How to Join a Corporate Board (Step-by-Step)

  • By: Adam Wire
  • October 5, 2023
Corporate Board
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Joining a corporate board of directors is a significant milestone in one’s career, offering unique opportunities for professional growth, networking, and contributing to a company’s strategic direction. However, becoming a board member requires careful planning, dedication, and a clear understanding of the responsibilities involved.

Whether you’re a seasoned executive or a rising professional, understanding and being comfortable with meeting software for directors, board chairs, and trustees is a valuable skill that can make you more appealing to potential boards. Read on to learn more about how to join a corporate board.

What is a Corporate Board?

A corporate board, or governing board, is a group appointed or elected to oversee a corporation’s strategic direction, decision-making, and governance. These boards exist in various entities, including publicly traded companies, privately held businesses, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and governmental agencies.

While a corporate board’s specific roles and responsibilities vary based on the organization’s size, industry, and unique bylaws, they typically perform the following duties:

  • Governance and oversight: Corporate boards are responsible for ensuring they operate in the best interests of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the broader community. 
  • Strategic decision-making: Make key decisions related to long-term goals, business plans, mergers and acquisitions, and other critical matters influencing the company’s growth and sustainability.
  • Risk management: Identify and mitigate risks that could threaten the organization’s success. Corporate boards assess various financial, operational, legal, and reputational risks, and implement strategies to manage them effectively.
  • Shareholder and stakeholder representation: Represent the interests of shareholders by ensuring transparency, accountability, and ethical behavior within the company.
  • CEO oversight: Evaluate the CEO’s performance, provide guidance and support, and, when necessary, hire or remove the CEO. This strategy ensures the company’s leadership remains effective and aligned with the board’s vision.
  • Financial stewardship: Oversee the company’s financial health. Corporate boards approve budgets, financial statements, and significant financial transactions. 
  • Legal compliance: Ensure the organization complies with all applicable laws and regulations. Corporate boards oversee legal matters, including potential lawsuits, and establish internal controls to prevent unethical or illegal behavior.
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Steps to Join a Corporate Board

Starting the journey to join a corporate board is a significant career move that begins with understanding the roles of different board members. For instance, independent directors aren’t affiliated with the company’s day-to-day operations. They are chosen for their impartiality and ability to provide an objective perspective. Both inside and outside directors play vital roles in the company’s daily operations. 

The process for joining a corporate board or executive board varies from one organization to the next in accordance with that organization’s unique bylaws. In general, it includes these steps: 

1. Development of Relevant Skills and Expertise

It’s essential to cultivate skills and expertise that align with the organization’s needs to be an attractive candidate for a corporate board position. Focus on areas such as finance, industry-specific knowledge, legal matters, leadership, and governance.

Effective board members are distinguished by their leadership abilities. Develop your leadership skills by taking on leadership roles in professional associations, nonprofit organizations, or your current workplace. Leadership experience demonstrates your ability to guide and make decisions at a strategic level.

2. Build a Strong Professional Network

Networking is vital in securing a board position. Engage with industry professionals, attend conferences, join relevant associations, and seek opportunities to connect with individuals with board connections. 

Volunteering for nonprofit organizations and community initiatives can expand your network while showcasing your commitment to social responsibility. Many board members have connections in the nonprofit sector that can lead to corporate board opportunities.

After meeting new contacts, follow up with them promptly. Send personalized thank-you notes or emails, and stay in touch periodically to maintain the relationship. Networking is an ongoing process, and consistency is critical.

3. Seek Professional Training and Education

To become a highly qualified candidate for a corporate board position, investing in professional training and education is a proactive step. Enroll in corporate governance programs offered by reputable business schools, universities, and professional organizations. Look for courses that cover topics such as board responsibilities, ethics, and legal compliance.

In addition, stay informed about current governance trends, regulatory changes, and emerging issues in your industry. Subscribe to relevant publications, journals, and newsletters to keep your knowledge up-to-date.

4. Identify and Pursue Board Opportunities

This process requires research, strategic planning, and effective use of resources. Begin by defining your objectives and preferences. Consider the type of organization, like public, private, or nonprofit, industry sector, and geographic location that aligns with your interests and expertise. 

Utilize board databases and directories that list board positions and vacancies. These databases, often available through professional organizations or online services, can provide valuable leads.

Pursuing board opportunities may take time, and rejection is common. Stay persistent in your efforts, continue networking, and adapt your approach based on feedback and evolving goals.

5. Prepare for Board Interviews

Interviews are rigorous and demand a thorough understanding of the organization and a compelling presentation of your qualifications and vision. Familiarize yourself with the company’s governance structure, including the composition of the board, committees, and key leadership roles.

Be prepared to discuss how you view the relationship between the board and the CEO. Highlight your approach to collaboration and oversight. In addition, prepare for potential interview questions that may challenge your qualifications or test your problem-solving skills. Practice articulating thoughtful and reasoned responses.

OnBoard Powers Effective Boards

Once you earn a board position, it’s time to get to work. Consider implementing a board portal software solution to help boost efficiency. OnBoard’s board portal platform offers user-friendly design, intuitive meeting creation tools, insightful analytics, and real-time collaboration.

OnBoard features include:

  • Agenda builder
  • Board assessments
  • Diversity reporting
  • Minutes builder
  • Meeting analytics
  • Videoconferencing integrations
  • And much more!

Download OnBoard’s free board meeting minutes template to simplify the process of capturing and documenting critical meeting discussions and decisions.

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About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.