You may have heard that a board role can be highly beneficial for your career. You may have been told that serving on a board can provide professional growth opportunities and strengthen your personal brand. OR, over your career, you may have seen leaders and executives you admire have board roles or sometimes multiple board roles and may wonder how one gets there. Is serving on a board worth it? 

A Harvard Business Review study concluded that serving on a board increases an executive’s likelihood of being promoted as a first-time CEO to an S&P 1500 firm by 44%, and even if they weren’t promoted, their annual pay was increased by 13%.1

So, the answer is YES! A board position, regardless of where you are in your career, could enable professional development, personal growth, and, ultimately, career advancement. 

Here are some ways a board position can help you:

1. Improve your business and leadership acumen

Often, in a career, people develop expertise within a vertical, and as you ascend in roles with increasing responsibility, you get comfortable and may rarely stretch. Serving on a board will enable you to strengthen professional skills outside your day-to-day business. One of those skills is collaboration, particularly how you work and interact with other board members and organizational leaders across business and functional areas that may be new to you.

You also may improve your ability to contribute to an organization’s strategic direction. 

  • Board members guide an organization and the C-suite in areas such as improving its financial health and market competitiveness.
  • Board members get involved in organizational investments, performance evaluation of top executives, capital raise, and policy creation. 

These skills are incredibly complementary if your career has been a single functional responsibility, such as sales, marketing, or operations.

In working with other board members or sub-committees, board positions help strengthen lateral leadership and people skills, which is different from leading a team of direct reports or a cross-functional project team. It can also provide you with an opportunity to mentor members of management or others within the organization. These are all people skills that may not be easily accrued in one’s day job and are highly beneficial in career development. 

2. Build your brand

Being selected for a board position could be a fantastic badge of honor. It shows that an organization trusts you with the company’s future direction and an endorsement of your expertise and value. This can raise your professional profile among your peers, within your organization, and across your industry. Your board affiliation can also enhance the brand and reputation of the organization you currently work for and could help strengthen your candidacy for a promotion or new role.

3. Grow your network

In general, board members tend to be highly experienced and well-connected. Board roles provide an incredible opportunity to meet new people and grow your network. You may get exposure to an organization’s strategic partners, investors, and leaders across industries. These relationships can be quite beneficial when you are ready to pursue the next steps in your career.

4. Gain broader insights and advocacy

Board positions provide access to an organization’s inner workings and the opportunity to learn about other industries, strategies, and markets from an insider’s perspective. This exposure enhances your marketability and can be especially beneficial if you pursue a role in a different industry or transition to a non-profit organization. If you are serving on a non-profit board, the role can lay the groundwork for potential leadership positions in that organization or similar ones in the future. It’s an incredibly fulfilling way to pay it forward.

Having a strong track record on a board will elevate your professional reputation. Board colleagues will know firsthand the benefits of working with you, which can be advantageous as you pursue future board roles or employment opportunities. They could also become strong references and advocates for you. 

5. Revitalize your passion and career

Being a board member could make a difference in a company, industry, community, and possibly people’s lives – especially if you work with a non-profit organization. Stepping out of your comfort zone and collaborating with and mentoring passionate and motivated people can be incredibly invigorating. The consequence of this could be your own inspiration to take your career to the next level.

Whether serving on a board of a non-profit or a corporate organization, serving on a board is a great way to build your career. It will provide you with non-linear opportunities to broaden and sharpen your skills, grow your professional network, and gain exposure to new industries and areas of business that will drive professional growth. It will help you elevate your reputation, strengthen your personal brand outside of your regular job, and reinvigorate your self-confidence, all key elements to career advancement.

References

  1. https://hbr.org/2016/05/serving-on-boards-helps-executives-get-promoted ↩︎