This is the second step in the Athena Guide to Land a Board Seat. Read the full guide for additional tips and stories of how Athena helps women leaders rise into the boardroom.
Just like you consider how to approach the market for your next executive position, you must also strategize your path forward for a board role. You need to dig deep into your professional career and expertise and how you will uniquely contribute to a boardroom. This also means thinking through the types of companies and industries where you’ll bring the most impact as a board director.
When done correctly, you’ll understand what guides your principles and ethics in your board search. You’ll develop an understanding of your personal value proposition, including how and when to leverage it in a natural and confident manner. You’ll know exactly which kinds of boards are an ideal match for your background. These points — internalizing them and truly owning them — sets the stage for you to activate your network.
As you develop your go-to-market strategy, consider the following…
Why do you want to serve on a board? Give this the deep thought it deserves — you’ll be asked this question in interviews. But also think of your “why” as a guidepost for your path forward.
Craft your value proposition. Your value proposition should be in your own words. It should be just a few sentences that speak to your expertise, your value, and what companies/boards would benefit from that value. It’s the foundation of your personal brand.
Practice sharing your value proposition. Practice speaking your value proposition aloud, so when you use it in a real networking situation or interview, it comes out effortlessly and confidently.
Connect with other aspiring board directors or women who have already achieved a board seat. Finding a support system early in your journey is helpful — these fellow leaders will serve as a sounding board, boosting your morale and sharing in your frustrations and victories along the way.
Make a list of potential company boards. Again, think about which boards speak to your values and “why”. Think about where you deliver the most value. Consider industry, stage, and company type. You may want to rank these potential boards much like you would rank colleges in an application process — those that feel within reach, those that are a great fit but a challenge to achieve, and those that are your dream boards or “stretch boards”.
“You’re not a CEO. You’re not a CxO. You’re never going to get an F500 corporate board seat.”
Years ago, this feedback stopped Athena member Manisha Thakor’s board search in its tracks. After discovering Athena, she worked with her coaches to understand the unique value she brought to a board and the different areas (beyond public board service) where she could make an impact.
“I learned that while I may not have the traditional background sought for F500 companies, my skill set was a perfect match for mutual fund director boards. It was a bolt of lightning,” Manisha said. “I truly can’t emphasize enough how invaluable my Athena experience was in taking me from the concept of corporate board service to the actual work of becoming a board director.”
Athena Coach Nancy Sheppard advises:
“If stepping into a corporate board seat is a new career goal, the process can be daunting. But, as a leader, you’ve been involved in strategy and planning for most of your business life, so you know that you don’t go-to-market for a new product until the entire team is comfortable with a fully explored and detailed plan. Treat your board journey launch with this same due diligence approach before you begin the promotion stage of networking and visibility enhancement, marketing YOU as a board-ready and board-qualified product to your target audience!”
Download the Athena Guide to Land a Board Seat to read all five steps aspiring directors should take to get boardroom-ready. Ready to get started on your board journey? Join Athena to unlock the entire Path to the Boardroom pathway.
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