When pursuing a board seat -- whether as a first-time director or experienced one -- take a close look at your personal brand to determine if it's positioning you optimally to achieve your goal. It might sound surprising, but a good personal brand of an operational executive doesn't necessarily translate into that of an ideal board candidate.
To stand out as a potential board director, your personal brand must communicate beyond that of a stellar professional with strong career progression. Convey board experience (if you have it) and board-relevant experience, both of which signal you have knowledge and skills to draw from when executing fiduciary duties.
For any type of board you pursue (public, private, advisory or nonprofit), optimize the following aspects of your personal brand to increase credibility, visibility and strengthen your candidacy.
A LinkedIn profile that solely focuses on your impact as an operational executive won't necessarily attract board attention. Update key sections to show direct board experience (including nonprofits), board-related experience (e.g., M&A, transformation, global expansion) and expertise in key areas (e.g., cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, risk management). Neglecting to do this is a common mistake that otherwise solid candidates make when looking to attract board interest.
Ensure you make the right first impression with a board-appropriate headshot and a headline that goes beyond just a title and company m=name. In the About section (summary), describe your board value, strategic experience and relevant certifications (e.g., NACD Governance Fellow), as well as key soft skills, like collaborative leadership and ability to build consensus.
If you engage with content (or plan to), consider the subject matter of what you like, post, share and comment on, and incorporate activity related to board topics and issues.
A board resume has a different focus from the one you would use to pursue a management role. Instead of detailing position specifics, summarize concisely and focus on board-relevant experience and major company impact. For example, include that you've driven high-impact revenue growth, are a key member of the M&A team, that you led through restructuring or divestiture and regularly present to boards, audit committees etc.
How information is ordered matters too. Emphasize board experience by positioning it before work experience and include any committee participation, especially chair positions.
If you come from a healthcare, research or academic background, note that a board-focused resume is a brief document highlighting relevant qualifications and experience - it's not a lengthy CV.
As with the order of information on a board resume, don’t bury the lead in your bio. While bios are written for different purposes/audiences (and you may have several versions), at minimum, reference board experience in the beginning. State board director/director in your headline too, if appropriate. Dedicate a separate paragraph to your board experience, including committee work and leadership.
Further reading: How To Write A Better Bio
Assess the breadth, depth and diversity of your network. If it’s limited to an industry, job function or geography, branch out. Look to connect with current or recent directors (who are often the first contacted for board opportunities), select board recruiters and those who work with boards (like M&A attorneys, accountants, valuation consultants and VCs), who may hear about open seats. When others within your circles are plugged in, the likelihood someone will approach you about board roles increases.
Importantly, ensure these key players are aware of your interest in being a director, professional reputation and value you bring to a board -- and that they believe you’re worth recommending.
Also, be sure you can verbally articulate your value as a potential board director to people in your network and define what differentiates you from other candidates. This is essential (just as it would be for a job opportunity).
If you want a seat at the table, dress the part. How you dress in your everyday professional life in-person and on-screen impacts impressions you make (and you never know what or when opportunities may arise). At meetings, events and conferences -- where your visibility is multiplied -- this is even more true. You may work in an industry or company where business casual dress is the norm and more broadly, dress codes have somewhat relaxed since the pandemic, but consider dressing up to your target level instead of your current one. Remember, directors are public faces of an organization, so your individual choices can have broader impact.
Further reading: What Your Style Says About Your Personal Brand
If you use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram -- even for personal use -- always assume that your activity is public information. A private account is never really private, so make sure that what you post/like/share/comment on doesn’t create a potential liability for (or drive away) a company on whose board you’d like to serve. Digital memory is long too, so if you slipped and may have used poor judgment online a few years back, clean up and delete old activity.
If you want to be considered for board positions, adjust your personal brand to include and promote your best qualities for the boardroom. By drawing attention to board-relevant experience and characteristics, those involved in board recruitment or influential in identifying potential candidates will not only see a successful executive, but also a desirable board candidate too.