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Embarking on a board career: 6 essential steps to get you started

board career

Imagine guiding organisations with your expertise, shaping their futures, and solidifying your legacy. If you’re seeking a new challenge and want to extend your leadership beyond the executive suite, starting a board career could be your next strategic move.

In this article, Director of Moir Group, Stephen Moir, explores the essential steps to transition into the world of board leadership.

Role of the board

The board of directors is responsible for overseeing an organisation’s strategic direction, ensuring financial stability, and representing stakeholders’ interests. They also appoint and supervise senior management, monitor performance, and ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

Benefits of joining a board

A board career can offer a rewarding pathway for many professionals. It provides a unique platform to influence and shape organisational strategies, leaving a lasting impact. By engaging in board leadership, you hone your decision-making, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, it opens doors to valuable networking opportunities, connecting you with influential leaders and diverse perspectives.

A board career really broadens your network, offers a very different kind of role to an executive career, exposure to different industries, provides real impact and broadens your career.

— Stephen Moir

Types of boards

Influenced by factors such as size, structure, industry, purpose, statutory, and regulatory requirements, there are several different types of boards. The most relevant boards to your finance, accounting or ESG background include:

  • Corporate Boards: Critical in governance and strategic decision-making for corporations, ensuring compliance and representing shareholder interests.
  • Not-For-Profit (NFP) Boards: Oversee non-profit organisations, providing strategic oversight and ensuring legal and ethical compliance.
  • Advisory Boards: Offer expertise and guidance in specific areas, often appointed due to knowledge gaps within the board of directors.

A practical guide to starting your board career

While the path to a board seat can take many forms, few preparations rival the experience gained from a successful career in corporate leadership. An executive career is where you build your technical skills, reputation, and commercial acumen — all of which are essential attributes that prepare you to add significant value as a board member. 

Consider the following 6 steps as you make your career transition:

1. Understand the board role and your objectives

Familiarise yourself with the responsibilities and expectations of a board member. Define what you hope to achieve in your board career, whether it’s gaining specific experience, contributing to a particular industry, or advancing your professional reputation.

Tip: Have confidence and courage to put yourself forward for roles. Get clear on what you bring to the board table. What knowledge, skills, experience, and expertise will the board benefit from?

2. Network and raise your visibility

Increase your presence in relevant professional circles. Attend industry events, join professional organisations, and engage in activities that demonstrate your expertise and commitment to board service.

Tip: Networking is crucial; the selection of new directors is significantly influenced by current board members. Seek a mentor or, even better, a sponsor who can facilitate introductions and open doors for you. Don’t hesitate to approach senior board directors for advice, recommendations, and introductions.

3. Do your research

Thoroughly investigate potential boards to ensure they align with your values, interests, and expertise. Understand the company’s history, financial status, corporate governance practices, ethos and most importantly, board dynamics, to determine if it’s the right fit for you.

Tip: You have your own reputation. Be careful with whom you align your reputation and brand with.

It ultimately comes back to your brand, integrity, and reputation. You must ensure you are aligning with an organisation that is your cultural fit and operates with a high level of professionalism.

— Stephen Moir

4. Choose the right board for you

Select a board where you can make a meaningful contribution and that aligns with your personal and professional objectives. Consider factors such as the company’s industry, size, culture, and the expertise of existing board members.

Tip: Perhaps you are passionate about working with children, protecting the environment, or raising awareness of a particular medical condition for personal reasons. Let these passions guide you.

5. Be pragmatic

Evaluate the reasons behind your skills being needed on a board. If there are deficiencies, take steps to remedy them.

Tip: Many professionals begin their board careers with a not-for-profit organisation due to the ease of entry, valuable skill development, alignment with personal values, networking opportunities, and reputation building.

6. Establish your position within the boardroom

Once on the board, take the time to understand the dynamics and culture of the boardroom. Find ways to contribute effectively, build relationships with fellow board members, and establish yourself as a valuable and respected member of the team.

Tip: If you have come from an executive career, it is important to remember you are now part of the board, not the executive, and your roles and responsibilities are different. Alternatively, be careful not to get pulled into an executive role, especially if you are seated on a NFP board.

Other considerations

  • Complete Company Directors Course: The Company Directors Course provides essential knowledge and skills for effective board membership.
  • Create a separate resume: It’s advisable to have a separate resume tailored for board positions, highlighting relevant skills and experiences. Use the Moir Group Board CV Template.
  • Join an NFP: Starting with a not-for-profit organisation can be a valuable stepping stone towards a commercial board role. Contact Stephen for assistance as he regularly recruits for Board roles and is very happy to help.You can also visit online registers like Ethical Jobs and type in your location and add ‘Board Director’ to the keyword section. It serves as a good starting point.
  • Understand the risks: There are reputational risks associated with board roles, so it’s important to be aware of these before committing. Also consider your liability as a Director. You must act in the best interests of the company, comply with laws, and exercise reasonable care to avoid personal liability.
  • Competitiveness: Securing a board position can be highly competitive, especially when transitioning from an executive career. It may require treating the pursuit of a board career as a full-time job.
  • Expectations: A board career is different from an executive career, requiring a level of detachment and a different mindset. It’s important that you are comfortable with this shift in focus.

A board career has always been a typical path of transition from an executive career. While it’s a great path to pursue, there are other options too. You can volunteer for a NFP, start your own business, provide coaching and mentorship or do consulting work. Consider what is right for you.

Stephen Moir

Future event

During the second half of this year, Moir Group will lead an event on the challenges and opportunities of being on a board. If you would like to be notified about this event or require further support, information, or resources on this topic, please contact us. 


If you have any recruitment needs in your team on a permanent or a temporary basis we would be delighted to assist.

Moir Group is a specialist finance, accounting and ESG recruitment company. We cover temporary and permanent roles from Assistant Accountant to CFO level. We also recruit Sustainability / ESG Manager roles to Chief Sustainability Officer roles across all industry sectors.

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Moir Group acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present and encourage applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people of all cultures, abilities, sex, and genders.