Networking your way into the Board Room

17th Dec 13 048The argument has been well made that women need to access more opportunities on Boards as Executives, Non-Executive Directors and Trustees – to bring balance and new thinking. It is also well accepted that having a broader experience by being on a Board externally, will help women change the perception of their colleagues internally.

So how exactly do you go about finding these opportunities? Let me offer you a road-map, a checklist perhaps, so that you can navigate this dynamic, challenging, yet rewarding career path.

There are 3 ways in which you can find out about Non-Executive Director and Trustee opportunities and each has its pros & cons.
  1. Depending on your level of seniority within your organisation, if you are looking for an external Non-Executive Director role you could sign up with an Executive Recruitment Agency. Taking this route, you have approximately 10%-20% chance of being put forward on a long list, but this very much depends on your current status.
  2. You could sign up to the countless Specialist Job Boards available and try your luck that way. We’ve heard that between 200-300 people are applying for roles through this route so you’re facing some long odds this way too. Many job boards are open publically to everyone to access the information once they’ve registered, whilst others you might have to pay for a membership before you can gain access to the Job Board (e.g. Women on Boards, FT Non-Executive Directors Club). Of course, one has to ask – as busy Executives in your own right – do you have the time to do to scroll through all the jobs in order to filter out the few that appeal to you? And even if you did that, would you want to be up against 200-300 competitors?
  3. Your third route comes through networking. The Non-Exec Hub’s recent Insight Report tells us that you have an 80% chance of finding out about opportunities from your own network of contacts, colleagues, events and information portals. Exciting news! Although there is one fairly important caveat, and that is that – if you don’t have the right networks then you have 0% chance of hearing of finding out about the right opportunities. It is as black and white as that.

So, the smart money is on effective networking being your primary gateway, and most reliable source, to finding out about the Non-Executive Director and Trustee positions most relevant for you. Our recent Networking Effectiveness Report highlighted this with 90% of the Business Owners & Executives we interviewed saying that networking is important but, worryingly, only 37% thought that they achieve their networking aims. Indeed, the majority of these people say that they are ‘only occasionally good at networking’. The report offers some great hints & tips for how to improve your level of networking effectiveness but one thing you can do right away, without too much filtering on your part, is to let everybody you meet know you’re seeking a Non-Executive Director or Trustee role. This is really important because:

  • Most people won’t see you as a potential Non-Executive Director or Trustee – they see you in your existing role and most people don’t think outside the box. So you need to inform, ask, and share.
  • You don’t know who knows who in your network, who lives next to whom and what conversations are taking place. By sharing your vision you never know what connections could be made.
  • Something else you can do right away is to start attending some specialist networks for people who are looking to develop their Non-Executive Director & Trustee careers. You can find a list of all the best networks here.

The challenge for Heads of Diversity & Inclusion, when looking to support their talented women in order to retain and accelerate their careers to benefit the company, is of course helping them to gain access to organisations where they can build relationships leading to these Non-Executive Director/Trustee opportunities.

In his book, The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, Cofounder and chair of LinkedIn, he says, “In an alliance, employer and employee develop a relationship based on how they add value to each other. Employers need to tell their employees, help make our company more valuable, and we’ll make you more marketable” Supporting your talented employees through better connections, wider experiences and recognition from different sources as a Non Executive Director, is clearly one such route.

The Non Exec Hub helps talented individuals to become connected to the Board within organisations they may not otherwise meet and enable them to build very useful networks. Networks that will lead to opportunities, broader industry/sector knowledge, collaborations and career development. All with the benefit of bringing this knowledge and insight back into your organisations.

Author Bio

Heather White is an international networking expert, author, speaker and coach with over 15 years of experience in teaching networking skills for career and business development. She is the CEO of The Non Exec Hub and works with senior executives enabling them to find the right connections and sustain key relationships. Our team of experts helps people build their personal brand and online profile both of which are vital for career success. View Heather’s LinkedIn Profile.

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