Your Board of Directors
On a job interview for an internship 10 years ago, I got some of the best advice of my life.
The interviewer, the head of one of the HR departments, had received my resume in advance along with a list of questions to ask me. Before we could even start with the questions, she said, "Before we get started, I have to ask: Bollywood dance team?! Wedding planner?! How cool! Tell me about those things." And I did. I told her how I had been dancing since the age of 3 and was on several competitive dance teams through college and had spent a summer in London interning as a South Asian wedding planner and other tidbits I had included on my resume beyond my professional experience and education. In hindsight, this not only gave me a chance to relax a little and develop rapport with her, but it also gave me a chance to talk about some of the experiences and opportunities I've had that I'm most proud of and that have added so much value to my life. It also gave me insight about the company and the culture: here she was, an incredibly smart and busy leader, taking the time out of her day to conduct intern interviews. That itself said a lot. On top of that, I felt like she truly took a personal interest in getting to know me to help assess if it would be a good cultural fit, which can be even more important than making sure that your skills align, when it comes to happiness and productivity.
We continued with the interview, which I recall going well, but at some point during the Q&A she asked me if she could give me some advice. As a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed college student, I was happy to receive all the advice I could get, especially when it comes to career. Her advice: create a board of directors. People in your life who you admire and respect and have your best interests at heart. These people should be varied in how you know them and what they can offer but have one shared interest: your success. This is the group that you should consult as you make life decisions; they'll help with offering different perspectives, advantages and disadvantages, and will give you the information you need to ultimately make your decision.
And she was right. From our short time together she was able to pick up on how diverse my interests and skillset were as well as the challenge I face of making decisions. She could tell that I was the type of person who liked to have information in front of me, assessing the scenario from different perspectives, evaluating different angles, before I made a choice. Through our conversation she was also able to pick up on my affinity for people and the regard I have for teams and having good people in your life. So Stephanie, thank you. 10 years later, it's still great advice and probably why I have multiple best friends. Each of them bring something different to the table and are my go-to for different situations, but they all have my best interests at heart. I've met them through different chapters of my life. They have different backgrounds and perspectives. And collectively, they have my back and are who I consult when faced with dilemmas, both work and personal.
I ended up receiving an offer for the internship, which I took, and it was one of the best summers I've ever had. I ended up turning down a full-time offer, after consulting my board of directors, but I will always hold the experience and the people that I met at General Mills in high regard. As for Stephanie, I ended up running into her at an HR conference a few years later where I was part of a panel and she was one of the attendees. I can't remember if I thanked her then for her advice, but a decade later, it still sticks with me.