Gaining a seat on a corporate board is a smart and potentially very lucrative career move for business professionals seeking the opportunity to shape the future of a company, and make a real impact on the lives of others.
However, attaining such a seat is another matter entirely. Traditionally, board positions have always gone to professionals already known to the board - who were earmarked for the role long before it was available. These days, in the ever-increasing search for diverse talent, board positions are more readily available even for newcomers.
So in your hunt for an executive role on a company board, what should you be doing?
1. Create a Board-Specific CV
The style, format, and content of your board CV can make the difference in attaining your desired executive role. However, this document must be different than a typical resume.
Your board CV should include:
- Any board-level or executive experience: Typically, a board CV begins with the candidate’s relevant board experience, but as you are striving for your first position you can instead start with any board-level or executive experience. Detail your relevant roles but don’t copy/paste from your executive CV - focus on your responsibilities and strategic successes, as these are the most important board recruiters. If you held any sub-committee positions, include these as well.
- Evidence of your achievements: Consider demonstrable evidence of the impact you have had in your roles. You do not need to include your every win - only the most relevant or the largest.
- Your qualifications: Detail all relevant qualifications and additional certificates that showcase you as a fully qualified candidate for the position.
- Extra memberships or activities: Include any memberships or special interest groups of which you are a part of any relevant other activities that might highlight your suitability for the role. For example, membership of a professional body, a list of conferences at which you have spoken, papers of yours that have been published, and so on.
- Referees: Your board CV referees will ideally be at a board level themselves, preferably in a Chair position.
Managing Your LinkedIn
Board recruiters will look at your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you. Not only will they seek to learn more about you and your career history, but they’ll be interested in whether or not you are an active member of the professional community
Candidates who not only post regularly, but write thought-provoking articles, engage with others, and are featured in others’ articles will likely shine brighter than those who do none of the above. This shows your recruiters that you are engaged in your industry, and contributing.
LinkedIn is also a good way to network, as we’ll get to shortly.
Acquiring the Right Experience
Gain Board-Specific Education
Undertaking additional board-specific training can show board recruiters that you are committed to your career and your industry.
While many such courses are available across Australia, generally you should seek to gain as much ‘real-life’ board training as possible. Board simulation exercises, for example, can give you a good idea as to what it’s like on an actual board.
Alternatively, you can seek training in a more specific aspect of governance, to fill a more niche (and desirable, from a recruiter’s perspective) role. Such courses include risk management, not-for-profit financial management, cybersecurity risk, and so on.
Additionally, OnTalent has a number of coaching and mentorship programs that provide to-the-minute advice for jumping into a board chair. Want to know more? Read our Executive Coaching & Mentoring page.
Gain Real Board Experience
Some board recruiters recommend that candidates seek real-life board experience in the not-for-profit world before moving into the corporate board environment. While a role in this area may not be quite what you are after, it can provide valuable insight into how a board is run and will enable you to add more board experience and success stories to your CV.
As an added bonus, involving yourself in a community or charity board will likely expand your network, which could prove lucrative in future.
Expanding Your Network
“Fish Where the Fish Are”
Your network will be crucial in your hunt for a board role. Therefore, you must work to expand and mine this network to maximise your chance of success.
This starts with diversifying your list of contacts. This can be done both in-person and online - “fishing where the fish are”, as some say. Become a contributing member of LinkedIn’s industry groups, get active on the platform to make new connections, and write the kind of insightful content that your network will want to share - thus expanding your presence even further. You can always hire ghost-writers to help you with your first articles if you’re unsure about any of the steps.
Next, attend relevant industry events where board members will be present. Get comfortable pitching yourself as a potential board member. As we’ll discuss in a moment, awareness is a key step in gaining your first board role. If you can get yourself invited as a speaker at any of these events, that will go even further to showing your level of authority and, thus, your suitability for the role.
People in your contacts list need to know that you are interested in a board role so that they can recommend you if one becomes available. Tell people you are looking and why you’d make a great fit for a corporate board.
You can also talk to your current CEO about this. Not only can they (and indeed your organisation’s directors as a whole) provide feedback on what might make you a more stand-out board candidate, but they could recommend you to their own network if they see a board position become available.
Gaining your first corporate board position, like all aspects of growing one’s career, will take effort and training. However, with a good board CV, smart networking, and a number of relevant education programmes, you can set yourself apart from other candidates and position yourself well for getting a director’s seat.
If you would like help with seeking a board role, reaching out to a specialist in executive jobs can kickstart your journey. Contact our recruitment partners today to see how we can assist you.
recruitment partners today to see how we can assist you.