When lettuce is more expensive than marijuana, there is no rise in wages, and inflation having an impact, it is a clear sign that our economy is not in a happy place. Many are predicting that an upset in the employment market could be next. It reminds me of 2008; during the GFC when I was in the UK working as a board recruiter.
Let me explain why I believe a board appointment can future-proof your career
Between 2007 – 2009, right in the midst of the GFC, unemployment sharply increased worldwide to more than 210 million people, an increase of over 30 million, hitting advanced economies especially hard and having long-term social repercussions. During this period, and extending into 2010, in the UK 80% (conservatively) of my executive/board recruiter peers were unemployed and struggling to find meaningful roles. It was indeed a blood bath for recruiters – any many others suffered similar fates. Fortunately, however, this was not my experience. In fact, not only did I remain employed, but my career actually improved. I can point to my first voluntary and small not-for-profit NED appointment as the reason for this. It is the reason I am writing this article, because I believe that board appointments can fundamentally ‘future proof’ your career.
How could a relatively insignificant and unpaid board appointment make a difference in these troubled economic times?
For me, there were several reasons why:
Opportunity: In the first instance, board appointments build connections. By definition, a board comprises a group of disparate individuals with different interests, skills and experiences who come together to achieve a common goal – the governance of an organisation. This creates a bond often unachievable elsewhere. A board appointment meant I was sitting around the table with people working in different industries and organisations. This gave me exposure to new opportunities. I was able to leverage these relationships to get introductions to people I could not otherwise access. This led to opportunities, including a terrific segway into a new full-time position. These close relationships and connections also exposed me to unadvertised roles and opportunities.
Consulting Income: My board connections resulted in me accessing paid consulting work that I would not have been offered. Without these referrals, I would not have been a known and trusted entity. This approach often meant that I was not required to submit formal proposals or be subjected to a competitive selection process. This income stream spanned a period of time when no one was using recruiters – and I mean no one!
Confidence: Inevitably my executive role ended, as my employer could not keep employed staff when there was no revenue. When it came to seeking a new position I had a significant advantage. Those I was in competition with had to admit that they were unemployed, whereas I could reference the consulting work I was engaged in PLUS that I was a Non-Executive Director. This was important because people gave jobs to people with jobs. I could refer to myself as being employed, making it easier to find an additional role.
Additional Remuneration: Since my board role was voluntary, I did not benefit from extra income from the role. For those in paid board positions, this was an obvious benefit during the tumultuous times of the GFC. It was clear to me that board appointments remained a constant. NED roles did not bear the impact of economic ups and downs in the same way that executive roles did. As such, they offered a steady remuneration that could complement your salary or even replace it.
What is the link between the crazy price of lettuce and the benefits of becoming a non-executive?
The high price of lettuce and soaring inflation levels are likely to have you thinking about where the economy is heading and the potential impact on your employment options. Non-executive appointments are a great way to navigate potential financial and professional risks. A board role is a vehicle for developing relationships that pay off, particularly when you need them. A board role can complement your income (directly or indirectly) with additional income. Board roles also broaden your skills and experience, opening opportunities to secure higher-paid executive roles and non-executive roles.
For those not worried about the future of the job market, a board appointment is still something you should be considering. In particular, if you are planning for retirement, considering a career change, or moving towards a portfolio of consulting and board roles. A study from Harvard Business Review will evidence why. They found that serving on a board increases an executive’s likelihood of being promoted by 44%, and if they were not promoted, their annual pay increased by 13%. Further studies have shown that those who hold a NED appointment in addition to an executive role; have greater job security and are unemployed less. Sitting on a board helps future-proof your career and prepare for retirement, redundancy, or a career change. Board appointments teach you to work more effectively. But the most beneficial element is that they facilitate new connections that are useful for both business and pleasure. A board appointment should be part of your career plan, today more than ever.
In essence, a board appointment is critical to future-proofing your career, your potential to earn, and your future success – personally and professionally. It might also allow you to afford and enjoy an extra-large green salad.
The 3 A’s that result in a board appointment
Regardless of your experience, skills, or board aspirations, there are three key areas you need to focus on:
- Defining your board Aspirations – developing a list of boards you both want and can be appointed to.
- Articulate a compelling reason you should be appointed to those boards or boards just like them – verbally and through a NED CV.
- Application of this knowledge and proven tools with a simple and easy process.
Over the years, I have written many articles on the benefits of becoming a non-executive director (NED) but they become particularly apparent in times of change and uncertainty.
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
Share this article on your favourite platform!