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Is Board Service in Your Future?

Don’t Wait Until Retirement—Act Now to Improve Your Odds and Boost your Career

As a corporate executive, your working days may seem to be running in hyper speed these days, as you juggle competing priorities, constant meetings, frequent business travel and rapid marketplace changes. As hard as you’re going right now, you may also have been considering if what you’re doing is helping you to grow, develop and stand out in the crowded field of executive-level leadership.

While you’re in the middle of a challenging and satisfying career, it can be hard to find opportunities to enrich your own skills and competencies. Your company may offer seminars or training, but those may not be as fulfilling or purpose-driven as you’d like. The answer might be one you’ve contemplated before, but just haven’t gotten around to pursuing—corporate board service.

Board membership can be a “secret sauce” for building credibility and establishing yourself as a future leader to watch

When we raise this topic with our Navigate Forward clients, we often hear something like, “Yes, I want to do that, but I just haven’t pulled together the pieces yet” or “I don’t know where to start.” Our response is to encourage them to put some urgency to this goal, especially if they’re serious about becoming even stronger leaders.

Board Service Makes You More Attractive to Your Current Employer

Right now, many CEOs are asking their direct reports to consider board service as part of their development plan. There may be very few ways you can differentiate yourself from your current peer group at work. You’re all high-performing, dedicated employees who bring real value to your company.

Consider adding board service to your professional development plan at work

In such a competitive environment, board membership can be a “secret sauce” for building credibility, finding new ideas for growth, strengthening your leadership skills and establishing you as a future leader to watch.

Board membership will help your current employer to see that you:

  • Want to augment your current strengths
  • Will take initiative to do new things
  • Provide value for other companies, not just your own
  • Are expanding your professional network
  • Are willing to stay ahead of the curve and bring new learnings back to the fold

Of course, there will be additional work required on your part, but it’s truly our belief that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. On most boards, you’ll be expected to work about 300 hours a year when things are going smoothly.

You’ll need time to prepare, attend scheduled meetings and participate in regular committee sessions. If there are situations that require more attention — like a global pandemic, supply chain issues, or regional conflicts — you might be asked to provide even more robust oversight.

Act Now, Not Later

While we often hear “someday” from clients who talk to us about board service, it’s important to stress that pursuing this course sooner, rather than later, is usually the best idea. That’s because you’ll be a more interesting candidate when you’re in the heart of your career, not reaching the end of it.

And, we advise our clients to move forward well in advance of their retirement dates. We’ve found that once someone has been out of the corporate sector for even as little as two years, boards tend to lose interest in them as candidates.

You’ll be a more interesting board candidate when you’re in the heart of your career, not reaching the end of it

In addition, it can take some time to gather the materials you need to be a competitive candidate. We generally tell our clients to plan on a 35-hour endeavor of strategizing, writing, researching and networking. Once the prep work is completed, it can take between 12 to 18 months to find the right fit.

Land Your Seat at the Table

Board Readiness is a key part of our service offerings here at Navigate Forward. With their diverse levels of corporate leadership and/or search firm experience, our consultants have a strong understanding of what boards are looking for and how to package and market your own story to succeed in a highly competitive space.

We’ll consult with you on the best ways to translate your current skills and experience to match governance roles with public, private or PE-backed company boards.

Navigate Forward stays with you through the entire process, working one-on-one to provide support, candor, accountability and best practices. We can help you make the leap from “someday” to “I’m on my first board!”

Ready to get started? Download our helpful guide, Board Readiness Essentials. Or contact us at 612.486.5551 to set up a consultation.

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