To get to the boardroom you have to be continuously developing yourself and you also have to make sure the timing is right. You can’t just wake up one day and decide you’re going to apply for a role on the board, even if you have vast experience and an extensive skills set. Like any career path, carving out the route to the top requires patience, preparation and self-awareness.
We asked Simon North, a career consultant who often coaches executives on their career options, for his advice on how to make the transition…
- Research - Researching and analysing what you need helps you to predict what the likely route for you is. Depending on your organization, you may be able to predict that there will be a vacancy with a particular job title on it within a projected timeframe. It may be that you see things are changing at such pace that it becomes clear what you need to do and when.
- Alignment - Think about how a board appointment is actually going to suit you. A particular job won’t suit everybody and sometimes that is down to a question of skills and experience. Sometimes it’s down to your temperament and the pace at which you’re moving. You may be concerned that you’ll start struggling once you’re in the role. You need to be clear that the board life is going to suit you, because making a commitment to a boardroom role is one of the biggest things you can do in your career.
- Planning - Assuming you’ve done your research, it’s time to think about how best to plan your route. You’ll have your own ideas but you’ll also want to take the best advice about this, from people who either are currently on the board or perhaps used to be and have now moved on in their life. Making your way to the boardroom is something that is typically not rushed. Plan your path with the advice of mentors. Plan what you should be doing with your time and your work to get what you want.
- Exposure Work - out how to get the best experience. This will determine the type of jobs you potentially have a chance of getting. You may need to move out of your comfort zone to learn about your organization in a different way. You may decide to let your employer relocate you overseas, or you could perform a different job function for a couple of years or work in a different part of the company. Doing any of these things will give you a deeper understanding of the organization and what it takes to get to its boardroom.
- Skills Development - Being a board director requires you to behave in a different way to when you were less experienced. As a board director your levels of accountability to stakeholders are quite significantly different to anything you’ve experienced before. Coupled with emotional intelligence, your skills set will help you make decisions with a greater degree of data analysis and thought. Think about the particular skills you’ll need to operate at senior executive level. If you make a commitment over time to developing the requisite skills, you’ll become an excellent candidate for a boardroom position.
Simon North is Founder of Position Ignition, a leading UK Career Consulting Company and co-author of their eBook ‘Make Your Career Change Happen: 96 Tips to a New Career’. Simon co-founded Position Ignition.com to provide career consulting to people looking for guidance and support through their career change, new career direction, job search and career development.