You are not too young to start a board career
For many having a board career is a lifelong goal. But we conjure up images of old white men with grey hair and dark suits sitting around a board table and think, I don’t fit into that category, that could never be me.
That’s where you are mistaken – it could be you! With diversity being the new buzzword for organizations and boards across the world, many think that it only means hitting goals with female presentation on boards. However, it also means diversity in age, race, religion, disability, thinking and more.
Have a good, honest look at yourself. How do you differ from your run-of-the-mill board member? What do you have to offer that could be of value to a board? Do you have a different way of thinking when it comes to the organization’s goals? Do you have insight into what the organization’s customer wants that other, older board members might not have?
With rapid changes taking place in the world, organizations are looking for board members that can help them understand the changes and adapt. This makes younger candidates much more sought after than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Boards know that a different point of view can give valuable insight and guidance to drive an organization’s success.
But that’s not the only reason to embark on your board career while you are still young.
Building a Board Career as Part of Your Brand
With the development of technology and the open flow of information about yourself and your career, personal branding has never been more important. A good way to build your brand is by making the right personal connections. Cultivating a board career is a good way of doing this.
Now understand me correctly, making personal connections and building your brand are not the only reasons for making the often long and arduous journey to a board career. If your reasoning is this simplistic and borderline selfish, others will soon see through it and that’s no way to become a successful board member.
One thing you always need to keep in mind is that leaders are there to serve. If you don’t have a passion for serving, you will find it hard to have a successful board career.
Advantages of Developing a Board Career
Complementing your career with a board role has many advantages other than building connections and reinforcing your brand. Let’s look at a few of them.
- You could learn new skills. Since board work differs from your executive work, you will develop skills that you otherwise wouldn’t have. You will learn to see the bigger picture when it comes to issues of the day the board deals with and also learn to come up with solutions as a team. Boards are essentially think tanks that find solutions to an organization’s problems and learning to operate as an effective part of such a think tank, can stand you in good stead in other parts of your career as well as in future board roles.
- You will build new connections. Most board appointments are made by recommendations from current board members who know someone who will be suited for the role that has become vacant. By serving on a board, you are building connections with people who probably also serve on other boards. Prove yourself a valuable member of your current board and when an opportunity arises on one of those other boards, your name will be mentioned, and voila, you have your next board role. The power of the relationships you build with other board members must never be underestimated.
- You will gain invaluable experience. One of the first things you will be asked during a board interview, is what board experience you currently have. That makes gaining your first board appointment that much more difficult. But once you have served on your first board – no matter how insignificant the role might be in your mind – you will be able to say that you are an experienced NED. The board’s successes will also be your successes and I cannot begin to tell you how much that will count when it comes to future board appointment.
- You will get to share your passion with others. Passion for the work the organization does or even passion for board work itself shows up clearly in good board members. Without this passion, you won’t have the drive to fulfill the duties your role requires from you. However, if you are passionate about the organization and the work they do, then sharing this passion with others like you will be fulfilling and reward enough for you to hang in there, no matter how hard it can sometimes get.
- You might get paid. Well-paid board positions are not very common and with little to no experience, it is unlikely that you will be appointed to one of these much sought-after board roles. That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen. While building an income should not be the focus of your board search, it could well happen that you might get paid for serving on a board.
If you plan on having a board career, there is no better time to start than right now. The journey to your first board role will probably not be an easy one but if you start making the right moves now, you could find yourself filling a board seat sooner than you think.