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Does the prospect of becoming a board member appeal to you? Business executives, whether currently employed or involved in a job search, can benefit from becoming a member of the board. It’s well worth it for a busy executive or manager to take the time to be involved at this level with his/her own company, another leading firm in the industry or in a different business field altogether. There are many reasons to support this statement, not least is furthering your career.
Being involved at board level in a business is evidence of thought leadership, industry knowledge, experience and desirability as an employee/executive. It’s a great professional development step. There’s nothing better for building your personal brand and increasing your perceived value to your own firm, to the industry and to those seeking to hire you.
Joining the boards and becoming a board member of a different type of business than your core industry can help establish your influence in another. On your resume or CV, board posts indicate high-level decision making skills, management acumen and responsibility. All this raises you profile significantly, simplifying any future job search.
You’ll find that this valuable board member experience brings another level of confidence to go with it. Having gained one board member seat sets you up for success and getting another if you like. You’ll have been vetted by peers of those who may consider hiring you as CEO, now or in future. Many times you’ll also earn a fee for serving. Need more convincing? Hopefully not.
Now, how to do it
Getting chosen for a board member slot is much like getting any other type of work, on a job search you need to build and show all the responsible, intelligent qualities of those who already hold board seats.
Develop a target list of company boards where you might be a good fit and research current members: Are they missing key skills you can offer? Is there a director who may soon retire?
Do you bring a skill set the board lacks? In this day and age of bad investments and bailouts, having a financial expert on the board is a necessity to lower risk.
Are you experienced in a synergistic industry into which they may want insight?
Get out of the box. Do you feel pigeonholed as a creative-only (get on a bank board). If you’re the IT expert who’d like to showcase your other management capabilities, try the local symphony board or a try a media firm. Work for a locally known business? Aim for a nationally respected firm’s board seat.
Put your ear to the ground in your industry to find out if placement agencies are a wise move. Some companies may feel that if you need a placement firm to represent you, you’re not qualified.
Seek recommendations from your own board, if your board allows executives to serve elsewhere.
Get registered. The NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors) has a prospective director registry. You can create a profile by answering a series of questions that can be referred to by boards seeking new directors.
Raise your profile by joining professional organizations, attending industry conferences or speaking at them.
Can you offer board diversity? The Executive Leadership Council helps connect African-American executives with board opportunities. Catalyst maintains a list of women executives. For Hispanic executives, The Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility may serve as a resource.
Check your network to connect with the board. Use business, social, philanthropic and/or political resources. Is there an auditor, attorney, VC or compensation consultant in your contact list? They’re likely to have worked for/with a variety of board clients or newly-formed companies.
Be sure to understand time and legal commitments before accepting a board seat.