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How to start your journey to becoming a Non-Executive Director

Helen Schwarz

Last month, we hosted our annual Page Executive Women in Business event in Birmingham. Over 50 female leaders attended Michelin starred Adam’s restaurant, to network and listen to our panel discuss the journey to becoming a Non-Executive Director (NED).

The panel was led by Sheri Hughes, Diversity & Inclusion Director for PageGroup in the UK, who was joined by Danuta Gray and Angela Seymour-Jackson, both highly experienced Non-Executive Directors. Sheri guided the panel discussion, which focused on the journey to becoming a NED. Throughout the evening, both Danuta and Angela provided invaluable insights into their own careers, plus advice for those who have aspirations to become a NED.

At Page Executive, we provide a range of search, selection and talent management solutions for organisations on a permanent and interim basis. For those thinking about becoming a NED, here is a summary of advice taken from the evening.

Make sure it’s the right fit for you

Before embarking on the journey, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, it is a significant commitment from a time perspective. No matter the number of days you are told you need to put aside to fulfil the role it’s always a good idea to double that number and this commitment will be on top of your existing career. While sector experience isn’t crucial you should make sure you have an interest in the type of work you’ll be involved in. Intellectual curiosity and a hunger to learn will take you a long way as a NED. Once under the skin of the business it’s about skillset, style and experience, and that’s where you can really add value.

Speak to your current employer

The nature of a NED role makes it necessary to gain approval from your current company before taking up a new position. Often, there will be clauses in your contract which allow you to take up NED work, but it is always worth checking and ensuring your employer is bought into the idea.

Invest your time

Getting your first NED role is undoubtedly difficult, and it can be time consuming. However, once you’ve secured one role, you’ll find a lot more doors will open as the industry becomes aware of your experience. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to put the time in to meet people and cultivate a professional network, which can lead to new opportunities. It is very rare that NED opportunities are advertised. In most cases, a potential NED will be approached by a headhunter or an existing board member, reinforcing the importance of your network.

The skill benefits

A NED sits on a board alongside other NEDs and executive directors, often from a range of different industries, experiences and career backgrounds. Working together is an opportunity to broaden skill sets and learn from other similarly successful individuals. Whilst no formal training is needed to become a NED, it represents a great opportunity to learn and acquire new skills.

Article written by – Helen Schwarz, Partner, Page Executive