How to become a paid non-executive director (NED)

by Alex Crimmins


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For many aspiring board members, getting paid as a non-executive director is very important. However, before you begin your journey to the boardroom in earnest you need to be properly trained and certified and develop a strategic roadmap.

It’s a fact that in most countries there are more unpaid than paid non-executive director roles. The unpaid ones tend to be on the boards of charities, sports bodies, community groups or even state funded organisations. There are, for example, over one million non-executive directors on the boards of charities in the UK. 

The more glamorous and higher paid roles will be on the boards of PLCs, financial services organisations or large private companies. The less glamorous roles but higher risk ones will be on the boards of start-ups who do not have the revenue to pay non-executive directors.

The road to becoming a paid non-executive director (NED) role will be challenging, as inevitably the standard sought will be higher from boards who will be able to pick and choose. Many will be cautious and conservative, preferring experience (sometimes many years of the same experience!) which, while safe, may not be the right thing to do for the organisation as it seeks innovation and fresh air in the boardroom.

However, globalisation, digitisation, cyber security, new tech based business models will provide opportunities for a younger generation of competent non-executive directors.

So, here is a six step guide you need to take to land a paid board position.

Step 1 – Assess your own potential

This means, what have you got to offer today? What can you bring to the table in terms of skills and experience? Carrying out a SWOT on yourself would be a good first step. Enlist the help of a friend who might be more objective to help. Does this process highlight any gaps that may need to be closed such as a relevant governance qualification.

Step 2 – Position yourself in the market

A good understanding of the market you are after will help in this process. Find out what are the emerging needs on the boards in your target sectors and how you can position yourself to avail of these opportunities. Pillar banks will be after those non executive directors who understand the transition required from the dinosaur of today to the device friendly bank of tomorrow.

Step 3 – Build a market profile

Update your CV and LinkedIn profile so that they are appropriate for the target sectors you are after. Most recruiters will go to your Linkedin profile first. So make sure you have a good professional photo, that your relevant experience is concise and to the point and it contains the key search words that will bring you to the attention of a recruiter.

Step 4 – Harvest your network

We all have networks, school, university, business school, sport, professional associations, trade bodies etc. Sit down and work out who in these networks can help you to reach your goal. Networking is about giving too, so play the long game here. Be visible, write blogs, do webinars, speak at conferences, become an influencer. Your ultimate goal will be to be the Go To person in your various networks.

Step 5 Develop a plan

Set out a step-by-step approach for what you want to achieve, and in what timeframe. Be realistic as it’s a very competitive market.

Step 6 – Start now, not tomorrow

The earlier you start the better. Getting a paid role will take you longer than you think.

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