Preparing to Pitch Yourself for Corporate Board Roles: Corporate Board Series, Part 3


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At some point in your career, if you have achieved a certain of success as an executive, you may be considering a corporate board role as a possible and logical next step. Yet the process of creating a “board pitch” can take you out of your comfort zone, as it requires you to view your career through an entirely new lens.

Boards want candidates who are poised to lead an organization and leave the day-to-day administration to someone else (i.e., management). They are focused on high-level, high-impact decision-making, so as you brand yourself and prepare your “why me?” pitch, these are the qualities that should come into greatest focus.

Here are some key points to consider:

Your Audience

The audience for your board pitch should be a carefully selected group of individuals that includes networking contacts, board recruiters, board-marketplace groups and the actual target boards of directors:

(1) Networking Contacts. Your networking contacts often serve as the most fertile ground for your board pitch, as the majority of board roles come from board members’ current networks and word-of-mouth communications. (The percentage of public board roles filled from these sources is nearly 70%, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Corporate Directors.)

If your current network does not include CEOs, sitting board members and others with access to boards, I suggest that – before you consider yourself ready for a board role – you take steps to expand your network in that direction. (My next post in this series will explore how to make connections to land a corporate board seat.)

If your current network does include the right mix of networking contacts, you will need to muster up the courage, gravitas and good sense to leverage those connections and create mutual benefit for you and the individuals who will be referring you. In other words, the benefit to you is the chance to make your pitch to the right audience, and the benefit to your networking contact is to have successfully delivered a viable, poised and compelling board candidate.

(2) Board Recruiters. There are a number of recruiters who routinely conduct and complete board searches, and many of them are focused on expanding the talent pool beyond the “usual suspects” of traditional board candidates. (I have posted links to some of the top recruiters here.)

The best corporate board recruiters will have an in-depth understanding of the companies with which they are placing candidates, including corporate strategy, board dynamics and culture fit. Getting in front of these recruiters can often be as difficult as getting in front of the boards themselves, so you may need to rely on your network for introductions here as well.

In any case, take care not to get ahead of yourself. In today’s world, don’t expect many recruiters to have the bandwidth to help you assess whether you are ready for a board role, especially a recruiter you do not know well. Recruiters are hit with too many candidates vying for their time – for board search as well as job search – to be able to provide that level of hands-on, personalized attention to all but a handful of candidates. Instead, prepare yourself as a board-ready candidate with a convincing elevator pitch first, then approach the recruiter, so you do not lose that ephemeral chance to make a solid first impression.

(3) Board-Readiness, Education and Marketplace Groups. There is a range of organizations that can help you prepare yourself for a board role and/or broadcast your candidacy to a wider audience, with differing barriers to entry and effectiveness. In addition, many graduate schools of business offer executive education in corporate governance for board members. Links to some of these organizations and aggregator sites with further links are here. For many of them, you will need to submit an application, which may include some of the documents I list below.

(4) Actual Board Targets. Lastly, don’t forget that the ultimate and most important audience to whom you will be pitching is the specific board itself, namely the Nominating & Governance Committee in most cases and thereafter the wider board. Do your diligence on the board and company so that you can speak directly to their needs for a new board member.

Your “Portfolio” of Board-Ready Communications

While the above constituencies are the audiences to whom you should make your desire to join a corporate board of directors known, there is also the question of how you can best communicate your pitch to join a board. I have mentioned above that before you formally start the process of consistently putting yourself out there for a role, you should make sure you are a board-ready candidate. In addition to gaining the right experience to be a compelling candidate, here are the different and related means of verbal and written communication to have at your disposal:

(1) Board Biography. Your central document as a board candidate is the board bio, which is often a short narrative (one to two pages, sometimes with attachments) that presents you in third person and illuminates the value you bring to the board, including leadership, industry and substantive experience and what can be loosely described as “caché.”  Unlike a traditional U.S. resume, it also may include a small photo in the top right or left hand corner.

The board bio should be clean, inviting, well-written and distilled. If you have current or former board or committee service, including with non-profit entities, this is often listed near the top. Significant honors or awards, certifications and educational qualifications should also be included, with the aim to produce a document that signals you are of the right quality and caliber for a board role without sounding stuck on yourself.

(2) Value Proposition and Elevator Pitch. Building on the exercise of creating a board bio, you can further distill what you offer a board into a short value proposition that can serve as the basis for an email or cover letter regarding your board candidacy as well as an elevator pitch that you can give (and tailor more specifically to) one of your target audiences. 

(3) Board Resume. Sometimes, a board resume is also requested during the board search process, although it is less commonly used than the board bio. The board resume differs from an executive resume principally in its emphasis on those accomplishments and characteristics that would be relevant to board service. I will cover board bios and resumes further in Part 6 of the corporate board series.

(4) LinkedIn. Just as you make your network aware of your availability for and interest in a board role through informal conversations and other interactions, you can take another look at your LinkedIn profile to determine whether it conveys your board-ready expertise and gravitas or could use some more help in that regard. I will give some specific suggestions for LinkedIn profiles as they relate to seeking out a board role in Part 7 of this series.

Copyright 2020 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.

For additional articles in the Corporate Board Series, click

For links to corporate board resources, click here.

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Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years, including roles at White & Case LLP and a prominent hedge and private equity fund manager, before launching her coaching practice. 

Based in Connecticut not far from New York City, Anne Marie partners with clients internationally on executive presence, impactful communications, graceful transitions and other aspects of professional and personal development. 

To join her mailing list, click here.

Introducing Corporate Board Service: A New Monthly Series Launching in January 2020 @

Corporate Board Series - From Vision to Close -

If you are considering corporate board service among your goals for the New Year, mark this site for a 10-part series launching in 2020.

During the second week of each month (other than August), will feature a new post on a key topic for prospective corporate board members, with particular emphasis on landing your first board role.

The first article, coming out on next Monday, January 13, 2020, is Articulating Your Vision for Corporate Board Service. For the full list of upcoming articles in the series, please click here.

If you are or wish to be on a corporate board and would like to provide input or be interviewed for this series, please contact me as soon as possible by email or through the Contact Page on this site.

To join my monthly email list, click here.

I have some other exciting series and articles launching in the New Year, along with a new course on Excited to share them in the coming weeks!



Anne Marie Segal Post Banner

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, resume writer and author of two well-received books on interviewing and career development. She served as a corporate attorney for 15 years, including roles at White & Case LLP and a prominent hedge and private equity fund manager, before launching her coaching practice. 

Based in Connecticut not far from New York City, Anne Marie partners with clients internationally on executive presence, impactful communications, graceful transitions and other aspects of professional and personal development. She also hosts an online learning site at

Non-Profit Board Membership: The Advantages and Realities

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.

shutterstock_337000853 (board)

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.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.

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