How Board Service Can Help Your Career
Serving on an association’s board of directors is a rewarding experience, but due to uncertainty about the role and other factors, many are hesitant to serve. Aside from the obviously noble endeavor to advance one’s industry or field, there are other benefits to consider. Among them, board service can help advance a person’s career. Liz Summy, Executive Director of the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago, has observed the career benefits of board service throughout her 17 years as an association executive. Here are six that stand out to her.

Learn from Peers. The opportunity to learn from experienced, high-level professionals from other companies who are sometimes also operating in different regions is a great benefit of board service. “People truly enjoy hearing from other people in other parts of the country who faced a similar challenge but approached it differently because of where they are from,” said Summy. She also noted that hearing new ideas from other board members can spark people to get further job training and education.

Develop Leadership Qualities. Serving on a board of directors develops leadership abilities in an individual. “Just listening to, debating with, and learning from other industry leaders helps you become a better leader,” said Summy. It can also help build public speaking, project management, collaboration, and conflict resolution skills. In addition, boards operate on the principles of healthy debate and speaking with one voice, so this should translate to respecting different opinions and making thoughtful decisions.

Be an Ambassador. Board members serve as de facto ambassadors for the organization in which they work. Therefore, an employee who serves on an association board and is at the organization’s functions, meetings, and conferences raises the profile of the company in the industry. “CEOs are often proud of the fact that their companies are represented at the board table,” said Summy.

Mentor Others. Those that serve on boards may also be viewed as setting good examples within the company. “You're going back into your organization modeling volunteerism to colleagues and direct reports,” said Summy. “You get to demonstrate to others what it means to be a good volunteer.” As such, the board member may serve as a mentor or resource for others within the company, which makes them an even more valuable resource. This type of role can of course lead to new opportunities for the board member.

Network. Board service exposes the individual to a wider network of influential people in their profession. This, in turn, can facilitate important connections that help the individual—and their companies—in a wide variety of ways.

Become a Thought Leader. If you also serve on a committee, you may gain knowledge in a specific area that makes you a subject-matter expert or thought leader. That can result in wider recognition in the company, and even your industry.

Executives often view people with board experience as those who are active in their professions and passionate about giving back, and the best board members are the kind of people who are always making a difference and always in demand.
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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.


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