In parts one and two of this series, we looked at the preparation and research needed to achieve a Board role. Further steps on your journey include leveraging your network and tailoring your CV to Board positions.
Reach out to and further build up your network
As with any other job, make yourself extremely visible online so recruiters can find you when a suitable role comes up. Having a strong, well-thought-out LinkedIn page can make a difference; even at the Board level, it is probably the first place someone will do their research on you.
You can take this further by building your brand online by publishing thought-leadership material in a particular space. As an example: In case you supposedly wrote about climate change, social justice, workplace health, or global supply chain issues in recent years, you might find your expertise in high demand right now.
Once you’re ready to start applying for Board positions, contact an Executive Search consultant specializing in Board roles in your space. Not only will they have better access to opportunities that interest you, but they’ll be able to offer tailored advice.
Even earlier, network broadly and let people know that you’d like to join a Board. Start with the directors in your own company – they may be members of other Boards and prove to be excellent contacts! If you are an active board member of a non-for-profit board or trade association, ensure to network. They have a close view of your value as a board member – even if the work is much different – the competencies are evident.
It is critical to tailor your CV for Board positions
Do not apply for Board positions with the same resume you would use to apply for an executive role. As we have discussed, these are very different positions with different skills and requirements. This is a mistake I see happening all too often.
Rather than emphasizing what you’ve done, your tailored document should focus on what you’ve learned in your roles, from wins and losses, and the value you can bring to a Board. They will want to see that you have the wisdom, strategic mindset, and insights to guide them as they navigate and grow. Take the time to contextualize that value in your biography.
Your introduction should explain why you’re interested in and ready for a Board position. At this point, be concise about your key areas of knowledge. Think carefully about the needs of the Board to which you’re applying and highlight the skills and experiences that will be most of interest to them.
Include any P&L responsibility you’ve had and specialized industry knowledge, previous experience on a Board, and specialized qualifications or certifications.
Finally, on your journey to achieve your first Board role….
Board members typically stay in place for 5-10 years or more, giving companies continuity and stability. Therefore, positions on the Boards you’re interested in may open only rarely.
It’s another reason to research Boards and build up your credentials long before you intend to apply. You need to be prepared for the opportunities when they occur!
But above all, make sure your expectations are realistic. It’s not unusual for aspiring Board members to wait more than a year or two for the right position.
Approach your search as a long-term project. Getting on a Board of your choice is doable with the proper knowledge and skills – but timing is everything.
Please feel free to contact me directly should you have any questions or would like to discuss the series or anything else further.
Mary Francia is a partner at HIEC. She regularly helps companies map their talent and use that information to better plan their workforce, attract the right people, and increase retention and engagement amongst existing staff. To find out more about how she can help your company do that, too, contact her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org