Interested in joining your first board? Here’s your action plan.
by Katie Hughes, DFJ Talent Partner
I was at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit in Laguna Nigel, CA in November 2016, and attended a breakout session called Boardroom Strategies. Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram moderated a panel with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Gerri Elliott, and Sarah Spiering, who shared their own stories of securing their first for-profit boards and tips for those new to the game.
1. Talk to your CEO. Some companies have written or unwritten policies about their executives serving on outside boards to avoid conflicts of interest. Make sure your CEO is supportive of you joining a board, and that she’ll act as a reference. She can also route inbound requests to you and refer you to some of those opportunities if she knows you’re interested.
2. Get your references organized. Boards want to understand how you’re going to act in the room. Are you already presenting to your board? If so, the people in that room are going to be your best references. If not, figure out what they will find valuable and start presenting to them as often as possible.
3. Figure out what type of board you’re most likely to succeed on. You can evaluate this by sector, stage, and current board composition. If you come from the tech industry and can bring a digital, social, and/or innovative perspective, you may target legacy businesses looking to connect with younger generations across new mediums. If you come from a Fortune 500 company, you can add value by offering the perspective of a prospective big customer to an earlier-stage company. Make a list of the companies where you think you’d make the biggest impact and target those first.
4. Put together your value proposition. In 2–3 sentences, be able to talk about your domain expertise from a functional and sector perspective, and the type of companies you’ve led. It should be memorable and focus on your ability to influence versus manage. Here is mine: I built the talent function for a tier-one venture capital firm, and advise founders and CEOs of hundreds of high-growth enterprise and consumer companies from seed stage to post-IPO on scaling their leadership teams and building effective, lasting businesses. What’s yours?
The following resources can provide you with more information about what it’s like to serve on a board, how to prepare your CV, and ways you can let people know you’re interested in a board position:
Katie Hughes is the talent partner at DFJ