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4 reasons to join a board of directors

Posted by Jennifer Spencer  September 14, 2012 10:00 AM

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Are you looking to amplify your career path? Perhaps you are looking for new business. Perhaps you just want to give back to our great city. No matter the reason, Boston is a hub of companies looking for great leaders and fresh faces to help guide their business to success. Board position opportunities are out there and here is why you should consider searching:

Professional Development
Service on a Board of Directors can provide and fine-tune invaluable professional development skills that can advance your professional career, such as public speaking, networking and leadership experience. It also provides exposure to other disciplines that you may not encounter in your day job, such as financial reporting, strategic planning, or market analyses, to name a few.

Giving Back
Many professionals view board service as a rewarding way to share their skill sets and talents with non-profits that serve a particular mission that they feel passionately about. You might follow or contribute to a charity that serves local residents in your community, or maybe you have a cause that is close to your heart. Your help and guidance will only help that charity or foundation raise further funds toward your favorite causes.

Business Development
Working on boards gives executives unique access to business leaders across the region and provides the opportunity to demonstrate professional value through meaningful participation in board meetings. As a result, you might secure several new business leads and/or networking opportunities that will help further your current career.

Enjoying gains in your career as a benefit of a board appointment is not something you should feel guilty about, even if you are working in the non-profit sector. In fact, most professionals will tell you they are serving on a board as part of their company’s business development efforts. That doesn’t meant they won’t meet their fiduciary duties as a board member. You have to put in the work to reap the benefits, so just remain an active steward on behalf of the organization, and any and all results are justified. That being said, business development shouldn’t be your only reason for joining the board.

Supplementing Income
Unlike leveraging board service for business development, supplementing income should come with a flashing “Caution” sign. Paid board service probably won’t be your golden ticket to retirement. Although it is true that public companies (and many private ones too) provide compensation for service on their board of directors, you shouldn’t expect that you will automatically find a position that puts you in a higher tax bracket.

Companies that compensate board members, either a board of directors or professional advisory board, are seeking highly qualified individuals who have particular experiences, skills sets and background that meet the needs of the company. This is not to say that you may not possess these skills, but you should approach the position with a realistic appreciation of the fact that there are a limited number of highly sought after paid board seats available each year.

For instance, a young professional five years into their career is unlikely to be appointed to a public company board seat receiving more than $200k in annual compensation and stock options.

The biggest takeaway about looking for a board position: Be realistic and be true to yourself and the organization. If you take your service seriously and act in the best interests of the corporation, you will be a successful board member, and you will play an important part in improving the overall level of corporate governance that exists in Boston’s corporate community and beyond.

Mark Rogers is the founder and CEO of BoardProspects, an online professional community dedicated to building better boards for private, public and non-profit organizations, launching in Summer 2012. Prior to founding BoardProspects, Rogers practiced law advising non-profit and for-profit entities on corporate governance and boardroom matters. He was an adjunct faculty member at the New England School of Law, is published and lectures frequently on governance, compliance, board policies, corporate liability, health care policies and more. Rogers received his J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of the Holy Cross. E-mail Mark at mark@boardprospects.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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