You have to be prepared to dedicate considerable time and effort to the process of finding your first NED role. You should draw up parameters on the types of organisation where you would fit in, taking into account factors such as scale, ownership, skills and geography. That way you will see what sort of organisation you wish to work with, and hone the way in which you present yourself. Defining your USP is key.
Talk to people who are on boards already. It is a very collaborative environment and the vast majority of existing directors and NEDs are happy to give their time to share their perspective of life on a board.
By definition, a NED is usually independent. Most non-execs are in a portfolio career, which creates opportunities for diverse thinking. Many individuals take their first non-exec role while they are still in a senior corporate position, which can be a good way to learn the ropes of the NED world.
It can be helpful for a NED to be part of a variety of boards, although any more than three to four may leave you over-stretched. But that variety can lead to added value and insight.
A board position is an opportunity for an individual to challenge the status quo, add value from an objective perspective and, importantly, bring to the table different skills, expertise and experience.
You are employed for ‘independent thinking’ but understanding your peer group on the Board and working as a team, will inevitably encourage a well-informed debate and ultimately a good commercial outcome for the business.