Your Board Appointment Plan: 10 step guide

Board Appointment Plan

The new year is when most people start thinking about how to create a board career or take theirs to the next level. Regardless of your situation, a successful board career begins with a structured Board Appointment plan.

If you don’t have a board appointment plan, now is the time to develop one. If you do, the new year is the perfect time to reflect, revise and refine it. Here is a 10-step guide to ensure you are well-prepared to take advantage of every opportunity and gain a board seat in 2023.

STEP 1 – Be proactive and start now

Don’t play the waiting game. Yes, board appointments do get offered to people who aren’t looking for them – but rarely. If you want a board appointment this year, now is the time to begin. July to September is when the majority of board vacancies are advertised, and board appointments occur. But, regardless of how a board opportunity arises, you must be prepared for the competitive board application processes. You need to be proactive and a step ahead of the competition. You need to be prepared to take the direct approach to gain a board seat.

STEP 2 Have the ultimate goal in mind

This step is essential. Achieving your long-term board aspirations is challenging if you don’t know what they are. Equally, it is very easy to make ill-informed decisions now that may potentially prevent them from happening. So, ask yourself, ‘What sort of board(s) do I want to be appointed to within the next 5-10 years?’ If, for example, your answer is a significant commercial listed company, then think about which organizations today will help you get there and which won’t. Your focus now should be on those that will. 

STEP 3 – Stop doing what isn’t working

“The harder you work, the luckier you get” sounds like good advice but often isn’t. From a board appointment perspective, if you are continually writing board applications, waiting for recruiters to call, not getting interviews or not getting appointed after an interview, your hard work is not paying off. Don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again ad nauseam. You need to do something different – something that works – not just put in more effort. 

STEP 4 – Prepare for hurdles

Think about what prevented you from gaining a board appointment or stopped you from starting. Recognizing current and potential hurdles is important. Three main things will prevent you from gaining a board appointment in 2023:

1. You are targeting the wrong sort of organization 

2. Your pitch to those organizations is not compelling 

3. You are not working smart and consistently enough.

STEP 5 – Write or update your board CV

Having reviewed over 10,000 board CVs and written over 5,000 of them, I know that Board CVs work. Though Board CV’s are not always the silver bullet, people think they are. Still, they often make the difference between being recommended by a recruiter or director who can influence decisions. A client of mine proved this point. After being appointed to the board of a commercial company, he asked, “What attracted you to me initially?” Their response was, “It was the style, format and clearly articulated content of your board CV.”

STEP 6 – Write this down: At board level, what I do is…

The key here is your value at board level. Not only do you have to know it, but you also have to be able to articulate it. To simplify this step, just finish this sentence “At board level, what I do is….”  Don’t go into detail; just focus on the result. This is essentially an exercise in refining your messaging. It is essential to do this because your message must to be clear and compelling. Failing to do this will risk you being perceived as being too broad, too opportunistic and quickly forgotten. Remember that old adage “Master of all, master of none”. It is particularly true when it comes to articulating your board value proposition.

STEP 7 – Write a list

In many countries, it is estimated that 50% of organizations will appoint a new board, advisory board or committee member this year. However, only a small selection of these organizations believe that you would add value to their boards. When establishing your Board Appointment plan, you must focus on the organizations that will value you and your skills and experience enough to appoint you.  Write a list of the top 12 organizations you believe would appoint you and want to be appointed to. I can not think of a more valuable exercise to start at the beginning of 2023.

STEP 8 – Get connected

80% of board appointments occur without a formal application process – with no recruiters or traditional advertisements. The key to these appointments is personal connections. You must make them and nurture them. Here is when most of you cringe because, you either hate networking, or feel that you have no one to network with. Both scenarios should not be of concern. Use your list of target organizations (from Step 7) to research and compose a list of the current and past directors. Connecting with them should be super simple if you are authentic and legitimate. Most importantly, it requires zero cringe-worthy networking tactics. 

STEP 9 – Make time

A board seat within 12 months should be your firm and an achievable goal. To make it happen, you must be committed and consistent. You need to put dedicated time aside to make it happen.  From today, put in your diary a recurring weekly appointment of at least 30 minutes to spend time actioning your board appointment plan. Make working on your board career a habit.

STEP 10 – Seek support

Over the past decade, I have helped thousands of people worldwide to develop their Board Appointment Plans and gain board seats. In my Board Appointment Programs, I provide practical support (including a Board CV) and board career coaching for you to gain a board seat within the next 12 months.


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.

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  1. This article is so on point! A poignant ‘wake up’ call as I prepare to attack the board appointment journey frontally in 2023! Thank you for the deep insights.