You have to prepare yourself to join the board of directors of any company.
A board of directors oversees the bigger picture rather than the day-to-day operations of a business. — Getty Images/alvarez

Joining a board of directors for an organization can fuel your career and widen your professional network.

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to be an executive or senior-level business leader to join a board. You can do so at any point in your career and reap the benefits while helping to further the company’s business goals.

[Read: A Guide to Creating a Board of Directors]

What is a board of directors?

A board of directors is a selected group of individuals who help set the agenda for a business and monitor the results to make necessary adjustments. They oversee the bigger picture rather than the day-to-day operations, and they meet regularly to review corporate policies.

What type of board should you join?

There are two main types of boards: corporate and nonprofit. It’s often more difficult to land a position on a corporate board than a nonprofit board, as the former is a paid position. Nonprofit board members, on the other hand, typically don’t get paid for their work.

If this is your first time pursuing a board of directors position and you’re not looking to earn a profit from it, you might consider joining a nonprofit board first. Starting small will allow you to gain some experience while steering an organization you’re passionate about.

However, just because corporate boards are hard to break into doesn’t mean it’s an impossible feat—especially if you’re looking at lesser-known corporations. Consider your experience and skills in relation to the business and understand how to articulate the value you would bring to the board.

[Read: Do You Need a Board of Directors? Here's How You'll Know]

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to be an executive or senior-level business leader to join a board.

How to join a board of directors

Once you’ve decided on which type of board to choose, follow these tips for a better chance at landing a position:

Understand your capabilities

Before you can even apply for a board position, you’ll want to consider your strengths and what you might bring to the table. This will help you seek out only the most fitting boards based on your capabilities.

Ask yourself what your attributes are and how they set you apart from others. Only focus on areas in which you excel, rather than trying to create a lengthy list just to make a good impression.

Assess your character

You are more than your skills and experience. Assessing your character will help you determine whether you have what it takes to fill a board position. In doing so, Harvard Business Review recommends considering the following:

  • Your ability to judge someone’s mettle.
  • Your willingness to ask analytical questions.
  • Your collaborative aptitude.
  • Your trustworthiness.
  • Your emotional intelligence.

You’ll want to present all these details to the board’s members so they see your full potential in the position you’re applying for.

Think like an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs have great time management and prioritization skills. They know how to establish a work-life balance and remain efficient and productive. If you want to join a board, you’ll have to possess an entrepreneur’s creative mindset and ability to juggle multiple responsibilities, while still considering the bigger picture.

Market yourself

You are your own “product,” and you must market yourself as such. Harvard Business Review recommends boiling down your proposition into a few sentences, then seeking out opportunities to present yourself and demonstrate your capabilities.

Boards are often recruiting new members. In other words, they’re searching for someone like you, just as you’re searching for boards like them. By establishing yourself as an expert in your industry, you’re attracting more opportunities.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to climb the ladder in your own company. Get on good terms with your CEO and keep an eye out for open board positions. Often, it’s organic growth that lands professionals a spot on a corporate board.

There are more opportunities than you might realize to get involved with a board of directors. Start out small, have patience and know how to market yourself.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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