As you become established in your career, opportunities start to arise for you to get involved in organizations, civic groups and even corporations related to your industry or expertise.
Being asked to join an advisory board is a real sign of respect and accomplishment for you, your company, and what you’ve achieved to date – particularly if it happens while you’re still in your twenties or thirties. But it’s certainly a significant career milestone at any age.
The first time you’re invited to join a board, you’re filled with pride and excitement. As you get active in other organizations, you’ll find that it opens up whole new worlds for you to wonderful people, experiences and causes. If you’re really smart, you’ll figure out how to tie in into your work in some way. After a few years, dedicating your time and energy to worthy causes and initiatives just becomes part of who you are, and what you do.
One day, your volunteer work may even become as significant to you as your job (or even moreso). Don’t be too surprised or even dismayed if this happens, because it can signal a real turning point – opening you up to bold new ideas about what really matters to you and what you should in fact be doing with your life. That’s one of the unspoken truths about volunteering – how it has the power to transform your way of thinking.
From tons of personal experience, having serving on almost 10 different advisory boards now, I have to say that they have given me some of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I’ve had the ability to work side by side with brilliant leaders and business icons. I’ve witnessed some of the greatest minds debate strategy and analyze challenges. I’ve been exposed to the inner workings of fascinating organizations. Attended events I never would have had the chance to see. Interacted with entrepreneurial and cultural icons. I’ve helped make an impact on many more than I ever could have affected alone. And I’ve learned more than I can even begin to account for.
There are fantastic benefits to joining boards, but also responsibilities. Starting with the benefits, here are few of the biggest perks:
Connections – You can meet some really fascinating people. Board meetings, events, marketing initiatives, not to mention doing the actual work of the organization opens you up to whole new networks.
Credibility – When an organization entrusts you with a position like this, it is like an public endorsement of your value. It is also an affiliation you can be proud to share and promote.
Recognition – Your involvement on a board can result in great attention, marketing, and publicity for you and your company.
Training – Some organizations will require that you obtain some level of certification or training as part of your board commitment.
Exposure - It’s fascinating to see how different organizations (like non-profits or big corporations) operate on a much deeper level. You learn so much and get exposed to a myriad of new things that make life more interesting and your experience all the richer for it.
Context – Boards give you a new level of appreciation for the different types of groups and people that make any society strong.
Impact – You’ll help make a difference in a company, a community, an industry, and quite possibly, in a lot of individual lives.
Despite the significant list of plusses, volunteer work of this kind is typically not easy. The commitment to engage at an advisory board level shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is serious business to be overseen. You become part of a small team responsible for guiding the strategic vision and direction of the organization.
As a board member you review financial statements, make hiring/firing decisions for major executives, help raise and/or make money, build relationships, come up with solutions, pursue stability in downturns and sustainability in upturns. Bottom line, you become part of the team responsible for the success of the organization.
There are significant responsibilities ranging from time commitments, to financial contributions, to fundraising, and even potential legal liabilities. (These all of course vary by organization, but should be disclosed and discusses before you sign on.)
All in all, next time you learn about someone’s work with an advisory board, hopefully you’ll understand more about what that really means. Ask them about their involvement on them. If you’re interested, inquire about how you can help. Ask their advice on how to get involved in other groups that interest you. And, when the time in your career is right to start getting involved on boards yourself, jump at the chance. The responsibilities are great, but the benefits to you can be immeasurable.