Joining a board is a phenomenal career boost

by Stephen Conmy on Aug 30, 2022

Joining a board

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Have you ever considered a board position as a strong complement to a successful career? 

There is a misconception that board positions are for retired top executives and businessmen, or that they are for well-connected individuals over 50 who have time on their hands and are interested in volunteering for charities.

Working executives, younger people and women are increasingly taking board positions because they are now in high demand. 

The UK, for example, has strong regulatory systems and mandated corporate governance guidelines for publicly listed companies.

And a deal has been reached in the European Union that will introduce a 40% quota for women on boards across the bloc – almost ten years after proposals were first tabled.

‘Joining a board is a brilliant career move because it is an excellent way to learn new leadership skills, business management, communication, strategy development and consulting. You’ll learn how to run an organisation from the top down and how that develops into tangible actions that have far-reaching consequences.’ – David W Duffy, CEO of the Corporate Governance Institute 

As a result of the global turmoil of the past decade, corporate governance has received renewed attention in organisations around the world, with a growing awareness of the benefits of diversity and gender balance.

To put it simply – boards want younger people from more diverse backgrounds with the ability to add value and be innovative. 

For many people, the question is, how do I land a role on a board? 

Here are a few tips for those considering board positions now or in the future.

Why are you interested in serving on a board?

It is your job as a director (board member) to govern an organisation on behalf of the owners, shareholders, and stakeholders, so you need to be comfortable in your role as a fiduciary (someone who acts in the best interests of another person or organisation). 

Affiliation with the organisation’s sector and an interest in its purpose will help you join a board, especially one for a charity. You should also have the time to devote to the board.

Will your company allows you to serve on a board?

If you are currently in a job, does the company allow you to serve on boards? How does the process work? You will need to speak to your managers and the HR department.

Many firms encourage their employees to take up board roles, as being on a board is a great way to improve your leadership and strategy skills.

Choose a sector that interests you most

Understand how the skills you have acquired in your career can be applied to board roles – this is commonly called your transferable skill set. 

Experience is often more important than purely technical skills.

Consider sectors and organisations that might be a good fit for your transferable skills (once you have defined them).

Make others aware of your board ambitions

How many people know about your ambition? If the number is low, you have work to do. Many sectors have more candidates than jobs, so it can be competitive.

There are still many appointments made based on recommendations. People tend to favour people they know or people they are recommended by people they know. 

Update your LinkedIn; make sure it is tailored to showcase your potential skills as a board member. It’s a good idea to look at the LinkedIn profiles of other, high-profile board members in the sector you are interested in, as this will give you a template to work with.

Know your duty as a director

Make sure you understand the role and responsibilities of a director. Do you know how a board should operate? Do you know how to examine a financial statement? Do you know how board committees work? 

Before applying for board roles, ensure you have proper, certified board member training.

In short, you can take the Diploma in Corporate Governance, online and at a pace that suits you.

Think about how you can add value to a board

Identify what you can bring to the board and how you contribute to it. Ensure your skills match the board’s needs. 

In some cases, you may be an excellent candidate, but the timing may not be right. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t get the role. Dust yourself off and look for another one. 

A certain amount of good fortune is involved in landing your first board role.

Ensure your CV and LinkedIn are board-ready and your pitch is professional

Board CVs are different from professional CVs. The resume should be brief (no more than two pages) and include a summary of your professional skills and value (not your role).

Use words and sentences that shine a light on your board readiness and areas of speciality. 

Your pitch should be a short version of your CV summary. You can use it when you meet someone who may be able to help you. 

If you schedule coffee meetings with influential people who can help you, you must be prepared to ask for what you want, and explain what you want to achieve. Don’t waste peoples’ time. Be prepared to pitch yourself in any given situation. 

Start developing the mindset of a director

To succeed as a director, you have to not only look the part, but also act the part. Your language and positioning should reflect an elevated role where wisdom and judgment are valued more than your ability to do the job. 

Board members sit above organisations, not within them, so your language and positioning should reflect that. Chin up, shoulders back and get going. 

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