The new year is when most people start thinking about how to create a board career or take theirs to the next level. Regardless of your situation, a successful board career begins with a structured Board Appointment plan.
If you don’t have a board appointment plan, now is the time to develop one. If you do, the new year is the perfect time to reflect, revise and hone it. Here is a 10-step checklist to ensure you are well-prepared to take advantage of every opportunity and gain a board appointment in 2023.
STEP 1 – Be proactive and start now
Don’t play the waiting game. Yes, board appointments do get offered to people who aren’t looking for them – but rarely. If you want a board appointment this year, now is the time to begin. July to September is when the majority of board vacancies are advertised, and board appointments occur. But, regardless of how a board opportunity arises, you must be prepared for the competitive board application processes. You need to be proactive and a step ahead of the competition.
STEP 2 Have the ultimate goal in mind
This step is essential. Achieving your long-term board aspirations is challenging if you don’t know what they are. Equally, it is very easy to make ill-informed decisions now that may potentially prevent them from happening. So, ask yourself, ‘What sort of board(s) do I want to be appointed to within the next 5-10 years?’ If, for example, your answer is a significant commercial listed company, then think about which organisations today will help you get there and which won’t. Your focus now should be on those that will.
STEP 3 – Stop doing what isn’t working
“The harder you work, the luckier you get” sounds like good advice but often isn’t. From a board appointment perspective, if you are continually writing board applications, waiting for recruiters to call, not getting interviews or not getting appointed after an interview, your hard work is not paying off. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again ad nauseam. You need to do something different – something that works – not just putting in more effort.
STEP 4 – Prepare for hurdles
Think about what prevented you from gaining a board appointment in 2022 or what stopped you from starting. Recognising current and potential hurdles is important. Three main things will prevent you from gaining a board appointment in 2023:
1. You are targeting the wrong sort of organisation
2. Your pitch to those organisations is not compelling
3. You are not working smart and consistently enough.
STEP 5 – Write or update your board CV
Having reviewed thousands of Board CVs and written hundreds of them, I know that Board CVs work. Though they are not always the silver bullet, people think they are. Still, they often make the difference between being recommended by a recruiter, a non-executive director or a contact who can help gain an interview invitation. A client of mine proved this point. After being appointed to the board of a commercial company, he asked, “What attracted you to me initially?” Their response was, “It was the style, format and clearly articulated content of your board CV.”
STEP 6 – Write this down: At board level, what I do is…
The key here is your value at board level. Not only do you have to know it, but you also have to be able to articulate it. To simplify this step, just finish this sentence “At board level, what I do is….” Don’t go into detail; just focus on the result. This is essentially an exercise in refining your messaging. It is important to do this because you need your message to be clear and compelling. Failing to do this will risk you being perceived as too broad, too opportunistic and easily forgotten. Remember that old adage “Master of all, master of none”. It is particularly true when it comes to articulating your board value proposition.
STEP 7 – Write a list
Whilst over 180,000 board, committee and trustee vacancies are filled in the UK each year, only some organisations will want to put you on their board. Equally, you are going to add value to only some boards and organisations. When establishing your Board Appointment plan, you must focus on the organisations that will value you, your skills and experience enough to appoint you. Write a list of the top 12 organisations you believe would appoint you and you want to be appointed to. I can’t think of a more valuable exercise to start at the beginning of 2023.
STEP 8 – Get connected
80% of board appointments occur without a formal application process – with no recruiters or traditional advertisements. The key to these appointments is personal connections. You must make them and nurture them. Here is when most of you cringe because, you either hate networking, or feel that you have no one to network with. Both scenarios should not be of concern. Use your list of target organisations (from Step 7) to research and compose a list of the current and past directors. Connecting with them should be super simple if you are authentic and legitimate. Most importantly, it requires zero cringe-worthy networking tactics.
STEP 9 – Make time
A board appointment within 12 months should be your firm and achievable aspiration. To make it happen, you must be committed and consistent. You need to put dedicated time aside to make it happen. From today, put in your diary a recurring weekly appointment of 30 minutes to spend time actioning your board appointment plan.
STEP 10 – Seek support
Over the past decade, we have helped thousands of people develop their Board Appointment Plans and gain board appointments. We help people find board opportunities they would have missed by: providing access to the UK’s most extensive list of board vacancies. Plus, we provide practical support, training and accountability. If you would like a board appointment in 2023 and need some support to make it happen, take a look at the services we offer.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments – The UK’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world.