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by Lisa Marsh
Apr 14 2016
Each year, many executives across the world are drawn to the elusive world of the boardroom and begin their search for a board seat. Board work can be incredibly rewarding to those who pursue it, both in terms of the stimulating and fulfilling work itself and, of course, the financial reward.
But finding your seat at a board table can be particularly challenging, especially for first-time candidates. The average board candidate is expected to search for their board seat for up to two years before finally obtaining one; many more fail to reach their goal altogether. Needless to say, becoming a board candidate requires a great amount of determination, patience and meticulous planning.
In order for board candidates to increase their chances of success, we have put together these four simple steps to prepare yourself for your board seat search.
Step One: Prepare Your Personal Branding
The first port of call for any aspiring board director should be to ensure that they are presenting themselves as the ideal candidate, and have optimized all career documents that they might need during the course of their search.
Many executives make the common mistake of using their regular executive resume/CV for consideration for board positions. However, this can have harmful consequences to your candidacy. Most executive resume/CVs are peppered with statements and success stories detailing how the executive in question singlehandedly achieved top results for their company. Although this sounds impressive, an over emphasis on your personal achievements, rather than group achievements can make you sound less like the team player boards are seeking. Instead, integrate your resume/CV with statements that showcase your ability to make group decisions and work as part of a team towards a joint goal. Language such as “working with peers” and “building consensus” can help to create a document more aligned to your overall aim of attaining board work.
Moreover, as networking is key to obtaining a board seat (see step three), you will inevitably be researched by the new connections you have made online, particularly on sites such as LinkedIn or other professional networking websites. Therefore, when making sure that you are presenting yourself as an ideal candidate, your LinkedIn and other social media profiles should not be neglected.
Step Two: Make a Strategically Targeted Plan
Like with any professional objective, it always pays to do extensive research before you begin. Make sure that you are targeting boards that meet your expectations on a range of levels, from the way that the board regulates itself, to the amount of time you will be expected to contribute. Also, find out if there are infractions, tax arrears, staff difficulties, or other red flags related to your target company. These issues can be found during your initial research and might make you think twice before continuing to pursue at seat within that particular board. As always, due diligence is vital.
Step Three: Networking, Networking, Networking
With board positions, there is no standard application process as there is with other jobs, so candidates are often offered positions based the strength of their reputation within professional communities. Therefore, executives who are seriously considering board work need to start networking within their target board industry at the earliest opportunity.
Attending networking events and meetings can be a great opportunity to become known and to get to know others who might have links to boards. It is important to avoid simply relaying your biography to those you meet, and instead aim to create lasting connections while subtly making those you meet aware of your board aspirations and the fact that you are qualified and ready for board work. Networking is not only limited to fellow attendees, talking to the speakers themselves can be a great place to start building your knowledge and acquiring helpful tip offs.
Step Four: Keep Your Options Open (and Realistic)
For most first-time board candidates, it is unrealistic to narrow your search and aim solely for major public company boards. These high-profile, highly sought after board positions will unsurprisingly go to candidates with a wealth of previously proven board experience. Most board directors start their board careers on non-profit boards, private start-up boards, or on the boards of small-cap companies. Therefore, keeping your options open while building your board experience repertoire should be integral to your long-term board strategy.
If you would like to hear more information about how to gain a board seat, from those who conduct board searches, register today to the upcoming BlueSteps webinar entitled “Expert Tips for Finding Your Next Board Seat.”