Melanie Glover on Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone (Guest Post)

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone (Adobe Images)

I welcome my first guest blogger, Melanie Glover, a personal friend on the career path journey. Melanie is a young attorney and certified personal trainer who writes about professional development, health, nutrition and exercise at Balanza and Beyond.

Melanie Glover
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

Every time I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, it has hurt.  But I have not once regretted it. 

It was the beginning of my legal career, and I had to cover a hearing for my supervisor.  The hearing was supposed to be simple and straightforward.  It was not supposed to take long.  However, everything turned out how I least expected. 

The hearing that was supposed to last five minutes lasted five hours as I waited for other attorneys to take their turns with their clients before the Judge.  I came back a second and then a third time; I went back and forth with the Judge on the record; and I interacted with my client.  I was not prepared for that marathon day in Court when what I had been expecting was a five-minute hearing.  At the end of the day, I just wanted to hide:  despite my all-afternoon efforts, we would have to appeal.

I confess:  I felt like I had let my client and myself down. 

The hearing was supposed to last five minutes.
It lasted five hours.

Then, after several months, I took a step back and reflected.  I learned practical things, such as (1) always to take my Statute with me to Court, and (2) to always be prepared for a hearing to last all day. 

But I also learned a deeper lesson to apply to life in general both in my professional and personal lives.  I learned that undesirable situations might just bring a person to the edge of discomfort only to come out on the other side with a fresh perspective, a new relationship, or some other productive and creative energy or opportunity.

That day I felt less than my best self in front of my colleagues, the Judge, and my client.  But after further examining the experience, I realize that I also made a valuable friendship with another attorney who went through the same experience by my side.  And out of that friendship, I have been able to commiserate, receive advice, and even give advice.  In summary, I have learned that even what seem to be the most challenging situations at the time can still produce hope; you just have to look – and practice looking – for it.

When we reflect, we learn.  And when we fall, we do not have to stay defeated.  We can stand back up, and we can learn from the tumble.  Coming to a positive conclusion after enduring hard circumstances is not comfortable.  In fact, it can be a bit reckless; but it is unexpectedly worthwhile. 

When we fall, we do not have to stay defeated.
Search for that unexpected gift.

My overarching advice for young professionals is to search for that unexpected gift – a lesson, relationship, or new skill – in difficult circumstances.  Searching deep and wide for the good within the bad is definitely a practice that I have had to acquire intentionally.  But those trying situations have allowed me to practice seeking the underlying positive message despite the adversity. 

Guest post insert and image © 2016 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved. Originally published at Balanza and Beyond on July 22, 2016. 

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Melanie Glover is a young lawyer and certified personal trainer who blogs about creating a healthy, balanced lifestyle through tips on fitness, nutrition, and self care.  Her blog is a personal endeavor to help others become the best versions of their personal and professional selves and can be found at Balanza and Beyond. Melanie’s book on an American’s view into a Spanish kitchen, Fusión Cultural, is available on Amazon. 

6 Key Value-Proposition Questions to Understand Your Personal ROI

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Think beyond your current experience.

Have you ever defined your highest “value proposition” – both to your current company and in general? It is not always a simple thing to do.

Another way to think about value propositions is to borrow a concept from the investing world. What is your personal ROI? What return on an employer’s investment do you bring? If your total compensation is $50,000, $100,000 or $500,000 a year (plus benefits), for example, is the employer’s investment worth it, and why?

Think beyond your current ROI. Focus not only on the experience you bring and what you have done in the past, but also the greater value you can offer.

We often let our job titles and duties lead our thoughts about our professional net worth, but our true value add to a company is not best expressed by what department we are in or what tasks we have completed. We need to think beyond that and take a look at what problems we solve, what we have accomplished and how we do the job differently (and better) than anyone else who could have held the same role.

Key value-proposition questions include:

1)  How does my role fit into the organization’s big picture?

2) If I left my role tomorrow, what gaps would need to be filled?

3) What have I accomplished in the last 6, 12 and 24 months?

4) Where do I consistently receive positive feedback? Is the feedback meaningful to help me define my unique strengths and talents?

5) What basic needs of my employer do I meet? Providing vision, generating profit, supporting growth, managing risk or something else altogether? Be specific as to needs and how you meet them.

6) Where do I want to move next professionally and how can it benefit me and my current/future employer?

Beyond our current companies, we need to ask how our roles over time fit into our long-term vision for our careers, including our values, talents, strengths, interests, competencies and risk tolerances. Many of us lead careers that we have not fully examined, and therefore miss finding meaning in our careers, which leads to dissatisfaction and ultimately does not let us reach our potential. Defining your value proposition in this larger context helps you understand yourself and your role(s) better, so that not only do you find a better fit, but you are better able to communicate your worth.

This larger definition of value proposition takes more time than most of us are willing to invest, which is why those who do invest that time and energy have a distinct advantage. As you think about your career, what has made you stand out in each of your various roles? Can you tie these together or do you notice a trend?

Takeaway question: are you passionate about the things for which you are known, and if not, how can you become known for the things you are passionate about? 

Even if you are not passionate about all aspects of your job, you can tailor it to bring the role closer to what you do find challenging, interesting and meaningful.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She is currently completing her first book, on job interviews, which will be available in early 2017. To join her monthly mailing list and receive a preview of the chapter on value propositions, please click here and write “Book Preview” in the comments section.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Image from Shutterstock.


Young Women Lawyers: Get Respect

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“Our outside counsel is always very condescending toward me. He takes time to make comments in front of my bosses that make me look very bad. I may not know a quarter of what he does as an expert, but I am still the client.

I am tired of it but don’t know how to deal with this.” 

This morning I received an email from a young client that outlined the scenario above. It is one of many inquiries I have received as a coach, and as a senior attorney beforehand, that revolve around a single, critical issue: As a young woman attorney (or, in some cases, a senior woman attorney), how can I get the respect I deserve?

Each scenario has its own fine details, but here are some of the points to consider when a situation like this affects you, and ways to achieve greater resolution and respect:

1.   Keep your cool, if possible. I have had senior women partners at major law firms tell me in person that the proverbial “they thought I was a secretary” has actually happened to them.

In one instance that I remember clearly, an attorney (let’s call her Isabel) told me that upon meeting a new partner (Kevin) randomly in an elevator one morning, after their firms merged, said that she was glad to meet him and be able to work with him. Kevin said hello and followed up question about her typing speed.

Isabel answered sweetly, “I am going to let that one slide, as it is clear that you didn’t realize I am one of your new partners.” Rather than being mortified, she let the news sink in and allowed him be mortified by his mistake. At the same time, she didn’t denigrate support staff as a role beneath her, which doesn’t help anyone either, just stated the facts. Isabel told me that to this day, Kevin is extra careful to be respectful around her.

While this may sound like something only a partner can pull off, associates can also keep their cool when asked to get coffee (while the male associates are working on a deal) and the like. The key is to stay calm, rather than sounding like you are annoyed or resentful, even though you may be. Humor works too.

“Sorry, I don’t do coffee. Or windows.”

2.  Enlist your superiors. The worst thing you can do is imagine that you will change someone’s behavior unless there is some real leverage over him/her. It is likely that attorneys and others who do not give you the respect you deserve will not be aware of how they are acting until someone they do respect points it out to them. If there is a consistent pattern of mistreatment, you need to find someone you trust who can try to remedy the situation. If you maintain good working relationships with people above you, that conversation is much easier. Remember not to accuse the person but focus instead on the behavior.

In some cases, rather than enlisting the person’s support, it might be a topic first broached as a request for advice, “Isabel, I have a question about Kevin. Last night while I was drafting your Shareholders’ Agreement, he asked me to get him coffee. Any ideas how to approach that if it happens again?”

If possible, avoid the words “problem” or “issue” if you can, at least in the first conversation. You are simply asking for input about how to improve the situation, not labeling it as a problem (which may stick in Isabel’s mind to your detriment, as unfair as that seems). Of course, if the lack of respect is much more serious, then it does need to be raised as such. 

3.  Understand that the institution may be broken. There are times – more than we wish to know about – that bad behavior is tolerated because an individual is otherwise valuable to the firm. Usually this means he/she is making the firm lots of money, but there are other reasons that someone may be able to consistently act poorly to others and remain in a seat of power. In these cases, you need to figure out if you can (generally) isolate yourself from the individual without harming your career, or if it is time to move on.

If you have determined that senior management will continue to allow certain individuals to undermine you and treat you poorly, it is important to free yourself of the toxicity that can result from being too long in that type of environment, which can have an affect on your overall health. 

4.  Embody confidence gracefully. If you are subject to condescension, be confident without doing a reverse power play. Know your strengths, and do not allow yourself to be “tripped up” by the fancy footwork of someone who thrives on always being right or in charge. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your homework, get up to speed or (at times) work hard to understand complicated things on your own. What is does mean is that people are much less likely to talk over you or give you short shrift if you make it clear that it is not in their best interest to do so.

For example, if I were in the same situation as my client above, I would probably say something like, “Thanks, Joe, I’m glad you understand all of this so well. What’s important for both of us right now is for me to understand the parts I need to advise Susan [the CEO] on this transaction. I don’t need to become an expert. I just need you to slow down and explain this one part again so I can get it right and anticipate her questions about it.”

If Joe still lords over you, you may need to speak up for yourself again, or call back for clarification. “You sent me to the statute, but when I read the statute, it isn’t exactly as I heard you explain it. Let me walk you through what I heard again. Yep, I want to make completely sure the rules haven’t changed and there is nothing else we are missing in this case…. Do you have the statute in front of you? OK, call me back when you have it open…”

What is crucial here is that you step into the role of power, without ever calling direct attention to that fact. You are the one advising the CEO (or other senior management). Joe is there to serve you and your company, which is why you are paying him in the first place. Don’t make him lose face by saying it directly, especially if you have no direct influence over whether to fire him and hire someone else. (Influence you should take pains to cultivate over time, by the way.)

Take the microphone, as the saying goes, rather than telling Joe that he needs to give it to you.

5.  Invoke curiosity. Just as coming from a place of humor can work to diffuse a situation, so can curiosity. I will give you an example from my law firm days. I was representing a CEO who has just fired his COO. My guy claimed that the other guy just wasn’t doing any work, but there was an issue that the employment agreement (which thankfully I hadn’t drafted) did not explicitly list this as a reason the COO could be fired. The dispute was not only over regular compensation, but whether the COO should receive any future profits or be cut off on the date of termination.

The COO’s lawyer called me in a hot and bothered state. His guy was not going to budge. He would get 100% of what he was asking for or we were going to court. And what did I think about that?

I could have been offended along the lines of “Who was this person trying to crush me like a bug?” I could have gotten huffy in return. But I did not. Instead, I approached the comment with a posture of curiosity. “How interesting that you would take a hardline approach,” I said. “You obviously know that we will just do the same in return. [Which was true.] Our clients have some emotional skin in the game. Don’t you think as lawyers it is our job to keep clear heads?”

It worked. I had leveled the playing field. We were lawyers – equals – and it was our job to sort this out. The other attorney was so flabbergasted he had to get off the phone a few minutes later, flubbing his words. He was obviously used to turning the screws and getting his way, and I had made it clear in so many words that this negotiating tactic would not work with me.

He was mad on a second call. I was curious again. “Are we fighting with each other too now? I thought we were the lawyers.” I then walked him through my points one by one. Again, I threw him off his game, and he stopped talking down to me, because he could see it would get him nowhere. We won the dispute, and I kept my self-respect.

Lawyers and others, if you have your own ideas about how to gain respect in a particular workplace situation, feel free to leave a comment below.

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. For more information, please visit her website at

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.


Image above: Shutterstock.




Key Moments to Raise Your Hand (And Volunteer for New Projects During Your Career)

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When to say “I’ll do it!” and when to let an opportunity pass you by.

In the corporate world, and in other work environments, there are key moments at which you should raise your hand and volunteer for a new project or responsibility. These moments are critical to get right, because once you “own” a project that is going nowhere, it can be difficult or impossible to beg off at a later point. Knowing which moments are the right ones to volunteer is essentially a process of considering the end game: what are you hoping to get from the experience, and what value will it bring?

If you were always someone who raised your hand in school, eager to step up to the plate, you may volunteer too often and get stuck managing or completing projects that have minimal value to you and the organization. If you prefer instead to keep your head down and “get your work done,” you may miss some critical points to increase your leadership, reach and range. Striking a balance between appearing desperate to get noticed for doing a great job and disinterested in new work, here are three key factors to determine whether you should raise your hand when the boss is asking for volunteers.

  1. Is it high profile?
  2. Is it high need?
  3. Are you highly motivated to do it?

In general, if you have at least two out of the three hits above, you should probably be ready to go for it.


All things being equal, high need/high profile projects are, of course, the best projects to be on. You can increase your political capital within the organization by solving something mission-critical, and you can increase your visibility and level of responsibility for years to come.

If you are highly motivated to complete a high need/high profile project, you have the best of all worlds. On the other hand, if you do not initially feel motivated, brainstorm for possible motivators to get you going, including the obvious points I mention above. Generally, if you are in the right field and concerned about your career, you can generate the motivation to complete projects that meet the other two criteria by focusing on the initial and long-term results they will will bring to you and your company, whether or not the day-to-day tasks are always inspiring.

(Note: If you cannot muster up motivation despite the benefits, you may wish to keep your hand down and re-evaluate your commitment to your chosen role.)


High profile projects can bring many benefits, but if they are not important to the organization, consider your motivation before volunteering. You may appear inauthentic, harming your credibility, and in the long run you may not have the commitment to do a good job (while on stage in front of the important individuals and teams within your organization). Examples of high profile/low need projects are the pet projects of senior management, which may allow you to rub elbows with the “right folks” but do not significantly advance (or redeem) the main profit drivers of your organization.


Similar to high profile/low need projects, you may only wish to volunteer for high need/low profile projects when you are and can remain highly committed to them until completed. In addition, you should weigh the number of these types of projects that it makes sense to take on at one time.

If you do have strong (or sufficient) motivation to manage or participate in these projects, they could be a boon for your career, teaching you new substantive skills and helping you develop further leadership and self-reliance. You also will demonstrate your commitment to advance the goals of the company, even when being “in the trenches” does not yield an immediate gold star. That commitment can bridge the gap to yet another project that is more significant, if the earlier ones go well for you, and also give you a sense of accomplishment and meaning in your career.


In the case of a low need/low profile project, you likely should not volunteer regardless of how motivated you are to become engaged in something, unless your goals are no longer aligned with your company and current career path. These projects offer little in terms of advancing your career within a company, and in fact will present an opportunity cost, taking you away from more significant work. If you are tasked with one of these projects without volunteering for it, you may wish to accept it graciously and do your best to complete it (or, if appropriate, discuss your views on why it is not needed). If you are tasked with many of these projects and at the same time wondering why you cannot get traction in your career, you may wish to revisit your career goals and standing within the organization.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

The 3 Basic Challenges in Any Career

At the heart of the matter, there are only three basic career challenges:

  • Finding a new job
  • Leaving an old job
  • Performing in a current job

How to get somewhere, how to leave somewhere and how to be somewhere. That’s it.

shutterstock_291297941 (cropped chess pieces)

We go through our daily lives focused on one or more variants of these problems:

Bringing Our “A Game”

Playing to Our Strengths

Interviewing for a New Role

Surviving a Toxic Workplace

Managing Up

Cultivating a Leadership Presence

Setting Boundaries

Changing Fields

Getting Organized

Surviving a Layoff

Gunning for a Promotion

The truth is that each one of us needs to focus on each of these three basic career challenges on a regular basis, whether it is one or more of the variants I mention above or others. We often get focused on the specific “problem at hand, ” and often in a negative way – hating our boss, hating our hours, hating the product we sell, hating our commute, etc.

If you are consistently focused on the micro-issues, you can lose sight of these macro-challenges in your career: how to get somewhere, how to leavesomewhere and how to be somewhere.

As we all know, no job is permanent in today’s world. Even if you love your job or feel that you need (a relative term) to stay with a specific employer for the foreseeable future, your role is constantly changing and your current situation may not be forever. Being in a role, i.e., drilling down to understand what your company or organization is seeking to accomplish and how you can play a greater role in its continued growth and success, is a skill that is infinitely transferable and, in fact, the most important career skill one can have.

Many of us, however, are locked into the particular career problem de jour without keeping our eyes locked on these medium, long-term and ultimate goals. Others only muse about they would like to do or be next, without taking the time to consider logically each individual step to get them there or asking themselves how they can perform better in their current roles. If you fall into either of these camps, you will suffer from disengagement from your career, because you have relinquished the power to drive it. You may have your hands on the wheel, but your can’t ascertain your speed or direction.

Rather than thinking of each of these three basic career challenges (where you are going, what you are leaving behind and how to live in your current role) as individual hurdles, envision your career as a continuum. Each challenge provides the context for the others, and each stage of the process sheds light on the other stages.

1) Finding a new job

What is your target? Do you have clear focus on what you are seeking and why (specifically, what differentiates a new role from those you have previously held)?

If you can’t see what’s on your horizon, what can you do to gain focus? Exercises that help you clarify your own values and value proposition are very helpful in this regard, as is working with a career coach or mentor. (But remember that mentors, and some coaches, have their own biases and blind spots.)

Along with your increased focus, what can you do to present yourself as a compelling candidate? Your résumé is a core document, but don’t forget about cover letters, deal sheets, bios, websites and LinkedIn, to the extent that any of these can help you advance your goals. Beyond the documents, networking and interviewing skills are key, and they both build on the same principles of presenting ourselves well and being able to translate our message to our target audience. These “personal branding” muscles – to use a current buzzword – are ones we should be exercising every day, so they are strong when needed. Lastly, remember that the best momentum comes from what you are already doing – the current aspects of your professional life, written broadly – and that means all of your career accomplishments, talents and transferable skills, not only the obvious ones.

2) Leaving an old job

If you are familiar with change management, you may already recognize that all change involves loss, even changes from which we stand much to gain. Practicing the art of letting go and visualizing yourself in a changed space before you want or need to leave a job will help prepare you for taking that leap. If the choice to leave is yours, these actions can also help give you the motivation to make the change. The worst place to be in a career (relationship, etc.) is unhappy with where you are and unmotivated to do anything about it, which becomes a cycle that is hard to break. Staying attuned to the art of moving on and aware that you have the power to re-create your own circumstances are decisive factors in your career success.

In addition, even before you are on the crux of leaving a role, think about who and what will be left behind. How can you put yourself in a good place each day, as if it were your last day in the role? One example of such preparation is to cultivate key relationships that you would like to maintain after you leave. Another is to resolve or mitigate any disputes that should not be left to linger, if possible. The world gets metaphorically smaller each day, and former work colleagues can easily become future ones, sometimes for the better. In addition, if your new role will be within the same organization (e.g., a promotion), you will get more help, input and support from former colleagues by creating meaningful relationships before the change and maintaining them after your move. Even if certain colleagues seem to have no visible impact on your new position, you can never truly estimate or measure the value of having a solid base of supporters for your cause.

3) Performing in a current job

First, there’s the art of mindfulness and “being in the moment” to be truly productive, connected and alive.

Second, you really can take it with you. By that I mean that whatever progress you make in a current role, you are not only advancing the goals of your company or organization, you are also growing yourself. Unfortunately, as a career coach, I see firsthand how this is something we can easily miss. As I work on résumé writing with clients, for example, I often find they have not “connected the dots” on how their contributions and experience make them compelling candidates to their target audiences. I approach the résumé writing process not only an exercise in putting the right words on the page, but also in formulating the client’s strongest message (i.e., values and value proposition) in the first place.

Last week, for example, I worked with a client who had a junior-sounding “compliance analyst” role on her résumé. As we spoke further, it became clear that (at her relatively small company) she had not only drafted documents, trained staff and the like, she had also essentially co-lead the creation and formalization of the company’s compliance program. While her current role was not where she wanted to stay, it gave her a realm of tools to bridge and bootstrap to her next move. In addition, as she continued to stay fully engaged in the role, she then brought the company through a series of risk-reward analyses and improvements designed to laser-focus their risk-mitigation efforts on the changes that really mattered to their viability and bottom line. I gave her the language to discuss her experience in a larger context, and with that context she is able to more fully leverage her value proposition.

This client’s lessons, successes and wounds – garnered from the process of discerning, persuading and negotiating game-changing measures across business teams and other functions – will serve her well in any future career. As you reflect on your own career, you may find the same hidden gems are planted as you remain engaged and present, for your employer’s growth and your own.

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal.

Originally published as “The Three Macro-Challenges of Your Career” on LinkedIn Pulse.

Should You Really Start Something New in the New Year?


We are accustomed to think of the New Year as a time to start something new.

New Year, new thing. It makes sense.

Well, what if you took a step back and looked at the change of year not as a chance to do new things, but to bridge the old and the new? What if, instead of starting something new or resolving to make a change, you threw yourself into something you already do well, but did it better in the New Year?

So here’s a short visualization exercise, since this only works if you are dealing with what’s truly personal to you. If you wish, write down five things you already do that are working. This can be for your business, career, personal life, health, etc.

Write down five important things. (It’s better to actually write than just think. Seeing words on the page makes them real.)

Five Things I’m Already Doing Well






Now, write down why these five things are working. What results are you getting from these actions? Are these results that you want to continue to see in the New Year?

Why These Five Things Are Working






Finally, which one(s) are most important to continue doing, so important that you should not only keep doing them, but also invest more time and dedication to them, to do them even better and get stronger, more lasting results?

Things to Ramp Up in the New Year (and How to Do It)






When we are young, it makes sense to continue to try something new every day, season or year. As adults, sometimes that is the right answer, if it breaks us out of bad habits. But many times, the more fruitful course is to build on what we already know or a change that we have already set into motion.

When we do something new, we expand our horizons. When we recommit, we invest in our strengths. Which one makes sense for you in the new year?

Non-Profit Board Membership: The Advantages and Realities

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Serving on a non-profit board can be an experience beyond compare and offer a chance to develop leadership skills, make a meaningful contribution to something larger than yourself and cultivate new personal and professional connections. That said, before you seek out or join a board, it is critical to understand the advantages and realities of board membership.

A number of my clients are interested in non-profit board membership, including those who wish to “start the year out right” and add a new board membership in the first quarter of next year. In this post, I have compiled a list of articles and resources to help my clients and readers understand some important points about non-profit boards, specifically:

  • what makes you an attractive candidate for non-profit board membership or leadership,

  • how your board résumé should differ from a straight employment résumé (hint: highlight volunteer work, former board memberships (if any) and transferrable skills the organization needs),

  • how being on a non-profit board can help ease the transition into a leadership role at a non-profit organization (from the corporate world) or a for-profit board, if either of these is a goal, and

  • the advantages and realities of board membership.

The key point to make is that non-profit organizations are often run very differently than private companies, and joining a non-profit board for which you are not passionately aligned with the cause generally results in a negative experience – on both ends (for the board member and the non-profit organization). A second point is that not all non-profits and, by extension, their boards are alike. If you are already very familiar with the non-profit world this is obvious, but if you are approaching non-profits without much direct experience, be ready to objectively evaluate the board, separate from your commitment to its mission, including:

  • expectations of members (including financial support or fundraising),
  • board members’  sophistication,
  • how the Executive Director and major donors interact with the board,
  • how effectively the organization utilizes the time and talents of board members,
  • any inter-board rivalry, departure from mission or disagreements,
  • dates and times of meetings, committees and other obligations, and
  • “scalability” of the organization, if appropriate,
  • major funding sources and how certain are they to remain so (and if the non-profit has identified alternatives),
  • financials, corporate governance and compliance (start with the Form 990 and ask more questions from there), and
  • who its competitors and potential/current collaborators may be, who is providing similar services (more generally), how cognizant the board is about these points and how they affect service to beneficiaries of the organization’s mission.

If you are considering joining a non-profit board, the best thing you can do is to educate yourself about the organization, what it means to be a board member and who will be joining you on the journey (including the Executive Director, senior staff, donors and fellow board members).

Here are some additional articles and resources with a range of topics and viewpoints on non-profit board candidacy and membership:

Nonprofit Boards: How to Find a Rewarding Board Position (Bridgespan)

Find and Join a Nonprofit Board (Bridgespan)

How to Get a Seat on a Nonprofit Board (Forbes)

Ten Things Boards Do Right (Without Even Realizing It) (Blue Avocado)

Ten Biggest Mistakes Boards and Executives Make (Blue Avocado)

Community Resources: Joining a Nonprofit Board and Other Resources (BoardSource)

Board service (Idealist)

Before you join that board… (Wall Street Journal)

How to Be a Better Nonprofit Board Member (Stanford Business)

Nonprofit Board Basics Online (CompassPoint)

Board Roles and Responsibilities (National Council of Nonprofits)

General nonprofit information and updates (Guidestar)

Want a seat on a board? Rewrite your resume (Fortune) (note: addresses for-profit board positions, but many of the ideas are applicable to non-profit boards as well)

Note: In addition to the above, if you are a professional with specific expertise that is useful to a board, such as an attorney, accountant or CFO, consider how much the Executive Director and other board members will ask for direct legal or financial advice versus consulting outside advisors (and whether you are comfortable giving it – ethically, liability-focused and otherwise – as a board member) as opposed to simply relying on your general expertise and management of those advisors. Smaller boards often like to have a “legal person” and a “finance person” on their board in order to leverage such experience and ferret out red flags, which is very helpful. Sometimes, however, this crosses over into you being asked to provide legal advice or expected to “pass on” numbers, which should be outside of the scope of your fiduciary duties.

If you are actively pursuing a board position, it pays to be open to more than one organization and consider the tradeoffs of each, as well as what you would bring to the table. In addition, remember that seeking out a board is similar in some ways to a job search, referrals and endorsements go a long way, as well as personal connections. The ball may be in your court to make the contacts – and to follow up – even if the board has expressed an interest in having you join. In addition, don’t forget to let your LinkedIn network know that you are interested in a board position and your relevant experience (by including it on your profile), as non-savvy profits may also source board members on LinkedIn.

The above resources will get you started and on your way to discovering the inner workings of board selection and membership, including advantages and pitfalls to avoid. As a final point, which cannot be emphasized enough, only join a non-profit board if you are devoted enough to its cause that you can tough it out through the minor (or major) aggravations that may arise over time. That said, board membership is an important and very needed form of skilled volunteership in our society, so if you have the skills and willingness to move forward, by all means, seek out a board!

Anne Marie Segal is a career and leadership coach and résumé writer to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website at

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

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