The boardroom is one of the places where character and experience reign supreme. Landing a role as a board member can be a prestigious and lucrative venture but board opportunities are rare.
Consider this, there are fewer than 4,000 U.S. companies listed by Nasdaq. According to CFO.com, each of those companies has an average of 9.2 board members with 1.5 of those being inside directors. Therefore, the total number of seats available for outside directors is approximately 30,800.
What qualifications should board of director candidates possess?
The personality of a board member is strategic, collaborative and outspoken. They possess financial and operating acumen and must have a proven track record of excellence in their field. If you’re a VP, SVP, CEO, or C-suite executive, you’re on the right track because you’re already working closely with your organization’s board and you are a leader in your field.
If you have the personality attributes, experience and qualifications, but haven’t landed a board role yet, here is how you can get your foot in the door. Obtaining a board seat takes both industry expertise and superior public relations skills. You must be able to articulate what value you can bring to a board.
First, determine the industry and type of company or nonprofit organization where your background would be an asset. Next, identify what skills you possess that are sought after such as audit, compliance, technology, or international expansion.
Then take the following steps to position yourself for a board role:
Raise your public profile and visibility: Proactively increase your visibility and establish yourself as a thought leader through speaking engagements, writing an article, or writing a blog that showcases your expertise.
Network: Many board seats are filled by the “who do you know” search strategy. Board members often refer colleagues or inquire with other leaders for suggestions on board candidates. Networking with executives who already serve as board members is always a great way to expand your opportunities.
Know your differentiators: What is it about your career that sets you apart from the rest of the board candidate pool? Are you an expert in product development, mergers and acquisitions, operational optimization, or something else? Whatever value you offer should be showcased in an updated resume that highlights the strength you would bring to a company’s board. Describe your professional rise, your reputation, and how you are the best at what you do. You will also want to update and maximize your LinkedIn profile to showcase the skills and expertise you can bring to a board.
Build your experience: Be willing to start small. There are plenty of fulfilling opportunities outside of public company board seats. Serving on a private company board will better position you to qualify for a public company board seat. Volunteer to serve on a non-profit board for which you have a passion such as a local church, school, or trade association. These roles will build up your experience and enable you to network with other leaders.
How do you find out about board roles?
In addition to word-of-mouth and networking, boards frequently tap headhunters. In fact, most of the major search firms have specialists who focus on recruiting people for board positions. Sitting CEOs are typically the most sought-after. However, executive recruiters and headhunters are also sourcing Presidents, COOs, CFOs and heads of large operating units with specialized experience.
In addition to search firms, check out top registries such as the National Association of Corporate Directors, and Catalyst (for Women). Many individuals have found board positions by contacting venture capital firms. Finally, some board positions are posted on the major job boards.
LinkedIn posts many board positions, (https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/board-of-directors-jobs/), and you can also use LinkedIn profile to identify board members of companies whom you can contact to express your interest in potential opportunities. Additional online resources include: ExecsRank.com, BoardNetUSA, and Board Prospects.