As an executive or experienced professional, you’ve heard that serving on a board can be highly beneficial for your career. Perhaps you’ve already been approached to serve in this capacity or are considering a search – be it for a corporate entity, advisory board or nonprofit – and you’re enticed by the potential benefits. However, since pursuing a board role requires a considerable investment of time and effort, you may ask yourself: is the payoff worth it?
In short, yes. A board position provides professional development and personal growth, which can fuel career advancement and strengthen your personal brand. With a board role, consider that you will:
Strengthen your reputation
When selected to serve on a board, an organization entrusts you with a vital, high-impact role. It’s a public endorsement of your expertise and value. This affiliation is one you can communicate and promote, raising your professional profile among your peers, within your organization and across your industry. By extension, your board affiliation can enhance the brand of the organization for which you work. Taken together, these factors may strengthen your candidacy for a promotion or new role and increase your value in the workplace.
Grow your network
In addition to meeting other board colleagues, it will provide a wealth of opportunities to meet influential, intelligent and well-connected people. You may engage with an organization’s strategic partners, investors or clients, as well as colleagues and leaders across industries. As you become acquainted with new people, be sure to engage them in meaningful ways. It's important to cultivate these relationships, as they can be quite valuable when you’re ready to pursue the next step in your career.
Sharpen your skillset
Serving on a board will enable you to strengthen professional skills, particularly related to:
- Collaboration: You’ll be called to work effectively with other board members and organizational leaders across business and functional areas (some of which may be newer to you). And, when there are differing opinions, board members must collaborate and build consensus.
- Strategic Direction: Since you contribute more broadly when serving on a board, you may be asked to steer improvement of the organization’s financial health, market competitiveness or investments, or assist with evaluating financial performance, compensation practices and leadership. Any one of these things can be a great step up, especially if you’ve been accustomed to overseeing a single functional area (e.g., finance or operations) thus far in your career.
- Leadership: In addition to the obvious leadership function as a board member, you may head a committee, which differs from overseeing a team of direct reports or a cross-functional team. If the committee meets remotely, directing them sharpens remote management and communications skills. You may also have the opportunity to coach and mentor members of the organization’s senior management team or junior board colleagues.
These skills will add to your professional wheelhouse and can be benefit your career advancement in any capacity.
Gain exposure and insight
Board service provides access to the inner workings of an organization, as well as the opportunity to learn about other industries, business strategies and markets from an insider’s perspective. This exposure enhances your marketability and may ignite your drive to take your career to the next level. It can be especially beneficial if you choose to pursue a role in a different industry or make a professional pivot.
Set the stage for future opportunities
Exhibiting solid performance on a board and utilizing your expertise to contribute meaningfully to an organization’s goals will elevate your professional reputation and position you as a credible, go-to person with insight who drives things forward. As your value and visibility within the organization and with stakeholders grows, so will their endorsements of you. These leaders will know the benefits of working with you firsthand, which can be advantageous when you look for future board roles or employment opportunities – or as those opportunities find you.
Serving on a board provides invaluable opportunities to broaden and sharpen skills, grow your professional network and gain exposure to new industries and areas of business. It's a great way to expand your professional experience, elevate your reputation and strengthen your personal brand -- all key elements to propel career advancement.