I was recently asked to give advice to an amazing group of women about getting on boards. This is a request I receive frequently which is why we are thrilled to partner with the Small Business Administration, LinkedIn and 16 other organizations to launch the ONBOARD Initiative. The Open Network for Board Diversity is looking to increase the number of women and underrepresented talent on corporate boards.
Landing a board position is very much tied to how successfully you navigate your career path and develop and nurture your network. Sounds straightforward and easy but in reality, not so much!
While many of us have a goal to serve on a board, many of us don’t have a plan. There is a path to getting on a board similar to there being a path to career success. Very few people can go from not serving on a board to landing a Fortune 500 seat at the table. Putting a thoughtful plan in place is key.
Steps to joining the board that is right for you:
- Think about the non-profit boards in which you currently serve or would like to join. Pick organizations that you are passionate about but also give you an opportunity to contribute and build your fiduciary skills.
- Develop your target list based on this framework or plan an exit plan for the ones that don’t fit.
- Serve on the membership committee, which gives you an active hand in learning what goes into the selection and success of board candidates.
- Serve on the finance or audit committee and build transferable skills that are relevant for any stage of company. Companies will always need independent board members on this committee.
- Lead a fundraising event or campaign that leverages a host of critical skills and builds your network and visibility.
- Target start up or growth companies that will round out your non-profit experience and start building your for-profit portfolio. There’s the added benefit that smaller companies move at a faster pace and therefore can accelerate both your learning and your pattern recognition skills.
- Let your interests be known. You can’t be considered if no one knows you’re interested.
- When you land the position, speak up and always contribute in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Many of your fellow board members also serve on other boards and often times recommend people they have worked with before. Additionally, the CEO and your colleagues will be your best references.
- Before you accept any position, do your due diligence. Understand the board role and dynamics as well as the health and trajectory of the company.
Lisa Skeete Tatum is founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform created to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace, and to enable enterprises to attract, develop, and retain high-potential diverse talent. Landit provides each woman with a personalized playbook that empowers them with the tools, resources, know-how, and human connections they need to more successfully navigate their career path.
Photo courtesy of WOCintech [FLICKR]