Seven steps to kickstart your board journey

Seven steps to kickstart your board journey

July 2021

At a recent Women on Boards Getting Started workshop in Sydney, one participant had this to say:

“Before connecting with Women on Boards, I didn’t feel I had the skills or experience to start my board journey. But after listening to Ruth and Claire and discussing my accomplishments I now feel confident. I can see I have skills to offer and getting a position on a board is no longer just a remote possibility.”

Like this participant, many people can be initially apprehensive about starting their board journey because they don’t realise their full potential and what they can bring to a board. many are also unsure where to start.

So where DO you start on your board journey, and how do you go about identifying and applying for board roles? 

1. Have faith in yourself

“We often hear people ask ‘Do I have the experience?’ or ‘What do I have to offer a board’" said Women on Boards Chair, Ruth Medd.

“It's very important to understand that directorship is a viable option for you. There are many boards and committees in Australia other than the highly visible listed companies like BHP or Commonwealth Bank.”

The truth is, if you’re reading this you are probably more qualified than you think, says WOB UK Chair, Rowena Ironside.

"It's very common for young professionals to assume they have nothing to offer a board yet. This is the catch-22 that any aspiring board member faces; you need to understand the issues facing the board to become a successful candidate. 

“Everyone has day-to-day competencies that they take for granted, but some of these will be highly valued on the right board. Good examples include understanding charity law or accounting standards, or being on top of the latest trends in digital marketing."

2. Get active

Events, workshops and webinars are a great way to find out more about becoming board-ready while also providing networking opportunities.Women on Boards runs several foundational workshops and webinars so make sure you take a look at our Events Calendar.

It's practical and strategically focussed to assist you to take action to achieve board and committee roles. 

Developed over many years by Women on Boards, Getting Started is suited to current and aspiring directors who are:

  • Considering how to best use their professional skills and experience on a board.
  • Seeking strategic and practical advice about how to 'give back' via a board or committee role.
  • Looking at directorship now or in the longer term.
  • Transitioning to directorship or a 'portfolio career'.
  • Looking for an influential and supportive network of like minded women.

See what Nimi Nolan had to say about our Getting Started workshop.

Find out more about our workshops here

3. Develop your Board CV

A board CV is very different to a career CV in several ways.  For starters, it should be two pages and express your capability and experience - clearly highlighting the value you bring to a board or committee. 

It's important that you identify your transferable skills, articulate your seniority and achievements and highlight past board or committee (or proxy board) experience, in a succinct way. 

If you’re stuck trying to do it on your own, you can hire a professional CV writer or attend WOB’s Build Your Board CV Workshop. This intensive virtual workshop focuses on enabling you to develop a high quality, board-ready CV.  A key outcome is to enable you to get onto the short-list, and ultimately to an interview, where you will be confident in speaking to (and expanding on) your CV. 

If you don't have the time to attend a workshop, try our On Demand Build Your Board CV course, WOB's online self-directed learning course to support you in creating an effective board-ready CV.

4. Assess the marketplace

Before making some suggestions about getting on a board let’s have a look at the marketplace for directors. We estimate that the pool of readily accessible boards is:

  • ASX500 - the remaining 1,500 ASX listed entities are quite small
  • Federal and State Government boards and committees - 3,000+
  • National Sporting Organisations and State Sports Bodies - 500+
  • Licenced financial entities (super funds, credit unions, mutual banks, insurance companies) and other financial bodies - 500+
  • Not for Profits - 60,000 are registered with the Charities & Not for Profits Commission
    • This is consistent with ABS numbers on economic impactful NFP entities
    • NFPs include charities, self -regulatory bodies, industry associations, health care entities, affordable housing bodies.

Overall there are about eight directors per entity, which amounts to 500,000+ board seats. 

5. Choose a board

An easy option is to wait for someone to ask you to join their board. For most of us this could be a long time coming. A better option is to be strategic and active. You do the choosing.

For an initial board you are best placed if you play to your professional strengths. Professional expertise in demand includes legal, accounting, marketing, HR, digital economy and general business experience.

Many boards still recruit from their network, so the question is who do you know that may have directorships on offer? It's very important to let people know that you are looking for a board role. 

6. Check out current Board Vacancies

Since WOB trailblazed its vacancy posting service back in 2006, there is a greater propensity for boards to advertise, openly or discreetly. Did you know:

  • We list around 25 new board positions on our website each week.
  • There are vacancies to suit every level of experience, including many that do not require prior board experience.
  • The WOB team searches online and offline sources to curate vacancies, so that we can list a variety of roles from different sectors and increase the transparency of the board recruitment process.
  • Anyone can post a board role on our site. It's a free service. We encourage our members to do this and to tell us about board vacancies they come across.

We strongly recommend looking at the weekly vacancies and particularly the selection criteria to get an understanding of what is available. If something takes your fancy, then do your due diligence.

7. Take the WOB quiz

Still not sure if a board is for you? Take the WOB quiz to find out.

Need more tips? Head to our Resources page or read about WOB success stories for inspiration.

If you're not already, consider becoming a full member for access to our board vacancies, free member only events, save 30% on paid events and workshops, access to WOBShare (our online member fourm), as well as personal support. Become a WOB full member.