The Wisdom of Creating Your Own Brain Trust

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.

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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.

Striking a Friendly Balance at Work

Work is a great place to make good friends. In fact, having at least one good friend at work is pretty much required in order for us to enjoy our jobs. Friends also make us more productive. What’s more, having a good work friend also may be critical to succeeding in our careers.

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But it can be tricky, this whole “friends at work” thing: be too social and you risk earning a reputation of being a party animal. You want instead to be seen as professional and hard working.

Yet you risk taking that professionalism too far: you could be seen as a cold fish and unapproachable.

Take a look below for how to make good friends at work while keeping your reputation for professionalism intact.

  • Choose your friends wisely.

This goes without saying, but this can be tricky to do. For example, let’s say you’re the new gal and one of your new colleagues immediately asks you to lunch. You say yes and then at lunch he regales you with all the gossip and fills you in on all the drama. Or he whines and complains about your boss.

That could be a warning sign that this person is all about drama, gossip and not taking responsibility. Our advice? Be friendly, but be careful: you may want to keep your distance because while we bring our personalities and personal lives to work, work is for work not for drama, gossip and whining.

  • Be careful what you say about others.

If you gossip about others, sooner or later you will be known as someone who gossips. If you whine, you’ll be “the whiner.” If you talk too much about how a girlfriend wronged you, you’ll eventually be known as a drama king or queen.

  • If you go out with friends after work, you’re still “at work.”

What we mean is that you shouldn’t try go completely loose. What you do and say “with the gang” very well could get back to your supervisor. Relax and be friendly, but if people start to complain, whine, moan and gossip, pull back. You don’t have to leave, just don’t participate.

In a nutshell: be friendly and approachable. Ask colleagues to have lunch together or take a break. Ask questions (personal but not intrusive). Answer questions truthfully but remember: be careful what you say to others until you know for certain they’re trustworthy.

Reading the above it appears as if we believe you should make “friends” at work who aren’t really friends. After all, we’re advocating keeping your personal conversations close to the chest and not overtly personal, yet the only way to become real friends with others is by being vulnerable and open.

But if you do find one or two people with whom you just “click” and feel they are trustworthy (they don’t gossip, whine, complain and create drama), you can test the waters and open up more to them. See if they reciprocate and, if you tell them something personal, watch to see how they handle it. If they prove themselves to you, these are the colleagues who can become good friends. Close friends. Friends outside of work. Lifetime friends.

Ready to make some new friends in a new job? Contact Helpmates. We have many temporary, temp-to-hire and direct-hire job and career opportunities waiting for reliable and talented people just like you. Check out our current openings and, if one or more look interesting, contact us.

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