How to use LinkedIn to get on a Board
One of the most valuable tools you should be using is LinkedIn to get on a board. As a successful executive and/or director, you should already have a presence on LinkedIn and know how it works. However, most inspiring independent directors do not make the most of the platform or leverage their LinkedIn profile to develop a board career. Let me show you how!
Why use LinkedIn to get on a board?
Over the years, I have conducted a number of surveys asking current board directors how they were appointed to their most recent board role. The results are always much the same:
- 65% said they were appointed through a personal connection;
- 15% were appointed by directly approaching a company or board;
- 10% were appointed via a recruiter and
- 10% were appointed by responding to an advertisement.
All 4 of these pathways can be leveraged using LinkedIn to get on a board.
Pathway 1 – personal connection
65% of people are appointed to boards via a personal connection (in some countries, this figure will be higher). Approximately 50% of these appointments are made via personal connections they rarely see. So it is imperative that you make and maintain these weak connections. LinkedIn is the perfect platform to build these connections and networks.
What makes LinkedIn even more valuable is that it is essentially a massive professional network. LinkedIn has over 810 million members in 200+ countries and regions. The majority of people you should be making connections with are on the platform. You don’t have to seek out appropriate business networking events, attend cocktail parties or business breakfasts in the hope of finding an opportunity to cross paths with the right people and build valuable personal connections.
Pathway 2 – directly approaching a company or board
Once you have a list of target organizations and boards you would like to serve on their board, make sure you follow them on LinkedIn. Follow their business pages and staff. This way you will keep up to date with what the organization is doing, plus you may get a heads up when board, committee and advisory board roles are available. To take this approach further, you should send connection requests to sitting and past board members or your target organizations, then nurture these connections.
Pathway 3 – advertised board role
LinkedIn is not only a professional networking platform; it is also a jobs board. Organizations use the platform for advertising vacancies and managing the application process. These vacancies include opportunities for board, committee, trustee and advisory board positions. You should take time to regularly browse the “Jobs” listed on the platform and set up custom “Job Alerts” so that you receive notifications when applicable vacancies are listed.
Pathway 4 – board recruiters and headhunter
Most recruitment firms and headhunters use LinkedIn to list roles. They will also use the platform to identify and contact potential candidates. If you take the time to ensure your LinkedIn profile is Board Ready, you will increase your chances of recruiters reaching out to you. You should also be proactive when it comes to recruiters. Follow relevant board recruitment firms’ “Business Pages” on LinkedIn and connect with individual board recruiters. Be mindful that many executive recruitment firms also conduct board recruitment.
Extra LinkedIn tips for aspiring independent directors
- When developing the right personal connections authentically, you must be clear on the names of the businesses/organizations you both want and can be appointed to. Once you are, the ‘who’ becomes more apparent and the ‘how’ easier still.
- It is not enough to just be connected on LinkedIn. Like many things, to get results, you must commit to the process by allocating time and establishing a strategy to implement.
- Be authentic and engaging. Introduce yourself and offer to help where possible. Don’t ask for a job!
- Use a professional and recent headshot.
- Ensure your LinkedIn profile represents your board skills, experience and ambitions. Tell people what you have to offer at board level.
- Include relevant keywords.
- Ensure your Board CV and LinkedIn profile are up to date, complementary and the information is mirrored.
- Include board qualifications and certificates.
- Add the Causes module if you are pursuing roles in the not for profit sector.
- Join relevant LinkedIn Groups.
As you can tell, I am a big fan of LinkedIn. I was an early adopter and have 30,000+ NED connections. The most valuable tool can use is LinkedIn to get a board appointment. Moreover, it is the only place you can leverage all 4 pathways to a board appointment.
LinkedIn is always open; you get to target precisely those you want to speak with, and approaching people electronically that you don’t know takes far less courage than doing so in person.
For my Board Appointment Coaching Program – Plus clients, I show them how to develop a target organizations list, find the right people to connect with and give them the language to do so. They develop their board profile and pitch. Plus, I write their Board CV.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments. He has over a decade of experience in putting people on boards as an international headhunter and recruiter. He has interviewed hundreds of directors and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP director roles in the world.