Taking the step towards a portfolio career as a non-executive director (NED) is often seen as a natural progression for executives to demonstrate their experience across a wider array of sectors, and expand their network of specialist contacts.
The different and unique role of a NED makes it unlike other roles, requiring flexibility, accountability and innovation that both supports and challenges boardroom thinking.
However, few other careers will provide as much challenge and satisfaction. Working across a portfolio career, the non-executive role not only creates new channels of personal revenue, but gives you the opportunity to test and learn new skills and behaviours, whilst making value contributions across different industries.
Reinventing yourself is part of any career. Planning for multiple careers is becoming the norm for senior professionals, regardless of field. Bearing this in mind, we’ve prepared 8 questions for you to consider before embarking on a non-executive portfolio career:
1. Can you manage the time commitment? Working across a portfolio of roles and stepping from one role to another requires exceptional time management and forward-thinking. If you can handle the flexibility of this way of working by taking control of your working schedule, you are likely to benefit from a better work-life balance.
Other factors to consider will be time taken to travel and subsequent expenses, which should be quantified as part of your fees.
2. How will you manage accountability? When starting with a new organisation, you will be expected to lead on corporate governance and remove the possibility for any 'blind spots.' Corporate governance is the principle role of the Non-Executive Director, and requires someone with the ability to take a holistic perspective across a given business, and manage the legal, financial and social implications.
3. Are you the right character fit? The successful non-executive director requires 3 key qualities: independence, objectivity and integrity. The willingness to impact objective advice, and still challenge the board, require tenacity and solid interpersonal skills to create influence in the boardroom. A flexible working style and emphasis on embodying the cultural values of an organisation are essential components to creating the persona of the 'trusted advisor' of executive staff. Do you possess the strategic thinking and innovative mindset to realise these aspects?
A good starting point to measure your personal fit would be to seek others' assessment: How would you describe me? Am I a good listener? From there, you can more easily identify the gaps to improve on your personal development ahead of the transition to a non-executive role.
4. Are you financially literate? Albeit not a compuslory requirement, solid financial knowledge, including the ability to read financial reports, identify outliers and contribute to financial planning, will be added value in starting your NED role.
5. Do you have the interest and the passion? Stepping into a portfolio career brings challenge and excitement from the ability to work across new and difference industries. However, if your primary motivation is financial, the non-executive role should be considered carefully. The focus is the investment in a pluralised experience and building a specialist contacts base for your long-term portfolio career.
6. Are there any gaps in your knowledge? Although a NED portfolio career is certain to bring new knowledge and experiences, you must question if you have right
tools and perspective before embarking on this portfolio journey. If not, where can you access the tools needed? Check what resources the company offers e.g. formal
induction, training and legal & professional advice. Beyond this, assess whether it would be worthwhile dedicating time to professional development training or further
7. Have you done your research? Would you prefer to work within an SME or larger organisation? How deep is your market knowledge? What are the internal and external reputations of your ideal company, and how transparent is their reporting? Sites such as Glassdoor and Trust Pilot will build a general opinion of the company. Extensive market research prior to assuming the non-executive position will put you in an advantageous position not only during the interview, but also before deciding to accept a role, and during your contracted perior. This will allow you to have as much impact as possible throughout the whole process.
8. Have you obtained as much advice as possible? Seek as much advice as possible within your own networks and contacts; ask questions, pour over the numbers, and ask more questions. Joining a niche professional network, such as Non-Executive Directors, will give you access to support from a network of like-minded people, accredited personal development training - and the opportunities from hiring companies that could be your first step into your portfolio career.