A lot of the articles we write on boardroom success are about the value you can gain from being a director and tips on how to advance your board career. But what do you do if you haven’t already got a board role and don’t know how to go about getting one?
The first step is getting a board to notice you in the first place, and in this article I’m going to be talking you through five ways you can go about doing just that.
#1 – Target the Right Boards for You
There are so many boards out there that it’s important that you’re specific about what type of board you want to be on. Otherwise, you can easily become overwhelmed with vast numbers of avenues to follow. Figure out which industries, sectors, causes and company-types would best suit you and work from there. It’s something that we focus on at Future Directors – encouraging budding board directors to identify what type of board they would be able to add the most value to. Because you’re not going to get noticed by a board that doesn’t match your skills and values.
#2 – Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering for a company is a great way of getting noticed by its board. And by volunteering, I don’t mean working at a soup kitchen (although that wouldn’t hurt!); I mean approaching the organisation, telling them about your values, strengths and skills, and offering to aid them in some way. This approach works best for cause-related organisations and boards, who tend not to have the time and money to go out and proactively look for people. Once you’re proving your value within the organisation, you’re much less likely to get overlooked when a director position becomes available.
Remember good boards have deep structure in terms of sub-committee (with subject matter specialties) or advisory boards. These often include non-director members. Even better boards are always building lists of budding directors to contact when positions on the board come up. You want to get on those lists.
#3 – Publicise Your Boardroom Training (If You Have Any)
If you’ve been through some sort of formal board training (for instance, with Future Directors or the local Institute of Directors, ie Australian Institute of Company Directors), then you need to make sure that the board you want to work in knows about it. Make sure that it’s publicised on LinkedIn, your CV and any other public channels you have. Because if you don’t tell them about your experience and why you’re the best person for the job, then no one will.
#4 – Networking
For many people, networking events are something to be avoided at all costs, but they shouldn’t be. They are a brilliant way of meeting the type of people who can give you a leg-up in your board career. By attending as many of these as possible, you’ll be positioning yourself as a director even if you’re not one yet, simply by hanging around active board members.
Remember also that networking doesn’t have to mean a room full of strangers. A phone call is networking; a coffee meeting is networking; using LinkedIn to connect with people is networking (just remember to use the message function!)
#5 – Mentors & Sponsors
I’ve already written an article on how a mentor can fast track your route to the boardroom, but it’s important to mention them here because they’re a great way of getting your name out there and being recognised. Mentors are people who are well-connected and have a vested interest in your career and seeing you do well. Check out the article for more information.
If you’re extra lucky, you might find yourself with a sponsor, who’s like a mentor but even more proactive. Sponsors make it their focus to see you succeeding, and will highly increase your chances of getting noticed by a great board.
Often, the hardest step to getting started in your director career is being noticed by a board. Positions can be hard to come by, particularly if you’re new to the game. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up hope before you’ve started. Follow these five steps and see how much traction you can gain toward your own boardroom success.