Q: After 15 years as a senior executive and on our board of directors, I am interested in learning how to obtain a role on a paid board that could benefit from my expertise. I know that there are recruitment companies that specialize in this area. What are they looking for? And are there any other tricks to achieve this? It looks like a very good opportunity after retirement.
A: While many executive search firms have practice groups that specialize in finding board members, most new directors find their first board seat through their networks. So, first, you need to activate your network and let people know that you are interested in pursuing board work as your next career step. Recruitment companies, as run by the companies that employ them, look for a range of skills, experiences and qualities that match the needs of the organization at any given time. These needs may include a particular functional experience (eg CEO, CFO or CIO), a critical need (eg cybersecurity, international marketing, etc.) or they may be focused on a specific industry sector.
Additionally, corporate boards are increasingly seeking greater diversity in their composition, particularly in terms of gender and racial diversity. While CEO and CFO are traditional profiles, nominating and governance committees are considering additional professional experience and skills. Howard Seidel, Senior Partner at Essex Partners, specializing in working with senior executives, writes: “Digital transformation, environment, social and governance (ESG), cybersecurity and global experience are currently in demand, as well as than applicants across the diversity spectrum.
However, being part of a board goes beyond simply saying, “I want a seat on the board”. You need a well-crafted value proposition that positions your career experience to align with board values, as well as the skills the board is looking for. You also need to figure out what types of boards would work best for you. Determine whether you want to serve on a public or private board, in which industries you have experience and qualifications, and the size of board you would be interested in. Once you have defined your value proposition and target organizations, it is essential that you develop your board bio, board resume and LinkedIn profile to support your qualifications. Jennifer Buras, senior partner at Essex Partners who leads the board practice, suggests: “Stay visible and active. Speak on panels, post on LinkedIn, and network at NACD or other events that attract directors. Support your board brand. »
Keep in mind that recruiters are an important channel for board opportunities, but they’re not the only ones. Again, the quickest way for you to gain a board role is often through your network, especially those in your network who already sit on boards or are engaged in some sort of activity on the board of directors. Not only could these people create potential opportunities, but they can also provide you with valuable information when navigating a position on a board, such as strategies for landing board roles. Boards of directors generally seek new members who understand the role of a director. These qualifications may include the ability to ask the right questions and advise and not impose operating assumptions on a management team. It is helpful to engage in programs that provide training on the role and requirements of corporate directors. When considering board positions for the first time, be open to private company boards and informal advisory boards at first. This will give you both the foundational knowledge and a structured path to further opportunities within the board.
Service on a board (or multiple boards) can be fulfilling for retired executives while providing intellectual engagement and a sense of prestige. It also requires commitment and legal responsibility both as a director and as an active member of a board of directors.
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