Consider Board Service as a Career Advancement Strategy

board-meeting-compressor“Board membership is not a retirement plan, it is an advancement strategy,” attorney and strategist Avery Blank wrote in Forbes.

Serving on a company or nonprofit board can help professionals move up the career ladder by positioning them as leaders with good judgment who are worthy of trust and respect, particularly if they are independent thinkers, Blank wrote. Board membership also increases credibility and visibility for both professionals and their organizations, and provides opportunities for professionals to leverage connections made on boards.

“You get more exposure to people and opportunities when you are a board member,” she wrote. “Once you are a member of a board, it is not uncommon to start receiving invitations to sit on other boards.”

Intuit QuickBooks blog contributor Sarah Johnson wrote that professionals can increase their appearance that they are “worthy of a board seat” if they take on public speaking gigs, develop a business blog, or write op-ed columns for prominent publications, thus establishing themselves as experts in their industries or professions.

“Professionals should do their due diligence on the nonprofit, and ask for written board policies, bylaws and previous minutes, as well as the organization’s latest online tax filing to see how much its key employees and executives earn.”

Professionals also should be proactive in asking organizations what they desire in their board members, and then tout what they can personally “bring to the table.”

Forbes columnist Dorie Clark cited tips on getting on boards from Elaine Eisenman, dean of executive education at Babson College and a founding member of Women Corporate Directors.

Now that board membership has become tightly regulated in the post Sarbanes-Oxley world, professionals need to develop and leverage the right skills to ensure organizations can meet the corporate governance requirements of the 2002 federal law, according to Eisenman. To aid in this endeavor and to find interested organizations, she suggests professionals attend events held by the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Eisenman also recommends that professionals post their resumes on the websites of the major board search firms, and also reach out to colleagues who are already board members to get their foot in the door.

For those wanting a seat on a nonprofit board, Forbes personal finance writer Kerry Hannon cited several tips by Laura Gassner Otting, president of Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group.
For example, professionals should first determine which causes are meaningful to them and “be ready to provide proof of your passion when you’re interviewed for a board position.” They should also tout their specific expertise that could help the nonprofit, such as fundraising, public relations and marketing, event planning or finances.

Professionals should do their due diligence on the nonprofit, and ask for written board policies, bylaws and previous minutes, as well as the organization’s latest online tax filing to see how much its key employees and executives earn.

“This will give you a sense of where the money goes and whether the pay is out of sync with the group’s operating budget,” Hannon wrote.

Professionals should also invite current and former board members for coffee, to find out what their experience has been like.

In the end, she wrote, serving on nonprofit boards can help individuals both personally and professionally.

“Aside from the joy of working for the public good, it can broaden your resumé and skills, which might help you find your next job,” said Hannon.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

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