There are many good reasons for securing a seat on a board – it’s not all about direct financial remuneration. Some people take on non-executive roles because it gives them the opportunity to get involved in causes they care about. Others see it as a way to build their network and leadership skills.
That said, NED day rates vary from around £500 to £3,000 and frequently more, depending on the sector and company size. The average annual salary currently stands at just under £54,000. As such, building a portfolio career by taking on a range of paid non-executive roles is a highly desirable and rewarding option.
Have you established a successful professional record across a number of companies? Or do you have landmark career achievements to your name? If yes, you could well be in a position to build such a portfolio career.
It’s important to note that there are fewer paid board roles than there are unpaid roles. This is because many organisations looking to fill directorships are non-profits or start-ups. They may need your expertise, but they may not have the revenue to pay you.
As a result, the market for paid non-exec roles is competitive. Official training as a NED isn’t required, as boards are more interested in the knowledge and experience you already have. But, if you’re serious about finding paid work as a director, you’ll need a realistic action plan to demonstrate the value you’ll add.
Here are three steps that will help you find a paid board position.
- Unlock your value
The first step is to be clear about your value to an organisation. By that I mean the specific skills and personal qualities you will bring to a board. This could be legal, financial or strategic expertise or simply broad business experience, such as leading diverse teams or entering new markets.
- Make sure your CV and online assets are board-ready
Once you’re clear on what value you bring to the table, you will need to communicate this to catch the attention of the boards you want to join. NED CVs require a different approach to executive CVs. We place the emphasis on your broader professional and life experiences and the value you can bring to the specific board.
The vast majority of board recruiters use LinkedIn to search for and evaluate potential directors. As a start, we always advise that you have a fully completed profile and a professional picture. Then we work on ensuring your headline and summary are succinct. These will need to contain the keywords potential recruiters search for when looking for a new director with your particular skills and background.
Your profile also needs careful and on-going management. Sharing, commenting on and publishing articles or videos that showcase your expertise and reflect your values will boost your visibility and reputation. Many boards are waking up to the fact that they need to demonstrate their commitment to, and engagement with, a broader range of issues.
We’re hearing a lot more about social CEOs. As Richard Branson said (in a LinkedIn article read by 140,000 people), “Embracing social media isn’t just a bit of fun. It’s a vital way to communicate, keep your ear to the ground and improve your business.”
The same principles apply to NEDs. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 56% of the public have no respect for companies who remain silent on important issues. Increasingly, boards are looking for non-execs who are on-board with social media. They want to see them actively contributing and engaging with issues that are important not just to their shareholders but also to their customers and employees.
- Maximise the value of your network
Every board has different requirements. Some companies are under threat from new industry entrants and disruptors, and are crying out for creative thinkers. Others are more in need of rational guidance to help steer the ship. It’s worth researching what gaps in the market you can fill and ensuring you’re communicating your values in the right way and to the right people.
Relationships are hugely important at this level. It’s always worth reaching out to influencers in your industry who might be able to offer advice or connect you to people who can help you on your journey. The emphasis here is on building mutually beneficial relationships rather than directly seeking a specific role.
Paid non-exec roles are extremely competitive positions to land. That’s why many people choose to make an impact with an unpaid role first. But, if your target is paid board roles then following these steps to maximise your value and network in the right way will significantly boost your chances.