There is still a widespread misconception that board roles are out of reach or unsuited to full-time working professionals. Yet board roles are increasingly being taken by working executives and younger people as companies seek candidates with current experience and a diversity of skills, age and background, writes Women on Boards Co-founder and Executive Director, Claire Braund.
These candidates also understand that the best way to plan a career in boards is in fact to get some board experience while still fully employed – often on a government, not-for-profit or subsidiary board.
Below are eight tips for anyone thinking about board roles, now, or in the future.
1. Consider your motivations for being on a board
Directors govern an organisation on behalf of the owners, shareholders and stakeholders, so you need to be comfortable in your fiduciary role (an individual who acts in the interest of another person or an organisation). To join a board, in particular a NFP board, it is wise to have an affiliation with the sector in which it operates, an interest in its purpose and be able to commit the appropriate time to be a valuable board member.
2. Know your organisation’s policy on employees taking board roles.
Are you permitted to join a board? If so, which ones, and what is the approval process? If there is no formal process, then suggest that HR to develop one and offer your assistance.
3. Consider the sector/industry you are interested in best suited to your professional and transferable skills
Understand how the skills you have used in your career can be adapted to board roles – this is commonly called your transferable skill set. It includes the assets you have gained through experience, rather than your purely technical skill set. Once you have a clear understanding of your transferable skills, consider sectors and types of organisations they might suit. Think laterally, you might be surprised how much a hospital is like an airline!
4. Let others know of your board interests and ambitions
Ask yourself how many people know of your board aspirations? If the number is low or zero, there’s work to be done. In many sectors there are more candidates than roles, so it can be a competitive process. Appointments are still often made on the basis of recommendation. It is human nature to favour ‘people we know’ or ‘people who are recommended by people we know.’ Of all sectors, Government appointments tend to have the most transparent processes. So you need to ensure others know of your interest in being on boards.
5. Be financially literate and understand directors’ duties
If you’re not comfortable with standard sets of accounts and aware of the liabilities and responsibilities of a director, then do something about it. First, you might like to assess your director skillset
. Then there are a range of courses and programs you can do online or face to face., including WOB’s Financial Literacy course
provided by McGrathNicol and a range of courses with Governance Institute of Australia
6. Consider what value you add to a board
You need to be clear about the value you bring to a board. Match your skill set to the needs identified (or not) by the board. Sometimes you might be a great candidate, but the timing is wrong. Rather than beat yourself up that you did not get the role, move on a look for another one. Serendipity does play a part.
7. Have a good board ready CV and a professional pitch
Your board CV is not your professional career CV. It should be concise (no more than two pages) and contain a summary of your transferable and profession skills (not your role) and what value you bring. Key words around competence and areas of speciality are important. Our Build Your Board CV Online program is a great way to get started.
Once you have a good board CV, be prepared to talk to it when introducing yourself at networking functions and when you bump into someone who can help you. Part of your pitch is being ready to do ‘the ask’ when you line up coffee meetings with influential people who can help you – they will not expect their time to be wasted with idle chit chat but will expect to assist you in some way. It’s also important to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is consistent with your pitch and Board CV.
8. Start to think like a director
There is an old saying – ‘if you waddle like a duck, swim like a duck and act like a duck....then you are a duck.’ To become a successful director you need not only to fit the part, but look and act the part. Remember, a board member sits above an organisation and does not work in it, so your language and positioning should reflect a more elevated role where wisdom and judgement are more valued than organisational capacity to get the job done.
Am I Board Ready? Take our Interactive Quiz to find out! Click HERE
Also check out our workshops and programs on our EVENTS page.