As competition for full-time board posts heats up, Elizabeth Proust explains what directors can do to stand out from the crowd.

    As directorship becomes a more desirable career, the competition for the relatively limited number of full-time paid board roles has intensified.

    One of the things I am often asked is how an executive might transition into a career as a non-executive director and, indeed, how they might secure their first board role.

    This question has no single correct answer because there is no single model of a director – each director brings a unique combination of skills and experience to every board scenario.

    There are, however, some simple techniques that have proven successful in obtaining a first board role, including registering with search firms and shaping a resume to better align career, skills and experiences with the qualities and characteristics required by board positions.

    Mentoring or sponsorship are approaches that I have seen work particularly well to help executives understand directorship – and they can also open up valuable networking opportunities.

    But a strong network has a limited value unless the aspirant has a strong understanding of corporate governance and, ideally, a working knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a director.

    A director is not a manager and a board is not a management team. The role of a director and the board is to offer strategic direction for the organisation and to hold the organisation’s executive to account. The role of a director is not an “operational” one. Rather, they offer counsel and advice to management, and oversight through monitoring and evaluation.

    For all those who ask me how to secure their first board role, I ask them to seriously consider whether they are ready to “give up” the highly engaging operational aspects of their executive life. It is not always an easy thing to do.

    I also ask them to consider their experience, interests and values, and suggest they be realistic.

    It is rare for anyone to start their directorship career on an ASX 50 company – I would adjust your expectations accordingly.

    The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) is dedicated to advancing the practice of governance in Australia and we aim to support all of our members throughout their career, whether that be in directorship, reporting to a board, or wishing to build knowledge of governance.

    To that end, we have recently released two publications which are available to assist our members on their director journey.

    The first is a report called Want a seat at the board table? which compiles the advice of experienced directors and executive recruiters on how to best develop your director brand and how to get your director career started. You can go to our website to download your copy.

    The second is our 2017–18 Professional Development Handbook which provides information about the full range of our courses, programs, tools and sessions. You will notice that this year, for the first time, we recommend a pathway for members that best suit their specific level of expertise – whether that be starting, strengthening or mastering.

    As someone who has served on many appointment panels and nomination committees, I can tell you there is no trick. Stay up to date, be informed, make good networks and commit yourself to the practice of good governance. Doing so will stand you in good stead.

    Farewell John Brogden

    In May, the board of the AICD accepted the resignation of managing director and CEO, John Brogden AM FAICD.

    We wish John well in his future endeavours.

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