10 Things People Don’t Know About Joining a Board

May 7, 2018 · 3 min read
  1. Boards find you, not vice versa — Typically, board openings are not posted job descriptions — they’re often done quietly via the board’s network or by an executive search firm. This can be a bit shocking to “type A” executives who are used to working hard to get ahead since the process of getting a board of director position is decidedly different than any job hunt they’ve had in the past.
  2. Shout your superpower from the rafters — It’s important to build your personal brand and make sure you not only know what your superpower is, but make sure everyone else knows as well. What makes you stand out? Where are you in the top 5% of your peers? Make sure this is the headline on your professional profiles on theBoardlist and LinkedIn as well as prominent on your board bio.
  3. You might not get paid — Early stage startup boards (usually) only compensate with equity. Often even well-funded or later-stage startup boards will typically only offer equity. If it is paid, typically the level of compensation you get as a board member on a tech startup board is usually tied to your level of engagement and fame.
  4. Private boards are a great way to learn more — While private and public boards have different group dynamics and provide different experiences, private boards can be a very valuable first step for those who want to serve on larger, public boards. Private boards also afford you the chance to learn and grow with a tad bit less visibility on you.
  5. Non-profit boards do not always translate to business boards — Not-for-profit boards are a great experience if you’re passionate about the cause and if you’re open to donating to the organization. But, most non-profit boards function very differently from corporate boards, so non-profit experience might not be as relevant to a corporate board. (It can however, still be very personally fulfilling!).
  6. It’s tricky to get the attention of a “Big Board” — Access to big, public company boards can be difficult before you’ve reached a level of fame. Experience on smaller boards can help; also, companies “away from the coasts” are an untapped opportunity, especially for candidates with specialized or technical expertise.
  7. Cultural fit matters — When thinking about a board position, there’s a lot to consider: there’s cultural fit with the CEO (which is one of the most important things) and cultural fit with the rest of the board, and to a lesser extent, with the company/brand itself. There is also the aspect of gravitas in terms of being able to be seen as a peer in the boardroom — the board will want to imagine you “fitting into” the boardroom from both your work experience and your overall presence.
  8. You don’t have to be a CEO — You can definitely stand out with a title that isn’t a C-level title based on what you’ve accomplished and the size of the businesses you’ve led/grown. It always goes back to what your specific experience/expertise are. An SVP or VP running a multi-hundred-million dollar business or division at a large company is just as likely to be perceived as a superstar as a C-level at a startup. It’s about how you tell your story.
  9. Smart networking can make the difference — Since many board positions are filled via friend of friend referrals, it’s really important to make sure your personal network is aware you’re looking for a board spot. Make sure that your mentors/sponsors in your own company who sit on boards (e.g., your CEO) are aware of your desire to sit on a board. Think about other friends and acquaintances who are already on boards and drop them a note to check in with them and tell them you’re looking for a board role.
  10. Make sure you have the time to do the work — Taking a board position is an “extra” job on top of the one(s) you already have. It’s important to ask a lot of questions before you join a board about time expectations so that you are ready to serve.

Looking for your first startup board opportunity? Join theBoardlist & make this your year: https://theboardlist.com/join


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A curated marketplace for the discovery of highly-endorsed women for private and public company boards. #ChoosePossibility

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