Creating a Path to Getting on a Board

I was recently asked to give advice to an amazing group of women about getting on boards. This is a request I receive frequently which is why we are thrilled to partner with the Small Business Administration, LinkedIn and 16 other organizations to launch the ONBOARD Initiative. The Open Network for Board Diversity is looking to increase the number of women and underrepresented talent on corporate boards.

Landing a board position is very much tied to how successfully you navigate your career path and develop and nurture your network. Sounds straightforward and easy but in reality not so much!

We would all like a playbook to help guide us through our career. The need for “insider” tips and strategies is especially keen for the millions of women in the workplace who will find themselves at an inflection point whether they are (1) looking to excel in their current role/company, (2) feeling stuck and seeking a new opportunity, or (3) looking to re-engage in the formal workplace. They will all face and ask the same question: Where do I start?

Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey to start answering that question:

Develop a strong personal brand. What’s the most important brand of all? Yours! Whether you’re looking for a new career opportunity or simply wanting to raise your game, putting the time into building your personal brand is essential. Get visible and make sure you can tell a compelling story of accomplishments, skills and talents.You want your name to be top of mind when opportunities are being discussed.
Have a personal board of directors. Your network is one of the most important assets you have. Moreover, the workplace at times can be a bit isolating. Develop a strong personal board of advisors – a personal dream team in your corner. A strong personal board of directors should have six types of members –a mentor, a sponsor, a connector, a point expert, a close friend, and an executive coach.
Cultivate Your Voice – Ask the question! Think of what you would most want to know or what you find troubling and speak up. Chances are there are others in the room or around the table thinking the same thing. You also have the ability to change the course by being authentic and letting your voice be heard.
Negotiate your compensation. It’s imperative that we advocate for ourselves. We have to know our worth and make the ask. The consequences go beyond leaving significant money on the table. First, it is often difficult to close the salary gap once you have fallen behind. Second, we have to be able to ask not only for salary but also for additional opportunities and/or promotions. Beyond the fact that you’re not advocating for yourself, the lack of negotiating on your own behalf may lead to questions about your ability to manage, especially as you move up in your organization.

Lisa Skeete Tatum
About the author: 

Lisa Skeete Tatum is the Founder and CEO of Landit, a technology platform created to increase the success and engagement of women in the workplace.  Previously, Lisa was a General Partner for over a decade with Cardinal Partners.  She also worked for Procter & Gamble and GE Capital in various global and functional roles.  Lisa serves on the boards of Surgical Care Affiliates (NASDAQ:SCAI), McCarter Theater and the Princeton Area Community Foundation. She is a trustee emeritus and presidential councillor at Cornell University and serves on the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors. She is a past President of the Harvard Business School Alumni Board and a former board member of Pager, the Kauffman Fellows Program’s Center for Venture Education and the Princeton HealthCare System Foundation. Lisa received her BS in chemical engineering from Cornell University and her MBA from Harvard Business School.  Follow her on LinkedIn.