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Moving into a NED/Trustee role can be a rewarding experience, but it can take up to 18 months or more of patience and dedication, advised Heather White on the occasion of the ABP’s September meeting. The NED market is very competitive and there can be up to 200 candidates for every paid role advertised. It requires focus, dedication, resilience and a disciplined approach, along with setting up and utilising some excellent networking opportunities. This session will help you to identify the 5-10 things which you want to secure as you embark on your NED journey. The figure of 5-10 is derived from your experience and your “entry” point into the process.
It has to be said that Trustee positions are easier to access than Non-Executive Director roles As a starting point you have to be clear about your motivations for wanting to take up such a position, and you also have to be able to identify your “point of entry” which can be illustrated as follows:
• Gender, Ethnicity. Boards are very clear on creating greater diversity within the team
• Do you work for a corporate? Existing corporate status and experience is very valuable in the sense that this can bring “value” to the board.
• Age. Are you going to bring youthful dynamism, or specific kinds of experience?
• If you are a business owner or a consultant? For certain roles there can be skills which have been learned as an independent but it is a definite advantage in working for a Corporate as it demonstrates a level of achievement and authority within an organisation: an independent will come across as being more of an unknown quantity. If you are considering going self-employed, it is better to apply beforehand while you are still in a corporate role, but whatever the circumstances, you need to be “Boardroom ready”. Having Board experience can make a considerable difference.
Suitability for roles
• One of the strangest observations is that those with a board role or roles already have a far better chance of securing additional roles.
• It is easier to enter a Trustee role as a first step on the way to a NED role. If you are already a trustee this is a considerable advantage as you will already have some knowledge of governance and how a Board should operate.
• Are you generalist or an expert in a particular field? Some roles require a strategic perspective and others are more specific/technical
There are more opportunities in small companies, family businesses, where you act in an advisor role. As a stepping stone, this can add status to your CV. However, some of these may be unpaid as SMEs may not have a budget.
The Road Map to securing your first role – Preparation is essential.
Start building up your board experience. Not for Profit can be good starting point so have a look at associations s as they usually have voluntary boards and committees which can offer relevant experience: Governors at Schools or Academies are also highly regarded as budgets can be substantial. But what you choose to do is important, should be relevant and appear as part of a longer term plan.
Obtaining a suitable role takes time and energy and it is advisable to choose whether you wish to take the NED or the Trustee route. It can be easier to go down the Trustee route on the whole more transparent and better organised.
1. Plan early and be as concise as possible in articulating what it is you are seeking.
– If you are in a corporate role start 12-18 months before you plan to leave
– Tell all your contacts you are looking for a role and set up appropriate networks. Network especially with NEDs, CEOs, Chairs, Search Firms and PE/VC organisations
– Be clear about your Board experience and achievements, detailing whether it is trustee, governance boards and committees, or any sub-divisional boards.
– In describing your area of expertise, describe its sustainability. Some roles do not appear to have the longevity to a Board. For example a D&I expert can be very useful to a board but the expertise does not lend itself for a minimum of 3 years on a board. You need to have broader business knowledge.
2. Employ a NED mentor or NED coach who has board experience, a strategic perspective and crucially, understands the language you will need as you transition from an exec to a non-exec.
3. Use LinkedIn: Your profile should be ‘designed for robots and read by humans’ . Give Heather a shout if you want to know more about her services on this (
4. Build your board knowledge and some course could be of great value to you
5. Network, network and network. Over 70% of NED opportunities are found through peoples own networks.
6. Build language and “eloquence”. Learn how business communicates and how to join the conversation
7. Use an NED / Trustee job platforms such as Nurole and Dynamic Boards (both are free)
8. Build your own brand. Make yourself look as appealing as possible while at the same time retaining a strong sense of authenticity. This can include taking on unpaid work, such as a charity or the public sector. Such work can easily become a full time job and comes with risks. Directors and Officers insurance does not come for free and can be an additional cost.
Heather suggests five links to help with and illustrate the above:
What must you do to secure your first NED role? Get your FREE 10 Top Tips to start your journey to the Boardroom :
How to Find Your First NED / Trustee Role. Accelerate your journey to the boardroom with straight talking and practical guidelines on what to do and when:
LinkedIn Optimisation Strategy Service will help you promote your executive / board experience to your target audience supporting your ambition when making the transition from Exec to Non-Exec.
Needing clarity, honest and pragmatic advice on what to do and how to get started on your Journey to the Boardroom?:
Lacking board experience and in need of help from a Highly Experienced Chair / NED?
Watch and learn from those who have NED / Trustee experience and subscribe to Heather’s You Tube channel:

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