ONE: It is both an honor and a privilege to serve on a board of directors.
Yeah right. Do you really want to know what it’s like to serve on a board of directors? Its a ton of work. Often thankless, done for free, over several months or years.
Sure, board service looks good on your resume as a demonstration of your commitment to your field (or a cause) that your future boss might find impressive. If you’re lucky, your current boss may even be impressed enough to mention it as part of your year-end review, or consideration for a promotion. And yes, if the work you are doing is for a good cause that you care about it doesn’t feel like work, and you know people value it (even though you don’t see that at first).
The actual benefit however of all of this work isn’t seeing the end product of your efforts, like a publication or an event, come to life. Nor is it seeing the growth of the organization and it’s recognition with the industry. No, the real value of board service is in the highly valuable relationships you build along the way.
Some of the people you meet will be influential, some merely interesting, and others just great to know because of their extended network. You might even meet a future business partner or collaborator. All of them are people that you probably wouldn’t have met it wasn’t for your association with the organization you’re serving. Board service isn’t just about opening doors; it’s about how the work you do connects you with people.
For example, I got to meet, have a conversation with, and introduce the late Massimo Vignelli at an InSource event. I’ve got a framed candid photo of us having a casual chat that makes me feel like “wow, I’ve made it” whenever I look at it. Even better is the photo of my fellow board mates and me standing with Massimo.
Another example: I’m reasonably confident that you would not be reading this if I was just some designer working for some company somewhere (and I’ve worked for very well known brands). No, the reason I’m asked to provide my insights on in-house creative leadership has less to do with the work I did at those brands, and more to do with my service on the board at InSource. It’s because of my position at InSource that I’m on a first name basis with the great folks who organize the HOW conference; and because I was introduced to them by a past board member.
So if you are looking for a bonafide way to grow personally and professionally, build your network, and develop relationships that can enrich your career and lead to opportunities you can’t even imagine: Then volunteer to serve on a board of directors. The people I have met, worked with, and built relationships with over several years is the most rewarding benefit of serving on the board of InSource and has paid dividends several times over.
Andy Brenits is President of the Board of Directors at InSource, the professional association for in-house creative leaders and managers. He is also a creative consultant advising individuals and business owners on brand strategy, creative management, and what it takes to differentiate yourself consistently in a crowded market. He has previously lead creative teams at GAP, Banana Republic, NFL, KPMG, and Arizona Public Service.
TWO: Volunteering within your industry is a solid and recognized way to build your skillset, take on projects you may otherwise not get at work, grow your career, enhance your professional development, get noticed in your field and build your resume. Shall I go on?
Of course, the primary reason you should serve on a nonprofit board is you care about the cause. But, serving on a board and bringing your knowledge, energy, and expertise to the table is something that can not only benefit the organization but you as well. This is the easiest way I know how to advance your career. And just think, you may meet your next boss or vendor or hire the next rock star on your team through your new network.
Building your network is an ongoing key task throughout your career. My Dad always said, “It’s who you know” and he was so right. When you get laid off, who will you call, when you’re looking for your next step up, who are you gonna call and when you want to relocate from San Fran to Boston, who are you calling? YOUR NETWORK! So build one now and always.
One of the huge benefits for me has been honing skills that I can not practice at work. I’ve been able to get my feet wet writing tips, then articles and just released my third thought leadership book, Disruption. I now have a new career skill. You will also be privy to industry trends which in turn makes you more engaged and productive at your day job because you’re inspired with new knowledge.
I’ve not made a dime volunteering for InSource for the past 8 years but I’ve certainly advanced my career which has pushed my compensation forward.
So at the end of the day, board membership in my field has been worth every second of my time.
Robin Colangelo is the Vice President of InSource and the Global Director of Creative Services for White & Case. She is experienced in developing brand and creative strategy with extensive in-house leadership expertise building new teams and processes. She also writes and speaks on creative leadership topics throughout the industry.