Most board roles aren’t advertised. So, how do you find and secure one?

By Paul Smith, Co-founder & CEO //

Like it or not (and I really don’t like it), most board appointments are not advertised. They are usually made via connections within peer and professional networks.

Many are advertised, but unfortunately there is no single place to find them. Some are freely viewed on a jobs website, some only communicated via newsletters and others are behind paid memberships. Then there’s the ‘bigger’ roles that are only found through non-executive headhunters….so they find you.

Why don’t boards advertise?

It usually relates to time, money and knowledge – and not always a lack of any. For example, whilst a small nonprofit won’t have a budget and they will take the seemingly easier route of asking around their networks, a large company might have very specific needs (and deep pockets) so they hire a search firm. 

So, for many reasons, most board roles are not advertised and therefore, to know they exist, you need to take a different approach.

Out of interest, within our Future Directors alumni community, the significant majority secured their board roles via networking. Some of the boards they joined weren’t even looking until our people knocked on the door.

Trust is EVERYTHING

Like it or not, boards are excellent examples of human tribes and these tribes trade in the currency of trust. This is why diversity is a struggle when the existing boardroom is not yet diverse. They often only trust ‘people like them’.

(A discussion for another day).

Whilst tribes are evolving (slowly) away from visual markers like age, race and gender, being in the right network of people is still a vital component of finding and securing the right seat at the right table. It could be an industry or peer group.

But, in order to stand out in these networks, or move into new networks and have them work for you (i.e. connecting you to roles), you need to really network your value and demonstrate your commitment, contribution and then build your credibility.

How do you start?

These are key elements of the 5C’s of becoming an influential board director and you can learn more about them and how well you are doing in each by completing our free Director Diagnostic tool.

This tool will identify your gaps and needs to find and secure the ideal board role. Alternatively, just grab a copy of our book, Right Seat Right Table.