Networking is Critical to Your Board Career

Business Networking

Business Networking at Director Institute Function

There are many executives that would like to have a successful board career, however if you are not prepared to network with board directors, headhunters and the business advisors who recommend board members to their clients, then you are only ever going to have very limited success.

Networking is a key component to your board search strategy; without new board director connections and links to the unadvertised Board Search market, the best board director and advisory opportunities will be missed. What many executives who are seeking board roles fail to recognize is that you are actually invited onto the board by the Chair and Board of Directors. You need to work out a fool proof mechanism to build relationships with these individuals long before the board vacancy develops.

For some, networking is something that is quite foreign and I am often surprised at how uncomfortable even senior candidates are when approaching Chairs and Boards of Directors outside of their existing networks in order to cultivate new relationships. So, I have put together my Top Five Tips to achieving networking success and to help facilitate a smooth transition from executive to non-executive and advisory board career.

Make Networking a Priority, think about the types of connections you want to make and new relationships that would be helpful to your board career. You need to be attending at least 2-3 events per month and have a diary packed with regular and new functions that would enable you to expand your business network. Commit to doing this for several months and stick with it. Set yourself a goal to meet 20 new Board Directors this month, and monitor your progress. The art of networking can be mastered, but you need to make this an important area of focus in order to become comfortable and confident in this arena.

Don’t Network Where the Usual Suspects Network, if you want to uncover the best opportunities for board roles. You need to look for networking functions and events where Board-Level executives will be present and you should cast a wide net. I personally like to network where I have strong personal interests such as Horse Racing, Motor Sports, Tennis, Rugby and Wine appreciation based functions. I find that by mixing my personal interests with business networking, it doesn’t really feel like business networking! Other avenues to consider are Chambers of Commerce, Legal, Professional Services, Private Equity and Venture Capital hosted functions as well as Start-Up Business pitch-festivals.

Get a Networking Buddy who has similar interests and can support you in your networking endeavors! Having a colleague attend functions with you can work very well and might even push you out of your comfort zone to approach high profile Board Director/s that you wouldn’t normally approach. Work out a game plan and tackle business networking together. Make it fun, help each other get introduced and have a strategy in place to help each other move around the room and not get stuck with only a few executives. Don’t under-estimate the importance of introducing yourself to the host of the function and always ask them to make a few introductions for you to get you started off when you arrive.

Be Prepared to Invest Your Time. Successful networking will take up time, require focus and effort, sometimes it may seem a bit hit and miss, but overall the rewards are immense. Meeting with the right Board Director, at the right event and at the right time, could pay significant dividends to your board career. Well networked executives are never short on new career opportunities and offers to join multiple boards. Remember to always follow up your new connections and regularly reach out to your existing network. Leverage networking tools such as LinkedIn to make the process more streamline and professional.

Have Your Elevator Pitch Prepared so that you are comfortable introducing yourself and explaining what you do. Look for opportunities in the conversation to indicate that you are seeking board appointments or building a board portfolio. A good question to ask other successful board directors is how they got their first board appointment. Of course, you should be armed with your business cards and follow up with a LinkedIn connection request following the initial meeting.

With a little bit of focus and effort, business networking can be great fun and very rewarding. Every successful board director I know gives this aspect of their board search strategy high priority.

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