Jan 13 2016
Joining a corporate board can enhance an executive’s career in many ways. Board service can be a valuable opportunity to gain experience beyond your current company. Board-level roles can also serve as either a capstone to an already distinguished career or help position a rising executive for a CEO, CFO or COO role. However, obtaining a seat on a board of a company that interests you can be a lengthy and oftentimes challenging process.
Understand your motivations and value proposition
It is important to know why you want to be a non-executive director – what you wish to gain from the experience specifically. It is also essential to consider the type of board role and ensure that you would be able to make the necessary time commitment.
In addition to having a rock-solid understanding of the type of board role you are interested in pursuing, you need to clearly define your unique value proposition from the point of view of the company you are considering. How can you add value to this specific board? Are there any gaps in governance or expertise of other board members that you could potentially fill? How could you contribute to make the board function better and more effectively?
Network, network, network
It can be worth your while to take a professional development course in governance or directorship. A number of professional organizations offer director-specific training as well as provide opportunities to network with current directors sitting on a variety of boards.
In addition to formal networking opportunities, make sure you reach out directly to relevant individuals about your desire to serve on a board. If there are particular boards that interest you, get to know those companies, their executives and their non-executive directors. Consider identifying six to 10 boards that you would like to join, speak with their current and former members and become familiar with the specific issues facing those companies.
Learn to “sell yourself” the right way
When you do obtain an interview for a board role, don’t begin by talking about what you have accomplished in your career and how you would change the board and the company. First, actively listen to learn specifically what skills the next director needs to have – what skills the board is seeking. To promote yourself effectively, you must understand what this organization and its board needs at its current stage of development, while positioning yourself as someone who can immediately contribute to its ongoing evolution.
Consider joining a non-profit
A number of directors launch their board careers by serving on a non-profit board where experienced executives from the for-profit world can be in high demand. With this strategy you can begin to gain valuable board-level experience while contributing to the work of a worthwhile cause.
Make sure you are utilizing a board-focused resume
A non-executive director’s resume differs from an executive resume in that it emphasizes skills relevant to a more advisory or oversight-focused vs. operational, role. Even if you don’t currently have board experience, you may have directly reported to a board, been involved with a board committee, or served on the board of a subsidiary of your firm.
Obtaining the right board position often takes quite a bit of time – sometimes two or three years. And that’s with a targeted plan. But making sure you know your own goals and motivations, reaching out to the right people, and having a board-focused resume can certainly help move the process along.
For more on this topic, register for our upcoming webinar: “Expert Tips for Finding Your Next Board Seat”.