How to Become a Board Member


How to Become a Board Member?

Seeking your first board role is an exciting process, but are you really ready? 

First-time Board seekers must engage in training, research and a wide range of tasks before they can fully jump into their first board role. Many of the executive candidates I liaise with at Board Portfolio are often unsure about what they need to apply for a Board position and if their skills and experience are at a desirable level. If you are currently looking for your first board role, here is my best advice on determining whether you are truly ready: 


1.What Is Your Value Proposition? 

Executives who are ready for their first board role should have a clear understanding of their expertise and their value proposition. 

If you are beginning to search for your first board role, you will need to thoroughly understand your value, be able to articulate and communicate this effectively and also demonstrate how your specific skills and knowledge can develop and adapt into tangible benefits and rewards for the organisation. 

Whether it is to do with experience, knowledge or practical skill (or all of the above), being prepared for your first board role means having your value proposition down and knowing exactly what capability gaps you can fill on the Advisory Board.


2. Is Your Resume Exceptional? What About Your Online Profiles?  

The way your value proposition professionally translates to others is via your Board resume and/or any online branding profiles you have. At this stage, it is critical not to underestimate the power of your resume and brand. Your entire portfolio must be expertly tailored for board opportunities and should emphasise your capacity to bring value to a board during your first board role. 

In addition to your Board resume, a LinkedIn Profile is also highly recommended, especially since many of today’s top businesses operate in the digital world and participate in social media communities. Both your Board resume and your LinkedIn profile – and any other material that promotes your wisdom – will assist greatly in developing your personal brand.

All of these will prove invaluable in creating exceptional first impressions and subsequently convincing Boards and organisations that your wisdom and experience is indeed worth harnessing. 


3. Have You Got the Right Credentials? 

Experience and credentials are also key factors for any Board seeker. Organisations, Board Directors and Executive Firms will all assess your initial suitability on your credentials and capabilities. This not only applies to the competencies and industry knowledge you have acquired over the course of your career, but also your understanding of what being a Board Director entails.  

My best recommendation for board-seeking executives is to contact us at the Director Institute. We run a range of quality Company Director courses/events. These programs are strongly recommended for any executive seeking their first board role. 

The right training and education is essential for any potential Board member and the more your credentials stand out, the more competitive your application will be. Networking with current board members and directors will also help shed light on what specific educational programs or courses could be beneficial. 


4. Have You Researched and Networked Enough?  

Significant researching and networking should be also undertaken before you decide to jump on a Board and start applying for your first board role. Like any other position at the senior level, landing your first board role can be extremely competitive. Networking with current Directors and Board Members and participating in online forums can be advantageous and in many cases, it is necessary. 

Learning all you can about being a Board Director before you actually become one will also place you in a much stronger position and will open up opportunities that can pave the way for quality board positions. 

In addition to this, I also advise joining certain organisations or institutes, which can work in your favour as well, especially in industries where securing that first board role can take several months due to the high volume of competition and the need to navigate around any conflicts of interest. 


5. How Well Do You Know the Board? 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when looking for your first board role is jumping into a position and then finding out you’re on a dysfunctional board. How can you avoid this? 

Conducting thorough research is the key to side-stepping this error; even if you are starting out with community-based or not-for-profit Advisory Boards, you should investigate other Board members, as well as the Chairman and Directors. Do they have the right expertise and knowledge to be sitting on this board? Does the board work well together or is ongoing conflict evident? Have they made intelligent decisions in the past in regards to organisational strategy and tactics? 

Knowing the answers to these questions will keep you from making any first-time board errors that can negatively impact your career. Remember, it is your reputation and personal brand that is at risk when you join a Board and you will need to engage in extensive research to ensure that the Board you choose is of high calibre and worthy of your presence, too.

Board Director Dreams: Setting Foundations for Success

Stepping up from a Senior Executive position into the role of a Board Director brings with it much responsibility, commitment and risk. Yet for many executives, becoming an Advisory Board member is often the next, logical move in the course of their careers, particularly if they love business governance. But beyond this first decisive step, there is much work to be done and setting strong foundations now for successful appointments later on is mandatory before even the most experienced executive can even begin to apply for their first Board role.

Assess Your Knowledge & Experience

There is no doubt that you have an understanding of your value as a Board candidate, but it is crucial at this stage that you assess your knowledge and experience in relation to Directorship requirements and responsibilities. While your knowledge might make a great senior executive, you might not yet have what it takes to carry out a Board Director’s duties.

In the very early stages, perusing Board position descriptions and advertisements is a good way to get an idea of the skills and expertise that you require as a Director. This will help you determine whether or not your current experience is able to compete with the calibre of other candidates in the Board recruitment space or if you need to set up your foundations a little more strongly or gain more experience before moving ahead with your Board applications.

Network With Other Directors

Networking with other Directors is one of the best ways you can enhance your Board career. Existing Board Directors can provide you with incredible insight into what is involved when sitting on a Board and many Directorship opportunities can also arise through your connections and contacts, which can give you an amazing competitive advantage when it comes time to vie for the role.

It will be vital to connect with existing Board Directors in your industry (and in other sectors) and to cultivate these relationships on a long term basis, to the point at which they can actually impact your Board career. You obviously know how to network at this senior level, so expanding your circles to include Board Directors is a great way to build rapport with those who matter and solidify your Board support for years to come.

Make Training & Education a Priority

While CEOs may have the privilege of being an Executive Director, other members of the senior executive team may not always have the opportunity to sit on the company Board. For this reason, obtaining the right Board education and training is critical, if only because you need to develop an acute awareness of the strict responsibilities, accountabilities and practices that are involved at the Board level.

At the very least, candidates with little to no Board and governance experience should complete one of the introductory Director courses at the Australian Institute of Company Directors. This qualification can enhance your opportunities significantly (many organisations are reluctant to take on a Director without this training) and you will find that many of your competitors in the marketplace will hold this qualification as well.

What Type of Board Role Do You Want?

Wanting to become a Board Director is one thing, but the multitude of businesses and Boards out there is very diverse. What types of Boards and organisations do you want to contribute to? Are you interested in start-ups, private businesses, Not-For-Profit organisations, rapid expanding commercial enterprises or ASX-listed companies? Do you want to work with companies that are in the early stages of their life cycle or with ones that are already established in the marketplace?

Your key strengths and expertise will be mostly indicative here about what you can bring to an organisation. However, you will need to have a serious think about what types of governance issues you want to be involved in. Some Directors love the idea of getting a new product off the ground, while others are more focused on commercial strategies and growth; some are great at advising on legal or financial issues and others are masters of managing risk.

While it is highly unlikely that you will be able to step up straight away onto an ASX 200 Board, understanding your target Board role will assist you in developing your career direction and deciding what type of Board position you want to start with in the short term.

Create Your Own Criteria

Creating, developing and communicating your own “career criteria” is also critical in building strong foundations, as this will essentially shape how your Board career comes to fruition. Your criteria should include decisions or information about:

  • The level of commitment you are willing to make as a Director and how much time per month/quarter/year you are willing or able to dedicate to your Board duties
  • The level of legal and financial accountability you are willing to take on as a Board Director; this can differ between organisations, so you need to decide what liabilities you are comfortable with
  • What type of compensation you want to receive as a Director; if you strictly want to be remunerated, you will need to figure out how much remuneration you are expecting
  • Whether any conflicts of interest exist that could impact your Board decisions and success; for instance, if you currently work in one organisation, you may not be able to serve on the Board of a competitor organisation

Perfect Your Image & Brand

As the old adage goes, “image is everything. Branding yourself well in the marketplace is one of the most prosperous ways to set up your personal foundations and secure your success for the future. Your personal image and brand should speak volumes about the unique value and talents you can offer as a Board Director and this alone can be enough to attract the attention of various leaders, organisations and Boards.

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Even if you do end up applying for Board roles traditionally, hiring executives and other Board Directors will most likely want to know more about you – and they often turn to the web, and other offline resources, to conduct their research. When encountering your brand in these spaces, your professional image can often “make or break” your success. If you are unsure how to effectively develop your brand, working with an Executive Coach or Consultant may be ideal. These experts will be able to help you create and establish your brand both online and offline, and they may also be able to assist you with your Board resumes, cover letters and other documentation once it comes time to begin applying for Directorship roles.

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