Senior company secretaries have often asked me for tips on finding their first Non-Executive Director position. Most NED roles are circulated by word of mouth, aren’t published on job boards, and many have 50+ strong applications per available seat. Additionally, a high proportion of Non-Executive Director opportunities are filled by applicants already holding NED positions, which can make breaking into the non-executive world quite daunting.

 

At this year’s CGI Conference, a panel session on securing your first NED position gave valuable insight into this process, offering a solution-focused approach to putting yourself out there and preparing and making your applications.

 

Gillian Karran-Cumberlege, Head of Board Advisory at Fidelio Partners, Charles Mayo, GC of Secure Trust Bank and Chair of the Next Generation NED Network, and Oliver Cummings, CEO of Nurole and host of the Podcast ‘Enter the Boardroom’, offered their advice and opened the floor to a crowd of senior governance professionals.

 

Their key messages and takeaways included:

 

  1. Narrow your focus and concentrate on a sector you’d like to break into: The panel advised picking a sector that is of genuine interest and focussing your efforts on education courses, networking events and finding a mentor in the selected sector.
  2. Use your network: The panel noted that networking comes up more often than any other topic; reaching out to mutual connections may feel daunting, but they emphasised that people are absolutely willing to help out wherever possible. If you’re a senior CoSec, communicate your aspirations to your board and NEDs you work closely with, who will likely be approached first for upcoming positions and can provide you with leads and advice.
  3. Educate yourself: Understand that a NED role will be different from your current position and take advantage of all opportunities to broaden your board knowledge; Company Secretarial and Governance professionals secure NED positions more easily than other industry professionals, thanks to their board-level impact and consultative roles.
  4. Create a specialised CV: The panel recommended developing a separate CV for NED applications that emphasises your board-level contributions. Ensure all relevant experience is visible both on your board-level CV and across platforms such as LinkedIn, with a focus on the value you bring and your contributions. Tailor your experience to read like a Q&A, anticipating questions and ensuring you offer the detail they need.
  5. Look in the right places: Check out the vacancies on specialised platforms to really target your NED search – the panel recommended Nurole.com, which specialises in finding outstanding talent for non-executive appointments.

 

The insights shared at the CGI Conference provide a clearer path for aspiring NEDs. Personally, I feel even more equipped to offer advice and point potential NEDs in the right direction, and as always, am here to assist anyone considering this career move. If you’re looking for guidance and support with your next NED steps, get in touch via my details below.

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Poppy Taylor

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London
+44 7534 087 340