Being on a board of directors is an incredible way to take your career to the next level, but are you ready? There are far fewer chairs open than there are eligible contenders for those positions. How do you know when you’ve come far enough to make a name for yourself and land a prestigious board position?
Here are some important considerations when assessing whether or not you’re ready to get on a board.
Do You Have Senior Management Experience?
A seat on the board isn’t an entry-level position; it’s earned through years of experience gained from hard work. Most organizations look for a minimum of 10 years executive experience to qualify for a board of directors position, and that’s just a starting point.
If you’re not there yet, don’t feel discouraged. A board is responsible for steering a ship from a high-level overview. To be able to do so well, and contribute meaningfully, you need to be able to prove that you’ve been at the helm of an organization before and understand the ins and outs, ups and downs, ebbs and flows.
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Do You Have a Fresh Perspective?
The boards of the future aren’t going to look like the boards of the past. Even if you’re not quite where you want to be career-wise doesn’t mean that you don’t have plenty to offer on a board.
Boards are also now looking for a fresh perspective on how to relate to millennials since they make up the majority of consumers, spending $600 billion annually. Someone that is younger can have the opportunity to offer a different perspective to the board if they know how to position themselves and convey the value they’d bring.
Do You Have Connections?
It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know, especially when it comes to getting on a board. While the statistics vary depending on the source, there’s no question that the majority of board appointments are a result of strong networking and connections in addition to your experience.
If you haven’t been working your networks, the time to start is now. While you certainly can apply for board positions without networking, having a connection or being able to indicate to a trusted contact that you are looking for board positions is preferable if you’re to achieve success.
Do You Have Board Experience?
I know what you’re thinking, “how can I have board experience if I’m considering joining a board?” Welcome to the problem that every new university graduate faces when they enter the job market: you need experience to get experience. What does this mean for board roles? Well, most people get their first dose of board experience by volunteering on a board of directors for a non-profit organization. That’s right! It’s the same thing we encourage the youth to do in order to start their careers: volunteer.
Most private and public companies will want to see at least two years experience on a board of some sort. An alternative to joining a non-profit board is seeking out a startup that’s looking for a board of directors. The pay might not be much better than volunteering (ie: nothing), but it is an alternative worth considering.
Do You Have the Tools for the Job?
Landing a board of directors job has many of the same requirements as starting a new career path. You’ll need to have a resume crafted specifically for this purpose. You’ll need to be able to present an impressive bio, written out in an engaging way so that people will want to meet you. A certification in board training is also a huge benefit when looking for a position.
Before you can apply to board positions, you need to have the right tools in place to showcase your experience and qualifications, and ultimately, why a board can’t afford not to hire you.
Do You Have the Characteristics for a Board Position?
Knowing if you have what it takes to be on a board takes a fair amount of self-awareness. It’s not a job that everyone will excel at, while others seem to be born for the position. To be a valuable member of a board, you need to have a good sense of judgment, understanding of the industry and marketplace, strong leadership skills, the ability to concede and leave your ego behind, and critical, strategic thinking skills.
There are other, more practical considerations as well. The main one is whether or not you have the time required to excel in a board position. It may not be a matter of whether or not you’d do well as a board member, it might be a case of if the timing is right.
Benefits of a Board
There are a lot of benefits of being on a board of directors, such as career advancement and continued education. Additionally, the extra income provides a nice nest egg if you’re nearing retirement age. If you feel that joining a board is the logical next step in your career, consider working with a coach to help you to create an actionable plan to help you reach your goals.
Meredith Wailes is the CEO of Bloom Leadership, founder of SEED, and an adviser and builder of women who impact social change. Contact her via BoardReadyExecutives.com or connect on LinkedIn to see how she can help you.