November 11, 2014 — Last month we heard from Sandra Stuart’s board sponsor, Sarah E. Raiss, about what sets Sandra apart—and how you, too, can stand out from the crowd! This month, Sandra shares more of what she’s learned from Sarah about how to make yourself an attractive candidate for board service.
In addition to making me blush, Sarah’s last post prompted prospective board members to ask themselves a key question: "What is my value proposition?"
This is something I hadn’t given a lot of thought to until Sarah brought it up. But when she looked at my resume, she immediately identified things she felt would be an asset to a board, most of which I simply didn’t see. For one thing, she was instantly drawn to my technology experience, which she indicated could distinguish me from other candidates, as well as my international experience.
Successful boards are a mosaic of experiences and cultures; what might make you attractive as a board candidate isn't what is common about your profile but rather what is unique.
Most refreshingly, Sarah asked what types of boards would interest me.
Bingo: another great question! My default had been to look for a board that aligned with my work experience. Now I try to think about boards that are completely outside my industry but could potentially capitalize on my skills, teach me something new, and connect me to a whole different network. Sarah encouraged me to ask myself what passions I may have shied away from in the past.
Inspired by our conversation, I went online to research a number of industries and companies. I looked at each company’s current board composition, philanthropic philosophy, values statements, media coverage, and board composition strategy, as well as the nature of the business, to see which aligned with my own experience and values and might offer a meaningful opportunity to contribute.
Finally, I’d like to bring up the issue of personal networks again. The challenge is not only to build one up, but to leverage it to support and inform your board aspirations. Lunches, coffees, and advice are all wonderful, but are you getting the message out about your personal value proposition? Are you finding ways to be more forward and ask people in your network to introduce you to key people so you can make your value proposition known?
The main thing I’ve learned from Sarah so far is that joining a board is a process, and while there may be a board out there looking for you, you need to make sure that you are also actively looking for a board. Don’t think within your imagined boundaries—think beyond them!
Key takeaways to help you identify your value proposition:
Highlight your unique skills and experiences. Don’t be afraid to stand out.
Consider which industries and companies interest you. Your skills are more transferable than you think. Don’t limit yourself!
Remember: values matter. Seek out companies with values that align with yours.
Don’t forget your current network. Discuss your interest in board service and your personal value proposition with people you already know.