Securing a board role - Networking

Securing a board role - Networking

The received wisdom is that to secure a board role, networking wins out over applying through a search firm. Is this really the case? Recent statistics seem to confirm it. In 2012 Right Management an arm of ManpowerGroup found that 46% of jobs were secured through net working


It’s difficult to know who to network with if you don’t have clarity about how you can help. Whatever your contribution, being able to describe it succinctly will inform you about how to network efficiently to achieve it. Fiona Hathorn the MD of Women on Boards, was an experienced Angel investor and knew she was good at assessing company potential. She describes how she was able to demonstrate her skill-set to get on a board by analysing the company and meeting with the CEO to suggest some strategic changes that would make them significantly more profitable. Recognising the value she provided, they readily offered her a role.

Strategic networking

If you want to secure a seat on a board, what kind of networking should you consider, and what is the most effective way to go about it? Herminia Ibarra has researched networking extensively, and says there are 3 different aspects of networking:

  •  operational
  • personal
  • strategic

Of the three, for successfully securing a board role, she recommends the third one. As she points out, being strategic tells us how, what we are doing, fits into the bigger picture. When we have a better understanding of and a succinct way of communicating, our contribution, it becomes more obvious who we need to be talking to and consequently much easier to fit our networking into a busy schedule.  

Leveraging your network

Elaine Eisenman, Dean of Executive Education at Babson College and faculty member of NACD’s Board Advisory Services, recommends broadcasting to all of your contacts, what you are looking for as well as attending targeted board related events.

For example NED on board offers regular events, as does  The Financial Times for those considering an NED role. The IoD also offers a range of relevant courses

All these are good ways of connecting with others who have the same goal and many who have already succeeded in achieving it. If you meet someone who might be able to help you, follow up religiously with lunches and coffees to find out about their challenges and demonstrate your worth by offering to help them in any way you can. If you subscribe to their website, Women on Boards regularly sends out information about available positions.

NED roles

For an NED role, following your passion helps. A knowledge of the industry born of a life long interest counts for a lot. Enthusiasm is vital as the time commitment to a board can be anything between 20 and 50 hours per year.

An accountant with a passion for farming was able to secure a role on the British Wool Board through her personal connections, by making it known about the contribution she could make. At any given moment, you are probably involved with more than one institution looking for a board member!


Right Management points out that over recent years, the role of LinkedIn and other forms of social media has become more important in providing potential networking contacts. As one social media expert recommends, you need a combination of using social media to ‘cast your net’ and face to face networking, to ‘spear your fish’. Most likely, you have people in your social media network who have the kind of role you are looking for. They can advise you, so don’t be shy about calling them, to find out how they did it and who they know that could help you.
Everyone likes to be asked for their advice, even if they don’t have the time to give it!

It’s never too early to build your network

Networks are so important it’s never too early to focus on building yours. One corporate board member shared with me how he had, over the years, created his own private board, hosting yearly dinners to thank them for their advice and introductions to colleagues who had helped him reach his goals. The strategy had paid off handsomely

Networking works

In conclusion, it’s difficult to underestimate the importance of networking. If no one knows about the difference you can make you won’t ever get to make it!

This is the first in a series of monthly blogs about different aspects of getting on a board.





I’m booked for the 10th Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna.

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