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Tips for joining a company or organisation board

You’re happy at work and continue to build valuable experience. While you’re not looking for a career change or a new role, you feel there’s a gap in what you’re offering professionally. Perhaps it’s time to join a board.

The challenge is landing a board position. How do you spread the word that you’re ready and able to make a meaningful contribution? Start by exploring the ideas in this expert article for securing a rewarding board position that fits you to a tee.

Read company policy

Find out if your employer has a policy on employees accepting board roles. Are you allowed to? Are there restrictions? Do you need approval?

Develop the right mindset

If your sole aim in joining a board is what you can gain, reposition your mindset. Boards want members to focus on organisational success, not on self-interest. The same with being paid or remunerated for your board work. While some high-level positions are handsomely rewarded, most are not about the dollars.

Highly effective board members want to give back. They understand that boards operate on behalf of owners, shareholders and stakeholders who want advice, consultation and support.

Examine the time commitment

Only join a board if you have the time to invest. Being on a board can involve many hours, including attending meetings. Do your family and work commitments allow you to put in the required effort? If not, postpone until the timing is right.

Research, research, research

It’s essential to research the responsibilities and risks of being a board member. It’s serious business. To have a successful board career you need to know what’s expected of you, so you meet your obligations.

Research what boards to target. Carefully select one that operates in an area you’re passionate about. Align your choice with your values and interests. You may, for example, want to be on a board in a certain sector, such as business, the arts or not-for-profit. Also, think about governance. The dynamics of governance continue to evolve in the work world and boards must keep pace.

To help you decide, research and conduct due diligence. A gold mine of valuable information is online, including advertised board opportunities.

Sign up to board directories or registers

While many board positions are filled through direct referrals, more are through executive searches. Some boards use central registers or directories to find talent so get your name on these. Many are free.

Write a stellar resume

Never submit your regular resume for a board position. A job resume and a board resume are two different beasts. A board resume needs to be relevant from a board perspective and list more than skills and experience. Tailor it to highlight the contributions you’ll make, the value you’ll add and the area you want to concentrate on. Knowing your unique value proposition and personal brand is the best way to sell yourself.

Emphasise qualities the board is looking for. Board positions aren’t management positions. They’re consultancy and overseeing roles, not ‘doing’ roles. Therefore, the ability to be strategic, analytical, advisory, collaborative, influential and persuasive are more important than the ability to develop project plans, implement timelines or manage day-to-day operations.

Boards also often look for characteristics such as trustworthiness, integrity, and diplomacy. Weave these into your resume.

Read more: Why tailored resumes are best dressed

Update your online presence

Board members will check you out online so update your LinkedIn profile for relevance. Highlight key achievements. Showcase your abilities. Specify you’re looking for a board position. Include any volunteer work, such as working with the management of community groups.

Network existing and build new relationships

Many board members leverage relationships and connections to earn their positions. Make a list of your networks and get out there. Proactively discuss why you want to be a board member.

Reach out to board members you admire, but be efficient and professional, since these are busy people. Before contacting members, explore their LinkedIn profiles you’re well-informed. Leverage what you may have in common. Perhaps, for example, you both attended the same university, or have worked for the same organisation.

Get ready for interview

Potential members are usually formally interviewed for board positions. Be prepared by reading up on interview techniques, studying relevant content and developing examples to use during your interview that illustrate what the board is looking for. There’s no room for winging it during an interview.

Be patient

It typically takes substantial time to land a board seat, and substantial effort. Patience is essential.

Board registers

Community Services (ACT Government)

Board Matching Service

CBB Board Match

BoardLinks (for women and managed by the Australian Government)

SEEK Volunteer

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