Activating your Board Search Strategy

Activating your Board Search Strategy

If you’ve spent any time on a Board career journey, chances are you have experienced a lull with your Board search activity. It’s tempting to sit back and say “Welp, there’s no good Board opportunities at the moment.” With the number of Boards lamenting that they can’t find good Board Members, I find the premise of there being no good Board opportunities available hard to believe.

Sitting back and waiting for the right Board to advertise a Board vacancy at the exact time you are wanting to apply is one easy way to become discouraged and perceive a dearth of Board opportunities.

Thankfully, there are more ways to unearth Board opportunities than waiting for them to be advertised. Like other high-level professional roles, the Board space relies heavily on referrals and recommendations as ways to identify potential future Board Members. This network economy isn’t something to scoff at (although there are a lot of negatives that can come from it when used ineffectively); it’s an opportunity for great Board candidates (that’s you) to engage with and leverage for positive outcomes for everyone.

I’m presuming by this stage in your Board journey that you have set a clear and achievable Board goal, identified and defined your unique value proposition (UVP), refreshed your personal brand to reflect your Board goal(s) and UVP, and prepared a standout Board resume clearly and concisely communicating all of these.

What do you do next?

It’s time to take concerted effort that builds on and leverages your great work so far. There are two main areas of activity that I encourage you to take.

1. Build, engage, and activate an authentic network of people.

The focus of your network activity is spread across two cohorts; your existing network (regardless of how ‘un-networked’ you feel, you have an existing network), and expanding your network.

When overlayed with your Board goals, you will begin to identify people in your existing network who may be able to support you to further your Board ambitions. This may or may not be clear on how they can help, so a conversation with them may be a great first start. If you are clear on how they may be able to support you (because you’ve done your research) – either, for example, through an introduction, or by forwarding your Board resume onto a recruiter – your next step is determining how best to reach out to this person and ask for specific help (whilst offering to also help them like a great networker would).

When it comes to expanding your network, again use your Board goal(s) to reverse-engineer who would be valuable to establish a relationship with. For example, if I wanted to get onto the Board of a particular adult education organisation, I would look at its existing Board Members, identifying who I may know directly, or, failing that, who is best for me to know (usually the Chair and the Chair of the Nominations Committee). I would then search on LinkedIn for mutual connections, identifying someone in my existing network who could be able and willing to provide an introduction (and, of course, whom I would also offer help to). I would engage with this new person in an appropriate way (possibly by expressing my interest in joining their Board, why I think I would add value to the Board and organisation, and share my Board CV requesting consideration the next time a Board vacancy arises and expressing my interest in participating in a Committee in the meantime. That’s what I would do. The key is finding a method that is authentic to you.

Identifying the people who would add value to your Board goal(s) helps you to focus your online networking and it also helps in determining which in-person events you attend – are those people also attending these events?

I understand that this may come across as a self-serving endeavour; and on the one hand, it is. However, authentic and genuine network building involves giving and sharing value first before asking for help. It’s wise to attempt to skew the ratio of ‘giving’ and ‘taking’ towards the ‘giving’ side. Think of it as deposits into a bank account; always make sure you leave a healthy balance after making withdrawals.

2. Identify and create Board opportunities that come to you (not just via advertisements).

I know I advised against sitting back and waiting for the perfect Board advertisement to drop, but there is a more engaged and proactive way that you can enable your preferred Board opportunities to present themselves to you with a little invested time upfront.

There are four options, from passive to involved, that you can adopt as activations for your Board search strategy:

Optimising your LinkedIn profile and Setting up Job search alerts.
This involves ensuring your LinkedIn profile is a natural extension of your Board resume and a place where you can tell more of your UVP story. This will help opportunities to find you should a recruiter be using LinkedIn when searching for someone like you for a Board opportunity. It also involves setting up an alert via the Job section to send you an email (daily or weekly) of your preferred ‘job’ (in this instance, Board Member, or Non-Executive Director in Adelaide, South Australia) to save you having to check-in regularly.

Engage Board Recruiters/Search Firms.
Board search firms support larger organisations and governments to recruit new Board Members. They are always on the lookout for high-quality candidates; at the end of the day, they want to place the best person on the right Board. There are better ways for you to use Board recruiters as part of your Board search strategy; I share some considerations for you to make when engaging them in this article here.

Joining Board registers.
Board registers are databases where you can input your information and profile to demonstrate your interested in joining a Board connected to the register’s particular focus (these can include Government Boards, Not-For-Profit Boards, sport Boards, etc.). Use your Board goal for an indication of what type of Board register you may want to use.

Reaching out to organisations directly.
A more assertive approach for you to take to progress your Board goal(s) may be to (appropriately) reach out directly to the organisation or Board you have a desire to join. Of course this is a brave and delicate process. To help you put yourself forward, I share a framework you can follow when approaching organisations directly about joining their Board.


Great Board opportunities are out there waiting for you. Taking meaningful action to progress your Board goal(s) is possible. I hope this article has given you some inspiration on what your next steps will be.

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