Ten tips for breaking into the Trustee or NED world

Often HR leaders talk about having an aspiration to become a Non-Executive Director (NED) or a Trustee but aren’t sure where to start. I recently surveyed 52 NEDs/Trustees who have also held HR leadership positions to learn more from their experience.

The full research findings can be seen in a White Paper. Click here to sign up for my monthly message, Positivity Bites and to download.

The respondents shared these ten tips – invaluable if you are looking to take your first step into a NED or Trustee role:

1. Do your research.

Understand the difference between an executive director (ED) and a NED or what your responsibilities would be as a Trustee. Make sure you’ve really understood what the role would entail, including the legal undertaking, before you progress. Read around the roles, talk to people who have experience, and really consider the nature of the role and the advantages and disadvantages of taking it on. For more on this read my previous blog here: Nine things to do before becoming a NED or Trustee alongside your day job.

2. Consider your unique value proposition and write your elevator pitch.

Think about what you can bring to the table – what are your areas of expertise and why is this important for boards? What are you passionate about? What are your strengths and skills? Write this down and be able to articulate it clearly to yourself and others.

3. Find a mentor or sponsor.

If you decide you’d like to start applying for NED/Trustee roles, find someone who can give you advice and who can talk to you about the ins and outs of applying for the role. Perhaps you have someone in your network who is suitable. If not, there are organisations who support in this area. I personally benefited from a mentor who I worked with through Women on Boards. For others, see the full White Paper.

4. Get your Board CV ready.

Create a different CV to your chronological executive CV. Start from scratch instead of trying to edit your existing one. Highlight your relevant experience, strengths and knowledge appropriate for NED/Trustee roles. This should draw out examples of experience on committees and when you have achieved results through collaboration and influencing, showing leadership without authority. Remember your activities out of work and think differently about your experience. You should be clear on your focus areas of what you could bring to a board.

5. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and that all your experience is displayed. Use the ‘About’ summary section to tell your story and share your experiences so people can see at a glance what you would offer. Consider saying that you’re open to being contacted for an advisory position. Ensure you have included any relevant out of work experience such as voluntary work and include causes you care about.

6. Talk to relevant people in your network.

Be open with your networks about seeking the role. This is a great way to learn more, and connect with others in a similar situation. Seek advice from people you know who have already taken on a NED/Trustee role. You never know who might have connections or be looking for someone like you.

7. Speak to head-hunters.

Speak to head-hunters in your network who handle NED/Trustee roles as well as executive searches. Be aware, not all recruitment companies handle these assignments. The survey respondents mentioned 14 firms they had been approached by, who are listed in the full White Paper.

8. Actively search for roles.

If you’ve put everything else in place you might want to take a proactive approach to finding specific opportunities. Over a quarter of the respondents (27%) gained their roles through actively searching for roles or seeing online adverts. Some of the specific resources for actively finding NED/Trustee roles which were named by participants included:

9. Consider investing in a Career Coach.

It can be useful to have a neutral partner outside of your own organisation or circle of family and friends to support and challenge you in your journey. They would guide you with all the steps above. Do your research about who would be a good fit for you. Coaches will usually offer a free exploratory call if you are considering working with them to explore the chemistry fit.  

10. Start, be patient and persist.

“Own the journey and don’t give up after the first rejection – it’s not easy when there’s a mould to break”. (Cummings, 2020)

If you would be interested to read the full White Paper with the research survey findings and helpful resources click here to sign up for my monthly message, Positivity Bites and to download.

If you would like to explore one to one career coaching support visit my website individuals page for more information.

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