Got your sights on a board role?

Once upon a time, board positions were meant for retiring executives, prominent business people, and partners in legal and accounting firms approaching the ‘twilight’ of their careers. But all that’s changing. A younger cohort of men and women, often working executives, are also beginning to take up directorships.

And as calls intensify for greater gender diversity on boards across all organisations, more opportunities will emerge for aspiring directors from a wider range of professions and careers to put up their hands.

But how exactly do you get a seat on a board?

Here are some tips if you have one in your sights.

Start early

If you’re thinking about a board career, start your search well before you need the position. It may take many months, sometimes years to get the role you want, so lay the groundwork early.

Understand your organisation’s policy about staff taking outside board roles

Some organisations have restrictions on senior executives accepting a board seat elsewhere. Others recognise the benefits of their senior managers broadening their experience. Find out your organisation’s policy and any required approval processes.

Reflect on your skills and target the right boards

Throughout your career, you will have acquired skills that are adaptable to a role on a board. Identify what those skills are and match them to the type of boards where they would be most relevant.

Draw up a list of target companies and pull up bios of the current directors. Are your skills covered? Are any directors approaching retirement? Do you know anyone on that board or have a mutual contacts? Your research could potentially pay off.

Let others know you’re looking

Directorships are generally highly sought after. In many sectors there will be more candidates than available board roles. Appointments are often still made on recommendations, so start by notifying directors you know or with whom you’ve worked that you’re interested in a board seat.

Do some smart networking

Many directors land their first board role through other networks involving auditors, executive compensation consultants or lawyers they’ve worked with who service several board clients. And remember that social media tools like LinkedIn can also help you expand your networks.

Be clear about what you have to offer

Understand what makes you stand out and the value you can bring to the board. Have a strong board-specific CV ready to go that outlines your relevant professional specialties, useful networks and your passion for the organisation. Perfect your ‘elevator pitch’ and use it when introducing yourself to contacts who matter.

Consider an NFP board role

Serving on an NFP board can provide valuable experience for aspiring directors and can in some cases help you transition to a professional board role down the track. However, an NFP directorship should not be taken lightly. Any board role carries weighty responsibilities. For instance, you can potentially be personally liable for insolvent trading, so always do your due diligence and make sure you understand the NFP’s financial position before you dive in. Above all, it takes time, effort and commitment to be a good director, so always target an NFP you are passionate about.

Be financially literate and understand directors’ duties

Directors have important fiduciary duties which, if breached, carry heavy penalties both for the organisation and the individual director. Financial literacy is also a core director competency. If you have skill gaps in these important areas, seek out a relevant course.

*We would like to thank David Schwarz from Board Directions for supplying us with some of the information for this blog. For more details, visit

Governance Institute for directors

Governance Institute of Australia has been a leader in governance for over 100 years. We are a proactive and respected influencer in the development of best-practice governance frameworks to support a stronger society and economy. Our education, support and networking opportunities assist directors to lead high-performing organisations through the practice of good governance, strong risk management and sustainable corporate behaviour.

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