Board Service: A Career Advancement Tool for Clients

By Laura Johnson

Securing a board position, whether corporate or non-profit, can be rewarding and transformative, offering career coaching clients the chance to influence governance and impact communities while providing an option for career advancement. Board membership is an advancement strategy that positions clients as leaders with good judgment who are trusted to look after the best interests of an organization (Blanc, 2016).  

Board service does more than add credibility to a client’s resume. It offers the opportunity for them to participate in governance, decision-making, and strategic planning processes that shape the future of organizations (SpencerStuart.com, 2010). For clients, board membership can:

  • provide a high-level leadership experience
  • enhance strategic planning skills
  • offer networking opportunities
  • build financial acumen
  • increase their visibility and reputation
  • create professional development opportunities
  • provide exposure to diverse perspectives
  • build understanding of corporate governance

Istock 1511332387 Credit Jacob Wacherhausen

Responsibilities of Board Membership  

Board members are expected to provide guidance, strategic direction, and oversight in the best interest of the organization, ensuring its health, compliance, and alignment with its goals. The role requires a commitment to the organization's mission, a willingness to engage deeply with its challenges and opportunities, and the ability to contribute valuable insights and leadership (BoardClic.com, 2023).

Organizations typically look for individuals who can bring expertise, experience, and a network of contacts to the table. Depending on the type of board, the expectations and compensation for board members can vary widely.

  • Corporate Boards: Board members oversee the strategic direction and governance of publicly traded and private companies. They receive annual compensation that may include annual retainers, stock options, and deferred stock.
  • Non-profit Boards: Members oversee the mission, strategy, and financial management of non-profit organizations. They also ensure the organization's resources are used efficiently and ethically. Usually, board members are not paid and are expected to make personal donations, fundraise via their network, and volunteer at events.
  • Advisory Boards: Board members provide expert advice and support to the management of companies or organizations. They do not have governance responsibilities or legal obligations, and they may be compensated for their time through equity, cash, or other perks.
  • Start-up Boards: Members, including founders, investors, and experts, guide young companies through growth and scaling challenges while providing strategic direction and financial oversight. Members may be compensated through equity, cash, or expense reimbursement.


Integrating Board Service into Career Development

The key skills typically required for board members include a blend of industry-specific knowledge, digital competence, and a strong foundation in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles, alongside soft skills such as adaptability and emotional intelligence (BoardClic.com, 2023).  Integrating board service into career development can occur at any stage, as shown in the following examples:

Early career professionals should focus on building a solid foundation of skills and experiences, seek out mentorship, and be open to learning opportunities. Engaging in board volunteer roles, committees, or junior boards can help build one’s credentials and network (Khandewal & Eades, n.d.).

Mid-level professionals should highlight leadership experiences and specific skillsets such as financial expertise or digital transformation knowledge. They should seek opportunities that offer strategic influence and professional growth, such as non-profit boards, advisory boards, and smaller private company boards where they can share their specialization.

Senior-level professionals can use board service to amplify their impact on the industry, mentor the next generation of leaders, and apply experience to guide organizations through challenges and opportunities (SpencerStuart.com, 2010). They can utilize their network, including fellow executives and board members, to identify opportunities in corporate boards of publicly traded or large private companies, leadership positions in non-profit boards, and founding advisory boards for new ventures or startups.

How Career Practitioners Can Help

Career practitioners can be instrumental in helping clients explore and evaluate how board roles can shape their professional path, enhance their skills, and provide opportunities for their growth and influence. By providing tailored advice, resources, and continuous support, practitioners can help clients secure board roles that align with their career goals, and to excel in those positions, using these strategies.

  • Career Assessment and Gap Analysis: Use tools such as SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to board roles.
  • Market Analysis:
    • What types of organizations or industries align with the client’s skills and interests?
    • What and where are the emerging trends in board composition, such as diversity initiatives? What sectors are experiencing growth?
  • Personal Branding:
    • What core strengths and achievements does the client want to highlight?
    • What aspects of their professional experience are most relevant?
    •  How can they use professional social media platforms to enhance their visibility?
  • Tailored Development Plans:
    • What real-world application and learning (formal education, workshops, or mentoring) would bridge the client’s gaps?
    • How can they leverage their current role to develop skills that are critical for board participation, such as special assignments, projects, and committees?
  •  Networking for Success:
    • Who are the key individuals who could support or guide the client?
    • What networking events, groups, or associations will expand their connections?

Finding Board Opportunities

By leveraging networking, career development, and community involvement, aspiring board members can enhance their visibility and appeal to organizations seeking new directors. Resources that provide tools and insights for navigating this process include:


The path to a board position can be challenging, but it can also be a journey of personal and professional growth. Practitioners can help clients understand the nuances of board service, navigate the path to a board position based on their unique skills and passions, and position themselves as a valuable candidate for board roles.



Blanc, A. (2016, June 8). Being a board member is a three-step strategy for advancement, not a retirement plan. Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/averyblank/2016/06/08/being-a-board-member-is-a-3-step-strategy-for-advancement-not-a-retirement-plan/?sh=7528f5713ded

BoardClic. (2023, Dec. 20). These are the six most desired board skills for 2024. https://boardclic.com/blog/these-are-the-six-most-desired-board-skills-for-2024

Khandewal, A., & Eades, S. (n.d.). 10 things I learned while serving on a young professionals board. BoardAssist. https://boardassist.org/blog/10-things-learned-serving-young-professionals-board/

SpencerStuart. (2010, May). The benefits of board service. https://www.spencerstuart.com/research-and-insight/the-benefits-of-board-service


Laura Johnson 2024Laura Johnson, CEO/Creative Director of  LLEJ Careers LLC, is a Certified Master in Personal Branding and Digital Strategy who excels in helping executives showcase their unique value. Drawing on her 16 years of experience serving more than 1,000 clients across various industries, she offers personalized, accessible services that shape personal brands and significantly enhance the professional legacies of her top-tier executive clients. Laura partners with her clients to communicate their value in a way that resonates with board search committees and recruiters, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to organizations. She can be reached at Laura@LLEJCareers.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-lee-ellen-johnson 

Printer-Friendly Version

1 Comment

Laura Johnson   on Monday 04/08/2024 at 10:15 AM

Serving on a board catapults you into a realm of innovative governance, cross-industrial insights, and elite networking circles, invaluable for navigating today's dynamic business ecosystem. It enriches your strategic toolkit, offering fresh viewpoints and enhancing your capacity to guide your company through complex challenges.

A special shoutout to NCDA and Elyse Pipitone for championing this conversation and spotlighting the untapped potential within board service. Their dedication to advancing career development at every level continues to inspire practitioners not just to witness change but to drive it.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.