When executives hit the top of the pyramid in their career, they may wonder, “Is that all there is?” One reasonable progression in an executive career is serving on the board of directors of a major public or non-profit company. A board of director’s position provides an outlet for experienced executives to continue to use their business knowledge.
CEO’s and executives with proven director experience are the most desired candidates for board positions, but there is a shrinking pool of these talented executives. This opens up the field for other executives to step in and fill board positions. Before you start revising your resume, you need to know a little bit about the board selection process.
Selection of board members.
Companies set up a nominating and governance committee to work with recruiters and select executive candidates. The CEO usually heads this committee, but some organizations utilize their entire board to interview and select the final candidate.
- Do you have the desired skill set? Companies are looking for executives with specific expertise. There is a growing demand for executives with finance expertise, global experience and technology backgrounds. Companies are also making efforts to diversify their boards. Female and minority executives with operational experience are finding positions where none existed just a few years ago.
- Are you willing to make a commitment to serving on a board? Serving on a board is usually a long-term commitment. Most companies require board members to serve for 10 years. And, don’t be misled into thinking that a board position only requires a few meetings a year. Expectations of board members can be extensive depending on the company. Most are required to serve on at least one committee and attend six to eight meetings per year. Even in this age of Skype and other digital transmissions, many board members are expected to travel to the meeting locations (some could be located internationally). Be realistic when considering if extensive time and travel will fit into your career/life plans.
Your interest and fit.
- Do you know the type of board you’d like to pursue? Are you looking for non-profit or for-profit boards? When considering these questions, consider what talent and skills you have that would interest an organization looking for board members. And the same is true for you, what boards do you think you would best be suited to serve on? How can you contribute?
- Board roles are different, are you ready for that change? Serving on a board requires a high-level of involvement, but not from an operating executive role. In a director’s role your time is spent assessing strategy, risk, financial reporting and management performance.
Increase your chances.
- Do your due diligence. Make sure the companies you are pursuing for a board position are a good fit for you. What industry sectors or business issues interest you? Do you want to focus on finding positions in the private equity-backed or public companies? Acknowledge what might stand in your way, i.e., geography, your expertise, or conflicts of interest.
- Build your network. Build your contacts to include people who may be influential in director selection. You need your contacts to work for you since director jobs are not advertised. Instead, your contacts may be approached by search firms or nominating committees that are seeking to fill a board position. Update your contacts so they know you are interested in sitting on a board and the value you bring to the boardroom.
- Rewrite your resume. What differentiates a board of director’s resume from a traditional resume for a job search? The latter are targeted to specific functions, responsibilities and roles of employment within an organization such as CEO, COO, CMO, VP, etc. Whereas boards are comprised of leaders who bring relevant expertise to discuss issues significant to an organization’s stakeholders and, ultimately, arrive at decisions collaboratively.
Board resumes should include these elements—and be one or two pages in length.
- A board profile statement: Focus on your leadership, strategic adviser and collaborative skills, and make sure to highlight your industry expertise. For example, describe how your leadership led to identifying goals, achieving consensus and in the process, overcame obstacles. If you already have board experience, be sure to point out how that role has prepared you for a role on other boards.
- Large-segment statements: This is contrary thinking to job-search resumes where your experience is laid out in detail. Think more “big picture leadership;” summarize your responsibilities with a more progressive leadership and oversight view. Example: “Progressed from manager to executive, providing commercial and political risk assessment on overseas investments, ranging from highly sensitive international transactional negotiations to multimillion-dollar market expansion projects.” And be sure to point out why some of your more non-traditional roles have impacted your career, and added to your value.
- Prior or present board experience: If you have current or held prior board positions, make sure to feature a section (Board Experience) that presents this information. List the name of the organization, city, state and dates.
- Community involvement, recognition and awards: Concise explanations about community activities that demonstrate your leadership skills should be on your board resume, as well as recognitions, and awards for your accomplishments. This is a brief section that adds to your value proposition and support your candidacy.
Understand how to match your skills and experience to those that boards are seeking. This will increase your chances of gaining a seat on the board. The BlueSteps career advisors can help you with your board resume. BlueSteps Members: submit your resume to get started.