Preparing yourself for a Non Executive Career

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I am often asked what advice I would give to anyone wanting a board position. My immediate answer is to start looking for roles well before you need one as the process of being appointed can be lengthy. Beyond this, there are five factors you need to consider when preparing yourself for a non executive career. 

  1. Manage your expectations. Many experienced executives, but aspiring board NEDs, expect their first board role to be remunerated. In many cases it can be but, remunerated board roles are highly  competitive. To avoid unnecessary frustration it can pay to manage your expectations about what your first board role might be. Ask yourself the question ‘What sort of board would I appoint myself to?
  2. Know what do you have to offer. Boards want not just your professional experience but access to your networks developed through your existing non executive or executive career. Be clear about what you bring to a board in this regard. Additionally, boards are often as interested in your passion for their organisation as they are with your skill set so make sure you know why you want to apply. If you can’t think of a reason why you want to be a director for that company then perhaps it is worth reconsidering applying.
  3. Develop personal connections. The appointment process for board or advisory panel roles in many cases is not dissimilar to that of an executive appointment process. Many find that the majority of opportunities are never advertised and are filled by word of mouth or through existing relationships. Developing ‘personal connections’ is vital and should form the basis of any search process. I find that the most effective tool in finding a board role is simply telling people that you are interested in developing a board career.
  4. Get a ‘Board Ready’ CV/Resume. When embarking on a non executive career, many people assume that their executive CV is appropriate for board applications. In most cases it is not. A number of key changes need to take place to make it ‘board ready’.
  5. Write a great cover letter. Applications for non-executive roles are often highly competitive so it is important to separate yourself from other applicants.  Writing a strong cover letter that articulates your passion for the role and what you would bring to the role by way of governance experience, skills and networks is a great way to begin.

David Schwarz | Managing Director