Serving on the board of an organization can be amongst the most rewarding and challenging commitments many of us will take on during our professional careers. In today's constantly changing world, the job of a board member is arguably more demanding than ever before. Being a board member is hard work, but these opportunities are still in high demand. For that reason, it can be incredibly difficult to secure your first board appointment. Many people just don't know where to start, and we fear this is one of the factors holding back diversity in the boardroom - an issue we care deeply about. 

We decided to create this short resource for candidates who are interested in taking on their first non-executive commitment. In summary, we encourage you to focus on the “3 Ps”: Person, Process, Position. 

1. Person

So you’ve reached the point in your professional career where you’re curious exploring Non-Executive Director appointments, but where do you start? In short, you need to ask yourself a few clarifying questions:

  • Am I looking for a paid or unpaid position?
  • Can my skill set, passion and interests be put to best use in a private sector, public, or non-profit environment?
  • Am I more interested in and suited to a local, national or international organization?
  • How can I fit my NED commitments in with my current job and other life commitments?

2. Process

Next you should think about how you can maximize your chances of landing a NED role. It's important to be proactive about getting yourself in front of the right people at the right time, whether recruiters, CEOs or other board members. Below are some steps you can take in order to begin your NED journey:

  • Update your resume and professional bios to highlight your skills and interests. Clearly highlight your areas of particular expertise and insight.
  • Network, network, network. You need to get out and tell people you are on the market. Make an effort to interact with other NEDs and CEOs, to attend events in the sectors you’re interested in, to join professional bodies, and possibly even to find a board mentor who can share their wisdom and insights with you.
  • Do your research. Find out as much as you can about organizations that interest you and follow them on social media. Set up alerts or RSS feeds so you can stay up to date with what’s going on in that industry or sector and consider taking content or networking courses designed for board directors.
  • Be patient. It can take well over a year to land your first NED appointment. Don’t get disheartened or give up. The biggest hurdle you will likely face in your search for a NED role is that you’ve never been a NED before.
  • It's helpful to set realistic expectations for yourself and crucially think about what you can offer a board, not just a list of your prior achievements. Having a well thought out strategy about how you plan to land a board role is key.

3. Position

You’ve been patient, networked with all the right people and spent hours tweaking your resume, but it was all worth it because you’ve just been offered your first board position. But there are still a few things you should consider before accepting:

  • Go for the role not the ‘badge’. Accepting a board position simply because you want one, or because it looks good on your resume is not a sound reason. It can be easy to get seduced by big-name brands or high-profile peers, but that doesn’t mean it will be a fun or positive board culture or a well-governed entity.
  • Look at the organization’s risks. What are the chances of something going seriously wrong? Remember that boards and their actions are coming under increasing public scrutiny these days. Have you also sufficiently considered the legal accountabilities of the position?
  • Are you in alignment with the organization’s stated mission and values? Do you like the people that work there? It's worth taking soft references on both the culture and strategy before you accept in order that you know as much as possible about the responsibilities you are assuming as a member of the board.

Obviously it’s not possible to list out all the advice we give to candidates here, but we hope that we’ve given you a good place to start, or maybe even put the idea in your mind. We won’t sugar-coat it, your first NED appointment may be the hardest and longest recruitment process of your professional career, but it is worth it.

Why not start by registering your CV with us today?