If you are looking for a board role in 2024, there are several things that you should focus on NOW to increase your success. It starts with creating a personal board career plan. One that is easy to implement, will lead to new board opportunities, focus your attention in the right places, and reduce frustration – a plan that will result in a board appointment and get you a greater return on investment (ROI) on your valuable time.
Seven areas I suggest you focus on when developing your 2024 Board Career Plan
FOCUS 1: Your board aspirations
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to set or reset your board aspirations. Ask yourself if your board aspirations are realistic, considering your skill set and experience. If your aspirations for a board role are not achievable based on your skill and experience, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how many board applications you submit; a board appointment in 2024 will be unlikely. So, ask yourself this simple question. “What are the names of organisations you would like to be appointed to and are likely to (based on your current skills and experience) be appointed to in 2024?
FOCUS 2 – Consider your time
Regardless of whether you already have a board role or are seeking your first appointment, there are substantial professional and personal rewards for doing so. Those who hold multiple directorships are proven to be fast adopters of new business practices and innovations across organisations and industries. However, you must consider how a board appointment fits into your current and future executive roles. Finding and securing a board role in 2024 will take time and effort. So, you need to be up for it and have time to make it a reality. Sometimes, your personal and professional life might need to be more flexible to make it happen.
FOCUS 3: Your board pitch
Now is the time to write or refresh your board profile. It is essential that you can pitch it confidently to anyone at any time. Do you know your value at board level and where it fits in the board director marketplace? You must know this, plus be memorable. Your board pitch should clearly separate you from the competition.
FOCUS 4: Your board CV
A Board CV is quite different from your Executive CV and must be part of your non-executive brand. It should focus on your value at board level. If you don’t have a board CV, the task of writing this document may help refine your unique skill set and board pitch. If you do have one, now is the time to ensure it is up to date. The process of writing and re-writing a board CV can be almost as valuable as the end product.
FOCUS 5: Look for board roles
Whilst personal connections still count the majority of board appointments, around 10% of roles are filled via formally advertised opportunities. This is even more so the case for the more substantial board roles. So, if you are looking for a board role in 2024, you must be present and active on LinkedIn. Many organisations and search firms use LinkedIn to source candidates and advertise board roles. However, multiple other places advertise board vacancies. For most aspiring board directors, finding board vacancies is one of the most time-consuming and frustrating parts of the process. Having all the roles available in one place for many is invaluable, which is why we source and advertise over 3,500 board vacancies each year.
FOCUS 6: Develop and leverage personal connections – new and old
If you don’t know already, over 80% of board roles are filled without any formal application process – using neither an advert nor a recruiter. Instead, they are filled via personal connections or by aspiring non-executive directors directly approaching companies with an offer to help.
Now is the time to ensure your connecting efforts are consistent, sustained, and meaningful. Take some time to analyse, revise, refresh, and reconnect with your networks. Most importantly, make sure to tell people you are looking for a board appointment. In some cases, it can be just that easy for a perfect board opportunity to arise.
FOCUS 7: Accountability
This step is the one that most people miss, and doing so is the main reason why so many fail. Some of you will look back at 2023 and recognise that despite your best intentions at the beginning of the year, you didn’t do what you promised yourself. Gaining a board appointment is a process that takes time and perseverance. For most, an accountability plan is essential so that you prioritise weekly tasks. Getting stuff done is a fundamental part of what we at Board Direction help our members do.
2024 Board appointment trends to consider for your plan
Board Experience is often not essential
The trend that started in 2020 is continuing with the ‘old guard’ of non-executive directors stepping down and being replaced by new younger NEDs with increasingly different skills and experience. Boards will focus more on new directors who have new skill sets to meet the increasingly diverse demands of businesses operating in increasingly competitive, dynamic, and evolving environments. There is a terrific opportunity that comes with this change. Finding quality indigenous candidates also seems to be both desirable and difficult for many organisations.
New age, new skills sort
While accounting, financial, audit and legal skills will remain a mainstay on boards, notable appointment trends in 2024 will include CyberRisk/Tech, Data, and Digital Marketing skills. This skill will be desirable for some boards, but for others, it will be necessary to fill skill gaps and provide good governance.
In 2024, I also see an increasing focus on ESG (Environmental, social and Corporate Governance. Shareholders, stakeholders and customers are demanding it. The demand for non-executive directors with Transformation and HR skills will also increase as 2024 will continue to see organisations grappling with new markets plus attracting and retaining talented employees.
Some things stay the same
In the past and into 2024, there are five criteria that make for a successful board candidate. They are
- Prior board-level experience
- Executive skills that are valuable at board level
- Industry experience and connections
- Demonstrable passion
- Cultural fit
People get stuck on the first three, thinking they are the most important, but they’re not. Being able to demonstrate a genuine passion for what an organisation does or is, along with being an individual who is a good fit for a board, are THE most important things to a board chair. Focus on them when considering your board appointment plan. The better news still, is that these two elements can be manufactured.
As competitive as ever
If anyone thinks that the market for non-executive directors is beginning to wane in either quantity or quality, you are mistaken. Getting a board appointment remains a highly competitive exercise. It is not uncommon for people I speak with who have applied for an advertised role to receive feedback that they were one of over a hundred applicants. In one case, I was told they were one of 550 applications for a single-board role. More than ever, people are heeding my message to be proactive about the board appointment process, with the aim of getting ahead of the competition.
If you are looking for a board role in 2024, there are only four reasons it won’t happen.
- If you don’t know which organisations you both want and could be appointed to.
- You can’t articulate your value to those organisations in a compelling fashion.
- You don’t understand how board appointments are actually made, so keep doing things that seem right but just don’t work.
- You get frustrated and quit for all of the reasons above.
Unsurprisingly, each of these elements can be easily fixed.
If you are serious about board success and create a board appointment plan in 2024, there are four ways we can get you to do this: get moving and keep you moving.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world
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