Where to Find a Board Position
I’m often asked by aspiring company directors where they can find their first board position. A recent fledgling board member said it like this:
“I’m encouraged to join a board and start climbing the ‘board ladder’ and I’m ready to do that; the problem is, I can’t find the ladder!”
It’s a great analogy to a common problem amongst aspiring board members. There are many places that you can start your board career, and I’ll share these below. The first thing to do is to set your expectations: you will more than likely (1) be joining a board in a volunteer capacity, and (2) will not be joining an ASX listed or other large organisation board for your first board seat.
With that said, here are some places where you can find your perfect first board position:
The network economy is not just a boy’s club – it’s an everybody club! Most board positions are not advertised. Rather, new board members usually come from recommendations of other board members and from trusted experts from within existing board members’ networks.
Think broadly here. Don’t just let your professional network (i.e. work colleagues, clients, suppliers, etc.) know that you’re seeking a board position, inform your personal and extra-curricular (e.g. sport team mates, interest group members, etc.) networks that you’re ready to get on board.
There’s a great section within your LinkedIn profile that allows you to list that you’re interested in joining not-for-profit boards (in the Volunteering Opportunities section of your profile). It’s quite basic, but it’s worth ticking that box and letting people see that you are willing to donate your time and expertise to worthy causes.
Another great idea that I have seen aspiring directors do is share a status update asking their connections for help with finding a board position. From what I have seen, this seems to work well.
Even though I have told you that boards rarely advertise vacancies, it’s best practice for them to cast a wider net. Those that do, utilise two main websites for advertising their board positions: Volunteering Australia and Seek Volunteer. Take some time searching these databases for vacancies and set up alerts where possible.
Organisations’ Websites and Social Media Channels
Organisations often promote board vacancies via their social media communities and on their website. If you have an organisation in mind that you’d love to join, follow their social media channels, regularly visit their website, and sign up to their newsletters so that you’re one of the first to know about open board positions. Consider following existing board members’ social media channels too – they may just come to their network looking for board candidates.
Board registers are centralised databases for people who are interested in finding board positions. They are worthwhile taking the time to join and keeping your profile up-to-date. I’ve personally been successful in gaining a board position from being on a board register.
Here is a list of six board registers that I encourage people to join. Unfortunately for the guys out there, most of these are for women. However, there are a few that are open for everyone.
If you’re having trouble joining a board, consider becoming a member of a board committee. This allows you to demonstrate your expertise – whether in finance, marketing, people management, risk management or any other specialised skill – shows that you are interested and committed, and will position you to be able to step-up to the full board when the opportunity arises.
If you’re not finding any news on board or committee vacancies from an organisation that you absolutely love, consider approaching them directly. I have written a post on how you can do this appropriately; you can find it here.
Still looking for ideas on where to start your board career? Here are three places where you can start your board search.
Landing your first board position can seem elusive. Stick at it, work your network, get your name out there as much as you can (without going overboard), and let people know that you’re ready to get on board. The opportunity to join a board will come along soon enough. Then the real fun starts…
What other advise would you give to aspiring directors when searching for their first board position?