If you’re planning to seek a seat on the Board, it’s important to know that you need to prepare in advance. Your personal branding, resume, cover letter, and networking needs to shift into a higher gear well before your first interview.
The search team for a Board position expects a candidate to have prepared their personal branding and resume to reflect their goals, and since networking may be the only way to catch the eye of hiring influencers for these positions, a good network of solid contacts is crucial to your success.
Resume. Prepare your resume and cover letter first. A Board resume needs to express your goals, skills, and experience just as a standard resume does, but the emphasis is on leadership, consensus-building, and teamwork, and less on personal achievement. Numbers are still an important element, but instead of personal numbers, add statements that reflect how you affected the corporate bottom line or team accomplishments. Working on your resume first allows you to drill down and identify both your professional goals and the skills and experience that show your fitness for those aspirations.
Personal branding. Polish your personal brand until it shines. Make sure your social media is free of any opinions, photos, or information that doesn’t support your readiness for a Board position. Check that your profiles and blog bios are current, your headshot professional, and that all of your listed skills, experience, and education match your new Board resume. Hopefully, you have been establishing yourself as an industry expert through posts about common issues, solutions, and links to news that relates to your field. You need time to lay the groundwork, and then you can support that reputation for expertise during networking events.
Networking. Just as you established yourself as an expert in your field on social media or in a blog, you’ll want to do the same while stepping up your networking. Since many Board positions are filled before the announcement of an opening, your network opens the door to the Boardroom. The time for active networking is upon you. Seek alumni from your business school who have reached the Board level and make strong connections. Follow through with those contacts over time, and don’t be shy about asking for a mentor. Take leadership roles in networking events, both as an organizer and a speaker. Stepping up as a leader in your network allows your contacts to see your professional growth and brings you to mind when positions are discussed.
Start small. Many corporate Board members began on the Boards of non-profits. Not only is it a great training ground for those who want to make the step up from the C-Suite to the Boardroom, but it enhances your resume and leadership skills in your current position, too. Charitable work at the Board level can offer new opportunities to network with a group of professionals who are on, or moving toward, corporate Board seats. Choose a charity that interests you, or one related to your industry to begin, as a genuine interest or expertise makes it easier and enjoyable to donate your time and skills. The work is unpaid, but the experience is priceless.