How can you build a successful governance career whilst holding down a full-on ‘day-job’?

By Paul Smith, Founder of Future Directors //

I’ve written (and talked) in the past about TIME being the biggest barrier to entry for next-generation leaders into a career in governance. To that, you can often add confidence, connections, experience and risk-averse boardrooms as major barriers, but it’s usually a perceived lack of time.

When I started out in the boardroom I was a senior executive in a high-growth role that demanded travel, team leadership, change management and attendance at evening/weekend events. I was also recently married and we were thinking about adding to our family. 

Where was the time for something new? 

So how can you build a successful career as a non-executive director whilst simultaneously working full time as a senior executive, middle-manager, up and coming young leader, entrepreneur or business owner?

How are thousands of others, just as busy as you, making it in the boardroom with such full lives? In fact, these are the only people we work with at Future Directors… so far.

“Paul’s approach is great in the way it demystifies the Board and the Director role. His focus on individual strengths, building community and storytelling offers a true boost in confidence to get out there and work your network!”

Sylvain Josserand (recent board program graduate)

Understanding your Commitment

What I believe more each day is the power of that purposeful why. I see it every day in our community; those securing board roles, influencing others and making a difference. They have worked hard (and continue to work hard) on answering the question, “why do you do what you do?”.

Once you have answered that question, even in a small way, it will guide your decisions. It will guide your career. It will guide what you get involved in and how you use the only commodity you really have – and that’s time.

At Future Directors, we call that Commitment, and it’s the first C in our Five C’s methodology for becoming an influential and impactful board director (or what we call a ‘Future Director’).

The Five C's
The Five C’s of Becoming an Influential Future Director

If you want to understand more about your Five C’s, I’d recommend our free Director Diagnostic tool or a copy of my new book, Right Seat Right Table: An Outsider’s Guide to Securing the Ideal Board Role.


Your commitment sets the tone for your journey into the boardroom and your career in governance. 

Why do you want to be a board director? When do you want to be on a board? Who are the stakeholders you wish to serve?
Having clarity of focus and intent is important. You won’t get far with ambivalence. A better place to start if you’re not sure is “I want to be on a board, and I want to find out which one”. 


If your commitment drives you, your contribution defines you. 

What value will you add to a boardroom as a non-executive director? Do you understand the underlying responsibilities of a director? Do you know what will be expected of you? 
If you’re (board) young, you may not bring governance experience, but don’t let that deter you. You will bring diverse skills and expertise, new perspectives honed in our multifaceted and digitalized world, innovative thinking, creativity, or a technology-native mindset. 


Boards are risk-averse groups that are sometimes reluctant to take a chance on the unknown or the outsider. Trust is the ultimate currency of the boardroom.

How can you present yourself as a potential asset, not a risk? What do others say about you and your work? Do your actions and behaviours reflect your value and abilities? We have so many stories from our community of those securing their first board roles despite a clear lack of governance experience. It can be done.


They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I say the same about any board director. It takes connections and community. 

Boards are recruited largely via close networks, so being in the right place at the right time is the most effective way to get into the boardroom. You might need to broaden your networks but ultimately, the best way to accelerate your board career is to develop mentors and sponsors. 

What you know and who you know are both important, but in the context of finding and securing your ideal board role, I always say that it’s more important who knows you and what they say about you. You’ll want to cultivate that ‘sponsors’ mentality with as many people as possible.


If you can respond positively to each of these statements, you are well on your way to greater confidence: 

I have a clear roadmap and action plan to maximize my chances of finding ideal board opportunities that reflect my value and my values. I am continuously learning new skills and enhancing my abilities to ensure that I am the candidate of choice when applying to the boardroom. If I am offered a board role, I know exactly what questions to ask the board and myself to ensure I am making the right choice. 

How do you successfully add the boardroom to your full life?

We have the Five C’s , but there are also Three P’s. They are: patience, preparation and purpose. So start now, even if you have a long-term game plan. Do the work. Make sure you begin with your motivations and commitments.

Perhaps read my book (it’s free on the website) or take the Director Diagnostic to learn more about creating that pathway to a career in governance. And, if you want some extra help, reach out. We’ll be here.

Thanks for reading until the end.