Head scratch moment! Building your non-executive portfolio

Starting a non-executive director career

Having a portfolio career can be quite the head-scratcher. How do you expand your career when you don’t have any clients or even any work to showcase? It seems like a catch-22 situation, doesn’t it? But don’t fret, my friend, because there is a way out of this conundrum.

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight – not having a traditional set of clients does not mean you don’t have any experience. It’s like saying just because you’ve never driven a car, you can’t ride a bike. So, let’s not give up before we even start, shall we?

But what if you do have some work to showcase, and it’s just not good enough? Well, everyone starts at the beginning, even the bigwigs in the business. So, don’t worry, you’re not alone in this.

The good news is that you can start small, even with just one project. It could be a personal project or a self-initiated one. Take that one project and turn it into a case study for your portfolio. Focus on telling the story of that one project and really sell it. Break it down into scannable sections for each phase or project element. Use catchy headlines and strong images to pull us in. And don’t forget to create a section on the same page with your bio and contact info. Voila! You now have a portfolio to showcase.

But what if you’re working under a non-disclosure agreement or for a company that doesn’t allow you to say you worked on the project? Well, you could negotiate your NDA before the project begins, so you’re safe to share the nature of your work later. And if you can’t share the work itself, you could always showcase the company logo on your portfolio if the brand carries some weight.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room – imposter syndrome. Almost everyone feels like an imposter on some level, especially when it comes to showcasing their work. But being a perfectionist and delaying the launch of your portfolio career is not the solution. Remember, good is good enough, and perfect will never happen. So, just start with what you have and keep it simple.

To promote your skills and expertise to your peers, you could choose an online community or network, like Virtualnonexecs, the UK’s largest non-executive and portfolio community. Or you could try Board.ai, a networking platform for portfolio directors to connect with founders and professional advisors.

And when you do land that hallowed first non-executive director role, here are a few mistakes you should avoid making:

  • Not understanding the role: Non-executive directors bring a fresh perspective to a company’s strategy and operations, but some new non-executives may struggle to understand their exact role and how to add value to the company. It’s important for new non-executives to take the time to fully grasp their responsibilities and what is expected of them.
  • Focusing too much on the numbers: While financial performance is obviously an important aspect of any business, new non-executives may make the mistake of focusing too much on the numbers and not enough on the bigger picture. A good non-executive director should be able to balance financial performance with other factors such as risk management, company culture, and social responsibility.
  • Not building relationships: Building relationships and trust with other board members and executives is crucial for a non-executive director’s success. However, new non-executives may be hesitant to speak up or offer opinions for fear of rocking the boat. It’s important for new non-executives to find the right balance between building relationships and fulfilling their role as an independent and objective board member.

So, there you have it – a simple guide to kickstarting your portfolio career.

Remember, the best way to get more work for your portfolio is to launch it and keep working on it.

Good luck! And if you need any more help, just give me a shout.

Ian Wright, CEO and Founder, Virtualnonexecs.com


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