24 Tips will be released unil December 24th.
1- The First Step
The first step to a board position is to make sure you are motivated for the right reasons. We interview dedicated and qualified managers weekly who are interested in landing their first board position or accelerating their career on the board. However, not all of them are aware of the requirements and restrictions that a board position entails.
Board members oversee an organization on behalf of owners, shareholders and stakeholders, so you need to be comfortable in your role as the caretaker of the company’s welfare – you are acting in the company’s best interest, not yourself. It is also important to remember that a board member is an advisor to the company’s management. The board position is not a management position. Thus, the required skill set is often more than that of a consultant and that of a manager.
2 – How to market yourself
If you want a board position, you must see yourself as a product and market yourself. You want to be seen as a thought leader within your chosen field. Create your branding strategy, which involves how you can promote your expertise.
Look for speaking and writing opportunities and use each to prove your strengths, demonstrating how you can use your skills and character strengths at the board level. It can also be public speaking or panel discussions.
Share your insights on social media platforms. There is a good chance that your name will be typed into Google or another search engine by the hiring organization, research consultant or nominating committee.
Also, as networking is critical to gaining a board seat, you will inevitably be searched for the new connections you’ve made, particularly on sites such as LinkedIn or other professional networking plataform. Therefore, when making sure you are presenting yourself as an ideal candidate, your LinkedIn and other social media profiles should not be overlooked.
And don’t forget to casually mention your desire to expand your Board portfolio with your network when you meet.
3 – Be willing to start small
There are many rewarding board opportunities outside of publicly traded companies.
A great way to get started on professional boards is to start on an advisory board or small business non-executive boards. More often than you don’t get paid, or at the very least, spared a lot, but this will add to your experience and allow you to connect with other leaders. You can also volunteer to serve on a nonprofit board that you have a passion for, such as a local school, sports club, or trade association.
Advisory Boards are becoming more used, also in companies where the traditional board is an oversight board of owners and investors, but supplemented with an advisory board with a particular focus on growth initiatives or other disputes relevant to the CEO team. / Leadership. Sometimes it’s even more rewarding and interesting to be part of these Advisory Boards than the traditional board. And it can still be a great experience and open doors for your directorial career.
4 – Gain of Donors
As you might have discovered, one of the essential components to securing a board position is your ability to network and do it well. By attending local and regional industry events, you can make new connections. Always remember to keep up with your new acquaintance. Subtly mention your board ambitions. But remember that networking isn’t just about taking; it’s as much about giving. Use your resources to help those who may be able to help you in your effort to get a board seat.
There are also other ways to get new connections; You can join LinkedIn or other social groups. Another possibility is joining professional networks, where the exclusive focus is on interactions and relationships of a business nature.
Reach out to your network – make them aware of your position. Maybe send your resume and your pitch. That way, if someone in your network hears about a board seat, they can redirect the news their way. In many cases, the role-to-candidate ratio is not to your advantage, and often the choice is based on recommendations. If recommended, you are already one step ahead of the rest of the candidate field.
5- Positions in the board while you are looking for a new regular job in your career?
If you’re in between regular full-time jobs, we’re sometimes asked if it’s an advantage or the opposite to having a board position on the side when trying to land that next career job.
Well, in our minds, it’s a plus. You show that you’re still active, and dedicated to delivering and that you have a strategic and tactical mindset.
The only downside is that if you have a director position within a company, that would be a direct competitor for your next job. However, even this can be treated. First of all, consider yourself whether you are willing to lose your board position if you are offered a career job that conflicts with your ability to remain in the board position. If not, you shouldn’t work at competitors anyway, and board positions aren’t an issue.
If yes, and you have applied for a job at the competitor, it is a good idea to write in your CV/Cover Letter that you are naturally prepared to lose that board position. So it can be an advantage once you have some relevant insights into your industry etc.
If you think there will be recruiters looking for you on SoMe for a role in the same industry where you have your board position, it may be possible to remove the role online, on LinkedIn, etc. And then make them aware of that when they reach out and that you’re willing to lose it.
6 – Company Policy and work, work,work
One of the first tasks on your to-do list should be knowing your company’s policy on employees taking on board roles.
What do the rules say? Are you allowed to fill a board position, and are there certain restrictions? How do you get it approved by HR? If there isn’t a protocol, ask HR to develop one and maybe help them out. Even if the Board/Owner/CEO/HR says it’s OK for you to take positions onboard, it’s still recommended that this be in writing and also have a policy, to avoid any misunderstandings in the future. And also agree on the number of board positions and the time you expect to spend on board work.
Because while serving on a board can do wonders for your resume, it’s also demanding. In most cases, we are talking about a long-term commitment of several years. Depending on the company, expectations can be extensive, it’s not just a few meetings a year. You are often expected to attend six to eight meetings in a year. And sometimes, participating via a teleconference doesn’t cut it.
Considering that some plates are international, you need to consider travel time. Are you, at this point in your life, able to juggle your family life and career while having the time and effort required to fully commit to a board seat? If yes, then go ahead with everything you’ve got. If not, then perhaps the moment is just off. Don’t give up yet.
7 – Your Management CV
When compiling your resume for director positions, you need to distinguish between what would be relevant to your professional career resume and what would be relevant from a board perspective. On your board resume, you want to highlight the skill set you have that is directly used on the board. Thus, your management skills, hands-on approach, etc., which are often very relevant on your regular resume, are less critical on your board outline.
Instead, focus on your ability to be a trusted advisor, broad insight into the core of a company in general, and the specific skills you have that you feel can contribute to this role on the board.
In a board position, you are involved across the entire company. From Finance to Operations, to Commercial and Legal, etc. Make sure your board resume isn’t too focused on just your business or similar background but that you have ample experience and highlight where you got those skills from.
8 – No previous experience in directing?
Every journey starts with a single step. And if you don’t have previous board experience, then you should focus on transferable experiences from your past career that you can bring into play in a board position. Board skill sets should be apparent throughout your resume. Even if you don’t yet hold a board position, think of other situations and positions you’ve held where you demonstrated your ability to encourage, question, or guide, but you didn’t actually “own” or execute the activity.
Also, remember what you did in addition to your regular career. You’ve already been on boards at a sports club, kindergarten or similar, so use some of the experiences there if you haven’t gained the necessary experiences for your board seat in your current or previous jobs. And when describing your competencies from your regular job, be sure to spell it out so that the terms and wording match the words commonly used in the board position.
9 – Know your target audience
With any form of communication, it is essential to understand your recipient and how you should communicate with them. You need to use the proper wording in your resume. You should avoid using any language that could suggest you singlehandedly accomplished results. Try to use words that indicate being good at playing with others – “collaboration”, “dialogue”, and “group decisions”.
Boards are a collective. Being able to show yourself as a team player who can play the collective team through compromise, teamwork and persuasion will go a long way. Find examples of where you succeeded in leading and working with your co-workers instead of managing your team.
In addition to this, avoid using industry jargon and acronyms, as the recruiter or hiring committee might not know your industry or sector.
10 – Consulting
Just remember that a board position is not a management position. Your previous management experience can be relevant on a board because it might have given you a broader insight into all aspects of a company, as well as being used to think strategically and undertake responsibility.
But the people management part is not relevant in a board; in reality, it is more pertinent to see a board position as a consultant rather than a management role.
You are there to advise (and oversee) the company’s management. But you are not there to participate in the company’s daily management.
So it can be beneficial to consider where you have done consulting in the past. Easy if you have worked as a consultant, but even if not, there are probably many relevant cases where you took on the consulting role that could be relevant for your board career.
11 – Executive Search – The dreaded headhunters!
There are still many board positions that are placed through networking. But boards are becoming increasingly more common to use Executive Search firms when filling out an empty seat. Now, if you already have a strong network that can put you in front for a board position, then it’s not necessarily an advantage that Executive Search is getting more and more used for board positions.
However, in most cases, it is a clear benefit because of we, as Executive Search consultants, look much more for the skill set and personal fit rather than the network relation. And you can always ask us for advice on improving your profile to be more relevant for a board position. As executive search firms, we love discovering new talent and chatting.
Look through your CV, if yours signals that you are a great consultant rather than just a strong leader. It can often help you in the right direction.
12 – A strong summary
At first glance, it is your summary Board CV that the reader will see. Your summary is supposed to enable the recruiter or hiring committee to quickly find the strategic value you can add to the board. The summary might be the only thing people read, so it should be between 150 and 200 words long. Try to avoid long sentences filled with descriptions and keep your language objective. Keep it in either the first or third person. Otherwise, it will seem confusing. Try reading it out loud; your profile should sound natural and be easy to read.
It should be a match between you and the job specifications. If there isn’t a job description, then focus on your core transferable skills. They are the skills you have used in your career which can be adapted to board roles, not purely technical skill sets, but assets you have gained through experience. It could be a strategy, financial/budget, regulation, or innovation. Your transferable skills should be evident in summary and throughout the CV.
13 – Gender diversity in Boards
There is no way around it, we do need more gender diversity in senior Management and in boards.
But it is also worth to remember, that it is not only in the boards we need the diversity. Often the board positions are recruited from the more senior management positions, and if the women are not present there, it is naturally also having a negative effect in the boardrooms.
That being said, we do experience that the majority of Board positions we recruit for, there is a requirement, that we search for female candidates. The general advice in this Christmas Calendar can naturally be used by both genders, but for the women in particular, it is a good idea to also take into consideration to be on the boards of even smaller companies and Advisory Boards. We experience that for a lot of these smaller board positions, there are up to 4-5 women that are declining the positions, for every man that declines.
And even if the board position is not the ultimate dream board, it can still give some very good experiences, that can be used for the further board career.
14 – Getting the Interview
In some cases when you are asked if you could be interested in a board position, it is more or less a done deal.
Especially if you are asked by the chairman or the owner of the company, and if you have personal relations to them. It has been a practice that has been common for many many years.
On the other hand, it is becoming more normal to use Search firms to recruit the right members of the Board.
And even if the Board/Owner themselves handle the recruitment process, that they are also beginning to use interviews, and interview a few candidates for a Board position.
This is a good thing. If you are evaluated on your experience and merits, there is a greater chance, that you get the right Board position. And that the company not just chooses the one they knew in advance.
A bit more than a week ago we suggested some ways to be visible, to get approached for relevant board positions. Sometimes it is also about taking direct contact with potential relevant companies.
Do you a have a special industry knowledge or similar, that has value in the Board room of certain companies?
Then why not contact the Chairman/Owner, and express your interest, and at least leave them your Board CV for the future.
15 – Remember to listen
When you get an interview – don’t spend the first part of the interview talking about yourself or your achievement, or even how you will contribute to the board with your experience. If you can avoid it. Begin by listening to what skills the board is looking for, what kind of experience and knowledge should the next board member have. Is it a very generalist Board member they are looking for, or more of a specialist.
You need to get a feel for the organisation and its board, what are their needs? Is the company in the midst of a transformation? At what stage of the development are they?
By then you can begin to position yourself as someone who can step in right away and help the change.
Don’t be afraid to challenge the interviewer a bit. I strong Board member is also someone who speaks their mind, challenges status quo, and brings ideas to the table.
16 – Do your homework
As with any regular job application, it always pays to do your research before you apply. It’s the same with Boards positions. Not only concerning sending a targeted CV and application, but also to make sure you know what you are getting into. Look up the existing board members, What do they bring to the table. And consider if there is anything missing, they might find in yourself. What is the company’s current situation and what is your best contribution to the Board.
There is also another reason to do extensive research. If you do, you won’t be surprised by any red flags such as infractions, staff turnover or other issues at your target company. If you do come across something that are worrying you, then be sure to take it up with the interviewer. There might be a good reason behind it, and it may be a thing in the past, where the new board members can assist in getting past it. But it’s always good to have the information, so research is always valuable.
17 – What should you focus on in your CV?
Boards select their board members based on capabilities and character. While what a board is looking for differs from one position to another, we can tell you that the following character traits are essential for a non-executive director position.
Being trustworthy – the job is about taking responsibility and acting as a fiduciary for a business or organisation. The board will want to believe your capabilities even when things get rough.
In continuation of this is leadership skills – making the hard choices and taking on responsibilities. However, remember a board seat is not a management role. You are there to support the management, not be part of it.
Another ability is diplomacy – as we have mentioned earlier boards are a collective. You have to form and maintain good relationships with the rest of the board members. So, you need to be able to play on the collective team – using persuasion, teamwork and compromise. Also connected to this is your interpersonal skills – you need to showcase your abilities. Are you a good public speaker or perhaps networker?
An analytical mindset is also highly appreciated – perhaps by location new business opportunities by analysing data and using it as a basis for business decisions.
18 – Board education
The board education industry is booming! From the quick introduction courses in an afternoon to the full MBA school board education that could take weeks and months. The quality of the different courses and programs is very diverse. It is not our place to recommend some over others, but we do however have a few questions for you to consider before you enrol:
Be sure of your reasons. Is it because you want to learn new skills and insight into board work? Or is it because you think it is easier to get a board position if you have a formal education?
There are very few examples supporting the second notion. On the other hand, if the course is on a senior level, you might get a network with other people, which could be relevant in your board search. But the most important reason to take any course or program in board work is to improve your skills and insight.
Do you already have some board experience, or are you a beginner?
If you already have some board experience, then most of the shorter/lower level board courses are often irrelevant. You will already have most of the knowledge, and you will not gain any further advantage in obtaining new board positions. If you are a beginner at board work, then you might get some valuable insight and knowledge, from the shorter courses, but it will probably not make a difference in your chances of getting a board position.
The more extended programs from esteemed MBA schools etc. can in both cases give you strong knowledge and insight. Not necessarily a fast track to getting a board position, but most likely valuable from a knowledge perspective.
19 – What if you are a white middle-aged man?
We often get the question… How can I be relevant for a board position when I’m not female or a minority?
Well, first of all, there is a reason why there is a heightened focus on getting females etc. into the boards, because they have always been underrepresented. But that doesn’t mean that it in any way is easier for a skilled male to get a board position nowadays, maybe the contrary.
And it is also worth remembering that there are a lot more skilled candidates than there are board positions.
We’ll get back to that in a few days in this Christmas Calendar.
But does that mean that you are basically just superfluous? No…
You have to focus on your specific set of skills to be on the board. A truly diverse board also means that half the positions should still be populated by skilled males. But if your board experience is limited, then it is more difficult to be considered, when many boards are actively looking to get skilled female candidates in, to even the diversity.
But diversity can also be in the form of ethnical/nationality diversity. So, there may be more opportunities for a white middle-aged man to get a board position, in another country. For the individual it can be a bit frustrating, but overall, when we have the full gender equality, we are sure we will see much more functioning boards, and equal opportunities. Also, for the white males. So, there is a silver lining all around.
20 – The usual suspects
In many companies, especially smaller companies, the usual suspects in the boardroom are the lawyer, the accountant, and sometimes also a CEO of another company.
For smaller companies, it can be beneficiary to have a lawyer and an accountant on the board. This way they can ensure that all is done within the rules and regulations, as well as having a professional advisor that knows the company for financial and legal questions etc. Whereas if the company needs commercial development, a CEO or a sales director might also have a unique insight.
It’s much rarer to see the HR professional, procurement, logistics etc. in the boardroom. But in many cases, this type of diversity could be a tremendous asset in the boardroom. If you have a less traditional background for board positions, don’t hesitate to put yourself forward. As we mentioned earlier, boards are increasingly open to new types of expertise.
Use some of the tips from the previous board tips and insights on how to position yourself. You may have to be even sharper and concise than the usual suspects. So, it might be harder for you, but it is in no way impossible for you to land a board seat!
21 – More Board positions needed
As mentioned, the other day, there are a lot more relevant candidates for Board positions than available roles. There are, however, a couple of things that is improving in this area.
First of all, we do start to see a strengthened focus on re-vitalizing boards with new talent. It is also becoming less accepted, that some individuals have dozens of Board positions. Many companies are starting to expect more of the Board members, so more Board talent is needed.
And secondly, we can also see that smaller/midsized companies are beginning to be open to the idea of having a Non-Executive Board, or at least an Advisory Board. A lot of companies don’t have it, or maybe having a non-active family Board or similar.
That is very good news, of course for people wanting to take on a Board role, but also for the general Society. There is a greater chance of success and growth in companies actively using relevant skilled Boards.
22 – The chairman role, should I go for that?
In most cases, your first board position will not be the chairman role.
Which is often a good thing, take your time to learn and experience the Board work first.
But with a little bit of experience from board work, this might be an option for you.
But is it the right step to take?
First of all, it’s important to acknowledge, that the workload is vastly increased. There are a lot more meetings and in most cases discussions with the CEO on a regular base.
This also means that it is expected that you can dedicate much more time and effort into the board work than with a regular board position.
The remuneration is usually also higher for the chairman role, but compared to the hours spent, then the hourly rate is often lower. Worth considering -it often also excludes you from taking on more board positions due to lack of time.
That said, there can be much more development in the chairman role, and a lot more hands on strategy work. But remember still: You are still there to represent the owners and assist the CEO.
Original Material From Mangaard & Partners – our members from Denmark