How to Develop a Portfolio of Board Seats 

One of the most obvious ways to take your executive career to the next level is by joining a board. Why not take it even one step further and develop a portfolio of board seats.  Whether multiple board seats are held at the same time or span across several years, a portfolio of board positions equips executives with invaluable experience that extends beyond the skills gained by holding just one board position.

Board service offers exposure to various leadership styles, the development of new problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and an extended professional network. It even trains executives to see corporate issues from a board-level perspective. Serving on multiple boards, however, magnifies this exposure exponentially through a diversity of industries and markets, providing a unique background that makes someone a more compelling candidate for future leadership positions.    

Developing this kind of portfolio doesn’t happen overnight. Executives who take time to map out their plans months, even years in advance tend to have the most success. Here are a few things to consider when creating a portfolio of board seats.

Start early.
Landing a board seat takes time and preparation. Establish a timeline for when you’d like to begin the search process to when you hope to receive and accept offers. Determine how many boards you want to serve on throughout the course of your career, and then figure out how many boards you can realistically serve on at the same time. 

Be sure to carve out time in the beginning to update your resume with experience that would be relevant to a potential board. Showcase scenarios that demonstrate leadership and successful decision making. You also want to review your other professional materials, such as re-evaluating compensation requirements, professional bio or headshot photo.

Diversify your interests.
The benefit to serving on multiple boards is not being constrained to one industry or one type of organization. Create a wish list of boards you aspire to serve on, choosing between a variety of industries and company sizes. Consider the advantages of public versus private boards, and nonprofit organizations versus for-profit corporations.

The more interesting of a mix you assemble, the more compelling your portfolio will be.

Validate your success.
Talking a big game is one thing, but being able to prove your worth is critical. Prospective boards want to see that you are a distinguished thought leader, so having tangible evidence of this can help differentiate yourself from the competition. Publish articles or whitepapers in your field, be a keynote speaker, participate in conference roundtables. These are just a few easy ways put your name in the spotlight, but keep an eye out for other opportunities in your industry or local regions.

(Bonus points if you already have previous board experience.)

Begin the search.
Express your interest to contacts who sit on boards similar to those you wish to join or know someone who does. Relying solely on your personal network to connect with prospective boards is possible, but can be a tricky and long process. If you’re looking to expand your reach beyond just who you know, professional networks like AdvisoryCloud help make connections with the right people and initiate interviews for you, so you can focus on what matters – wowing them.   

When it comes to professional development, there’s nothing wrong with putting your eggs in more than one basket. Life is full of twists and turns, and while you may plan to stay in your current industry or field forever, things change. Having a range of board experience under your belt keeps your career on course and opens the door to new opportunities in the future. 

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