My next move: non-executive directorship

I am a senior HR executive in financial services and I’m keen to broaden my skills. One of my networking buddies said a good way to do this would be to take a non-executive director role at another company. I would like to take a couple of days a month to work with other businesses in this way. What is the best way to go about securing such roles, and how will this impact my career in HR?

Companies employ non-executive directors (NEDs) mainly to offer strategic, specific and objective advice at executive meetings. This typically involves attending board meetings, where you provide advice to the board broadly based on your experience.

As a NED, you would normally only work on a part-time basis, which fits in with your desire to work one or two days a month. However, these will be dictated by the days that the organisation has its board meeting.

The best way to secure a NED role is to use your own network. But there are also a number of specialist firms that offer NED positions, as well as online resources. Try, for example.

Most organisations look for individuals with significant industry experience and experience of business start-up/turnaround, working with venture capitalists and/or other not-for-profit organisations. An excellent place to get experience is the voluntary sector, where you can offer your skills for a reduced or pro-bono arrangement.

You must be clear about the skills you have to enable you to deal with the multifaceted and challenging role of being a NED. You should complete your own due diligence on the organisation before taking up an appointment.

You need to understand the role and responsibilities of a NED and what you need to do to be effective in this role. Another area that is important for you to understand is where you stand legally as a NED, as decisions you make in the role could come under scrutiny if the company got into any trouble.

The impact that being a NED will have on your HR career can only be a positive one, as it will broaden your experiences and skills, which will be of benefit to any organisation.

However, if you are unable to find a role as a NED, you may want to consider gaining more business experience by moving into interim management. This can offer many benefits as you can develop a portfolio career, which will give you access to other industries that may not have been open to you previously.

Answer by Gail Bell, managing director, Interim Performers

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