Why Networking Isn’t Working: Unlocking Success in Board Directorship

If you’re actively pursuing a position on a corporate board of directors, you’ve likely been inundated with advice on the importance of networking. The conventional wisdom is to connect extensively, attend numerous events, and leverage personal connections to open doors. However, there’s often a critical missing piece in this puzzle – the need for careful preparation and the right approach. In this article, we’ll explore why networking alone may not be helping you land the corporate board seat of your dreams and provide valuable insights on how to turn the tide.

The Networking Misstep

Many aspiring board directors jump headfirst into networking, eager to tap into their industry contacts or seek guidance from seasoned board members. Often, these interactions are characterized by unpreparedness and vague inquiries such as, “I’m looking for a board. Do you have any advice for me?” or “Do you think I have what it takes to be on a board?” Unfortunately, these ill-prepared conversations rarely yield positive outcomes or follow-up opportunities.

And here’s why: The influential board-level individuals you approach may leave these interactions thinking, “[Insert your name here] is not board-ready; it’s too early; they are just exploring.” While they may acknowledge your accomplishments as an executive, the perceived lack of board experience can deter them from considering you for future board opportunities or referrals. In such cases, you might receive some advice or mentoring, but rarely will they proactively reach out to you about board openings.

To break free from this cycle, consider the following three rules for transforming your networking endeavors into a successful board directorship journey.

Rule 1: Get Board-Ready Before You Network

Before reaching out to your network, invest time in becoming board-ready. Seek professional advice to identify the right boards for you and define your unique value proposition as a board director. Crafting a concise elevator pitch about yourself in this context can be challenging, so collaborate with a board-level coach or advisor who can guide you through this process. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is the best advice for how you show up looking board-ready. Dress as if you were going to a board meeting – treat these interactions like interviews.

Rule 2: Prepare Follow-Up Materials

Ensure you have essential materials ready before networking. Develop a comprehensive board bio and an executive resume that highlights your achievements and board-level expertise. Align your LinkedIn profile with your board director aspirations and exude executive presence online and offline. Consistency between your personal brand and the types of boards you aim to join is crucial, so ensure everything is in place before initiating contact.

Rule 3: Don’t Ask, Tell

When approaching your network, adopt a proactive stance. Instead of asking vague questions, confidently express your intent: “I am actively pursuing corporate boards.” Then pause once you have described your value proposition to hear your contact’s reaction. Clearly communicate your preferences regarding the types of boards and committees you’re interested in joining. Once you’ve demonstrated your board-readiness and shared your board documents, the likelihood of receiving offers of assistance or introductions to the right contacts will significantly increase.

A Final Note on Professionalism

In your pursuit of corporate board roles, it’s imperative to maintain a very high level of professionalism at all times from the written email outreach to the timing of your response and how you set up the meeting. Avoid asking for favors or placing undue pressure on your network. Let your achievements and board-readiness speak for themselves and remember that the role of a board director and corporate governance demand the utmost discreet professionalism in the approach.

In conclusion, while networking is undoubtedly a valuable tool in your journey toward a corporate board position, it’s essential to complement it with meticulous preparation, clarity in your intentions, and unwavering professionalism. By adhering to these rules, you’ll be well on your way to transforming networking into a potent strategy for achieving your board directorship goals.

Let’s embark on this journey together! Reach out to us here or call us at 1-888-916-6744 to learn more about how Felix can help you take a positive step towards your journey to board work.

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Authored by: Naomi Kent, Managing Director and Advisor, The C-Suite Advisory, Felix Global

Naomi has spent over 22 years with boards of directors and is passionate about preparing the next generation of boardroom leaders through board-readiness programs that include preparation, positioning, and branding. 

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