelly Krause