Don’t Have An MBA? You Can Still Get A Board Position

Nothing will prevent you from reaching your goals the way fear of inadequacy will. That’s exactly what holds many talented, knowledgeable individuals back from pursuing their goals and bringing value to an organization. Suffice to say, the barriers that many of my clients face are self-constructed.

One of the common misconceptions about what qualifications are required to obtain a seat on a board of directors is that you need an MBA. The truth is, there are a lot of businesses that don’t have that qualification for board members. In fact, there are plenty of private businesses looking for board members who have experience outside the traditional business environment. In this article, we’ll discover why you still have value without an MBA.

What a Company Really Needs

Companies are looking beyond educational backgrounds (though they still have a lot of merit for a candidate) and considering other benefits that a candidate can bring to an organization.

For example, a startup company might want to work with someone who has had years of experience launching startups and scaling them to success. A company that is experiencing difficulties in the face of environmental protection regulations might want someone who has experience in sustainability and environmental technology. A company that struggles to navigate the various geopolitical changes occurring every day might want a board member who has never worked in business, only in government.

A company doesn’t need a Masters’ graduate for the sake of having someone educated on the board; they need someone who has years of collective education through industry experience and continued learning. They need someone with strong collaborative skills, solid judgment, and a unique perspective to help guide the business through turbulent times.

Set Yourself Apart

To get a prestigious board position, you need to start by reshaping your mindset. Stop thinking about what you lack and focus on the bright spots that you have to offer. How can your skillset help a business thrive in the face of adversity? What insider knowledge about a certain area can you bring to help a business clear up confusion? Identify your unique combination of skills and define how they will help in a business setting.

One effective exercise for determining which aspects of your background can stand out against other candidates is to draft a personal Unique Selling Position (USP). A USP is often used in business branding to tell customers why they should spend their money with a specific business over the competition.

When applied personally, it is a strong, succinct statement that tells a hiring committee who you are, your greatest strength, and why they’ll want you over anyone else. It’s designed not only to tell a business why you should be on their board, but it should subtly convey why they don’t want you to be with the competition.

Finally, it’s not enough to have experience and education if you can’t work with other people. Strong leadership skills are essential, but so is the ability to follow. Being able to speak your mind and challenge leadership is crucial, but so is the ability to be democratic and collaborative with your fellow board members. Many board candidates get so caught up in their years of experience that they fail to address the traits and skills that bolster those accolades.

Changing World, Changing Needs

The world is always changing, which means that businesses must adapt or face extinction. More companies are finding that despite not being in the tech industry, much of their focus is being redirected to tech-related issues. Cybersecurity is of the utmost importance recently, with high-profile data breaches making headlines.

As a result, more businesses are looking to include tech experts on their board. These individuals often have experience in computer science, programming, and the software life cycle rather than a traditional business background. Having these individuals on a board can add tremendous value as the business tries to stay abreast of upcoming trends and regulations surrounding data protection.

Lifelong government employees are also successfully making the transition to board placements, despite not having an MBA. Similarly to the technology experts, these professionals are able to get ahead of changing regulations and circumvent new tariffs and shipping bans to keep businesses profitable.

In summation, businesses are realizing that doing things the way they’ve always done them is no longer enough.

How to Get on a Board

If you don’t have an MBA, consider working with a board placement service and coach to help you showcase yourself in the best possible light. This service can help you ensure you have everything you need to be a competitive candidate and help you make connections to find a seat on a board. With coaching, you can reframe your mindset about what you lack and focus instead on what incredible insights and value you can bring to businesses in need of guidance.

Meredith Wailes is the CEO of Bloom Leadership, founder of SEED, and an adviser and builder of women who impact social change. Contact her or connect on LinkedIn to see how she can help you