We have many conversations with executives who would like to find their first board role, as well as with non-executives who would like an additional board role. Here’s a summary of some of our advice.
The number one point we communicate to those aspiring to a board position is that even very experienced board professionals must work on marketing themselves, to position themselves for the roles they want the most. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is updated and provides a good understanding of your career context (industry, turnover, number of employees, size of budget you have managed, etc.). A good guideline is that your experience should be easy to understand even for someone working from a different continent and in a different industry. Establish yourself with a clear, visible profile in the market of capabilities. While the larger, publicly listed companies generally use a formal professional search process, smaller and midsized companies often rely on personal networks. So be sure to reach out to as many headhunters as you can, as well as to your personal network, and make yourself visible!
Second, boards looking for their next board member tend to look for someone who has experience from a company of the same size and geographical span as the company in question. This means that if your experience is from a more limited geographical area and with a P&L responsibility much smaller than the turnover of the company, it is less likely that you will be perceived as a relevant candidate. Hence, look for companies that match your track record in terms of responsibility.
Third, identify your unique point of difference. If you are a CFO who has worked for a private equity owned company and have overseen an operation in a significant emerging market, your uniqueness will not be your CFO background (all companies have a CFO), but instead, your combined experience. If you can identify other companies where the board could benefit from having strong financial competencies and which operates within that specific geographic market and maybe also is private equity owned, that’s where your profile can be of particular relevance.
Fourth, meet prepared and sell yourself. When invited for an interview for a potential board role, do your homework and prepare well. Study the company performance, its board members, its leadership team and others who will interview you. What have you got to offer this company? What do you think it needs? What are their challenges? Create a clear storyline relating to your findings. Articulate what you can bring to the board and why you would like to join. Relate your experiences to the company situation and remember to also provide a flavor of your personal strengths.
Finally, be patient. To land a new board role takes time. Even for the most qualified.
See also our related article: Advice for first time board members.
If you’d like more information or would like to discuss your qualifications for a board role, OR if you would be interested in signing up for a short digital seminar on this topic, feel free to contact us at email@example.com
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