Board Service

One of the best ways to accelerate your career climb is to serve on one or more boards of directors.

Why is this one of the best ways to move forward? In part, because most of your peers are too scared to try board service.

This extremely beneficial career strategy is actually much easier than people realize. Serving on a board of directors doesn’t require you to take the chairmanship, travel the country speaking, or even have a high level of executive skills. You can stay fairly anonymous on many boards and never take an executive officer position. In fact, many organizations are desperate for board and committee members and will train you and help you while you serve on a board.

Check out some of the benefits of board service in Steve Milano’s article, The Advantages of Sitting on a Board of Directors, for Career Trend.

Start Outside Your Industry

Before you volunteer to serve on the board of directors of a national trade association or state chapter of a professional society, volunteer to serve on the board of a local charity, such as  youth sports league, animal shelter or religious organization. This is where you’ll learn how boards work:

  • Following bylaws
  • Taking and keeping minutes
  • Robert’s Rules of Order for running meetings
  • IRS nonprofit rules are
  • How committees work
  • Nonprofit record keeping

Many local boards meet only four times a year, with five or so volunteers splitting a pizza, reading a few committee reports, reviewing the finances and discussing future plans. Read Steve’s article on Why You Need to Understand Robert’s Rules of Orders if you want to make it to the C-Suite. It’s the simple method most boards (big and small) use for running their meetings.

Start Slow

One way to ease into board service is to volunteer or a committee. Committees might include:

  • Membership
  • Communications
  • Annual golf outing
  • Annual meeting
  • Trade show
  • Continuing education
  • Young members section
  • Newsletter
  • Website

When you serve on a committee, you interact with senior people in your industry and profession. Just working the registration table at a golf outing might get you several hours of informal networking with another volunteer who might be a partner of a law firm, COO of a technology company, editor-in-chief of your industry’s trade magazine or marketing director of a sporting goods company.

Review the available committee opportunities you have to see who is on the committee, who chairs is, and what the committee members’ responsibilities are. After you’ve served on the committee one or two years, you can volunteer to chair the committee when the position comes open, or take another committee chair position. Committee chairs are a common stepping stone to board of directors positions.

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